Yesterday, ComicBook.com reported some great news for comic fans – Invincible Iron Man #1 has amassed more than 200,000 pre-orders from comic book retailers across the United States. For those not in the know, Invincible Iron Man #1 is the first title to be released under Marvel’s All-New, All-Different banner, and it’s headed up by the all-star team of Brian Bendis and David Marquez.
Now here’s the interesting thing. The days where comics could be guaranteed those kind of numbers – even for big-name titles – are long gone. ComicBook.com provide some context by comparing this to previous Iron Man launches:
Invincible Iron Man #1 (2008) – roughly 116,250 pre-orders
Iron Man #1 (2012) – roughly 116,530 pre-orders
Superior Iron Man #1 (2014) – almost 84,000 pre-orders
Nowadays, you’ve always got to take sales information with a pinch of salt. Digital comics are becoming increasingly important – some comics, such as Miss Marvel, are reportedly selling better digitally than in paper format, and some, such as X-Men ’92, are being geared primarily for digital formats. But still, these figures still provide evidence that this book looks to be performing well – and it hasn’t even come out yet!
What’s going on?
Is this just reflecting the success of the movies?
Let's face facts: the Iron Man franchise is the highest-performing solo franchise that Marvel are currently running. The sales figures for Marvel solo movies to date look like this:
- Captain America - grossed $436,421,077 in two movies, an average of $218,210,538 per movie
- Hulk - grossed $134,806,913 in one movie
- Iron Man - grossed $1,039,859,426 in three movies, an average of $346,619,808 per movie
- Thor - grossed $387,392,764 in two movies, an average of $193,696,382 per movie
Note that it's too soon talk about Ant-Man's figures, but I seriously doubt he's going to take down Tony Stark's reign any time soon. Still, you see what the picture looks like - Iron Man movies are big business. Are the sales of Invincible Iron Man #1 purely reflecting the popularity of the movies?
Doubtful. Look at those figures quoted by ComicBook.com again - the previous series of Invincible Iron Man had a launch issue with 116,250 pre-orders. And that was released in 2008 - back when the Iron Man movie franchise first started out. Even Superior Iron Man, released after Iron Man 3, only had 84,000 pre-orders.
This can't just be the movie effect.
The All-New, All-Different Marvel
Well, it’s worth noting that Invincible Iron Man has been sold as front-and-centre of the Marvel Universe. Promotional images have featured Iron Man in literally centre-stage, and the previews booklet in July included samples of the artwork. It’s the first book to be published in the aftermath of “Secret Wars”, Marvel’s latest blockbuster event, and that might mean that fans are simply curious.
But is there more to it?
I’m not convinced that’s enough to explain these figures – and I don’t think Marvel are, either. The clue is in this year’s Special Edition in New York, where the writer and artist for Invincible Iron Man were announced. I admit, sitting in the crowd at Special Edition I kind of had a “So what?” attitude. To me, this wasn’t news, it was the kind of information I’d nod at, think “It makes sense,” and then move on. I mean, it wasn’t as if we were getting any plot elements advertised, you know?
I was wrong. Marvel were gambling that the plot came second – that the first thing people would notice about this book was the top talent working on it. And I’d argue that the pre-orders might just indicate they’re right.
It’s too soon to say for sure, but if this is the case, then it might be one of the latest pieces of evidence that comic book fandom is changing. Traditionally, comic book fans have followed their favourite characters; it’s why there was a time when the market was flooded with Wolverine books. But there have been rumours over the last six-to-eight months that people are becoming increasingly aware of the writers and artists that they like, and that they may be beginning to follow those writers and artists. In other words – the creative teams might be becoming a brand just as much as, say, Iron Man himself is. A statement that, frankly, just gives me the perfect excuse to post this.
Anyway! Moving swiftly on...
Of course, for best effect you’ll see publishers marry up a powerful character with a powerful creative team – synergising the two brands. You know, like putting Brian Bendis and David Marquez on Invincible Iron Man. But as well, this might just mean we see the light shine on some of the background characters, the ones loved by the creative teams but not normally associated with the massive sales figures. If the right creative team get hold of a project, then it might be able to stand at first on the strength of the team behind it. Some would argue that's already happening - here's looking at you, Matt Fraction's Hawkeye run.
And if so, then comic books might just be getting a whole lot more creative…