What if... a comic book series started selling a million copies a month?

I've read that back in the 1940's Superman sold a million copies a month.

 

What if a single series started selling like that now?  Never mind why.  To be extremely silly, we'll say that a wizard secretly compels people to start buying copies of a particular book. None of them know that they're being compelled, they rationalize to themselves that they're interested in it.  The point of the exercise right now is to consider what the company's response would be to a sudden insane upsurge in sales of a single title.

 

First off:  Could a book sell a million copies a month? Do even the big companies print a million copies of a single title? If not, how would they respond to a sudden, unexpected, enormous upsurge in demand for a single book?  I've seen the Skipper talk about companies doing multiple printings of a single issue as a sales gimmick, but suppose multiple printings of a title start routinely selling out month after month.  What does the company do?  How quickly would they get themselves geared up to sell a million copies a month?  How quickly could they? Would it make a difference if it was DC or Marvel?  What if  a book by a small independent started selling like that?  Would a small company even have the infrastructure to print that many copies? Would they maybe have to cut a deal with one of the bigger companies?

 

What's it like for the writer/artist team on the book? Can they write their own tickets? What's it like for the writer/artists on the other books, which are still only selling as much as they normally would (Although there might be a bit of a "coat-tails" effect.)  How does the greater culture at large react to this?

 

Let's suppose that this continues for at least five years, month in and month out.  Of course, the company doesn't know this, so we don't know how long it might take them to decide it was more than a fluke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Views: 822

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

When was the last time something sold over a million copies? The advectiveless Spider-Man#1?

I'm sure by the end they were sick of the whole thing, a lawsuit that dragged on for years, Wertham lurking about, the Code on the way.

Ron M. said:

And Fantastic Four didn't finish in the top 38. The cowboys, split books, and Millie the Model did though.


Publications didn't have to start reporting their sales for a period, I think a couple of years. Comichron would probably have a figure for Fantastic Four for that year if it had reported one.

That's pretty much what happened. Captain Marvel wasn't making money any more, so Fawcett said screw it* and settled with DC out of court.

* I don't know for a fact they actually used the words "screw it."


Ron M. said:

I'm sure by the end they were sick of the whole thing, a lawsuit that dragged on for years, Wertham lurking about, the Code on the way.

That was the version of the story I originally read (in the Shazam! from the Forties to the Seventies collection), but my recollection is Bob Ingersoll wrote a column in which he argued they gave up because they lost a key judgement and were obviously going to lose.

I read that same article, and have seen that argued elsewhere. But if true -- and I have no reason to doubt it -- they did get out before actually losing the case. I always remember that when people assert that Fawcett lost, because technically they didn't. (Although they probably would have.)

Luke Blanchard said:

That was the version of the story I originally read (in the Shazam! from the Forties to the Seventies collection), but my recollection is Bob Ingersoll wrote a column in which he argued they gave up because they lost a key judgement and were obviously going to loose.

Luke Blanchard said:

Captain Marvel was a close imitation of Superman. He even had squinty eyes, as Superman did then. I don't know what the legal criterion for too close an imitation should be, but I think it wasn't unreasonable for DC to object to him. (Also, my dim recollection is Fawcett partly defended Captain Marvel on the grounds that the Superman newspaper strip had been improperly copyrighted. If I'm not misremembering, I would think DC couldn't let that argument succeed.) On the other hand, I think one criterion for whether an imitation is morally (as opposed to legally) too close is "Could you mix them up?", and Captain Marvel survives the test of that one. I think I got this criterion from something one of the judges in the Superman/Captain Marvel case said (if I recall rightly, while passing judgement against Fawcett), namely that he found no evidence that Fawcett had tried to pass Captain Marvel off as Superman.

I came across a website once (unfortunately, I haven't been able to find it again) that showed many panels and pages of the early Captain Marvel comics were direct, blatant swipes of early issues of Superman and Action Comics.

To go to The Baron's questions:

First off:  Could a book sell a million copies a month? Do even the big companies print a million copies of a single title? If not, how would they respond to a sudden, unexpected, enormous upsurge in demand for a single book?  I've seen the Skipper talk about companies doing multiple printings of a single issue as a sales gimmick, but suppose multiple printings of a title start routinely selling out month after month.  What does the company do?  How quickly would they get themselves geared up to sell a million copies a month?  How quickly could they? Would it make a difference if it was DC or Marvel?  What if  a book by a small independent started selling like that?  Would a small company even have the infrastructure to print that many copies? Would they maybe have to cut a deal with one of the bigger companies?

I would figure that any given company could print a million copies a month of a given title only by making deals with printers to bump other titles; I doubt there's enough unused capacity in the system for existing printer companies to ramp things up that much.

To do that, though, they'd have to make deals with other publishers to let those other titles get bumped. Maybe they might even buy out or merge with some other publishers and kill off some titles.

I might also think that they would possibly change the size and shape of what we think of as a comic -- say, to a magazine like the late Life With Archie, which was about the size and shape of mags like People and Sports Illustrated -- so it could be printed on the same presses that print mainstream publications. That might make it easier to find presses that could handle that additional workload.

I've read it too.

So what's changed since then? Why are Superman like characters like Supreme no longer sued?

Don't forget the digital option.

The Baron said:

Interesting. I had the feeling that even if the demand wad there, it wouldn't be possible for a company to immediately supply it. I'm sure they could figure out a way, of course.
Youngblood #1 actually, though come to think of it the President Obama issue of Amazing Spider-Man might have also gotten there with its multiple printings





Ron M. said:
When was the last time something sold over a million copies? The advectiveless Spider-Man#1?

Didn't some of the Death of Superman issues sell over a million issues? But the sales of the period had a speculation component, which to my way of thinking were pseudo-sales.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2021   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service