Last week, the first issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers was released - and the Internet's still seething over it! The comic culminated with the revelation that Steve Rogers is actually an agent of HYDRA, and even implied that he'd been a HYDRA agent all along. What's more, the plot - and vast chunks of the dialogue - is clearly intended to be a political analogy, making it all the more controversial.
You don't have to do much browsing on the Internet to get a measure of fan reaction. Take this poll:
Although writer Nick Spencer has had strong support from his colleagues, negative reactions have included some pretty disturbing death threats. Marvel's Executive Editor Tom Brevoort took the unusual step of publishing one he'd received on Tumblr, and it makes chilling reading.
But let's be honest about it. The real test of an idea is whether or not fans are willing to cash out and buy it. Anecdotal evidence was that the comic was selling well. A good example is this tweet from Big Bang Comics in Dublin:
Well, now it's official. ComicBook.com has exclusively revealed that Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 is going for a second printing. Marvel's Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing, David Gabriel, told them:
“It was difficult to keep this big of a twist a secret until the very last minute. Since it hit, it’s been exciting to watch it take the world by storm. Sales have skyrocketed and despite a massive overprint, we’ve completely sold out of the 1st issue and will rush it back to print with 3 different covers.”
Marvel saw something similar happen with Amazing Spider-Man #700, where writer Dan Slott dared to have Peter Parker's body possessed by the mind of Doctor Octopus. Like Nick Spencer, Slott received death threats even as he launched the Superior Spider-Man series off the back of that shocking plot twist.
The Superior Spider-Man series performed well, and is now looked back on fondly by fans (often the same fans who expressed their outrage when Slott first began his plot). So the pattern won't be surprising to anyone in the industry.
The reality is that the furore on the Internet, with coverage by media outlets such as Time and CNN, has given the story a presence it would never have had otherwise. The outraged reactions have actually encouraged people to head out and buy the comic!
Of course, a first issue is essentially a sales pitch for a series. The true test of Nick Spencer's #Hydra plot will be how the second issue performs. As a rule, second issue sales for Marvel comics drop by around 30%. If the controversy is the only thing prompting people to buy Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, and they choose not to carry on reading it, then we'd expect the second issue sales to drop much more than that 30%. The Diamond sales estimates for May and June 2016 will make very, very interesting reading.
One more thing: in a smart move, Marvel has commissioned new covers for the reprints. I can't help laughing at one of those covers: