Posted by SylentEcho - Sunday March 23rd, 2014 @ 3:22 PM EDT .
Most people believe that the decline of comic book sales started in 1971. Personally, I’m not sure, but no doubt collecting comics in the late 60’s and early 70s wasn’t as much as it was prior, like in the early 60’s right up until 1968 which was a boom period. What somewhat stopped that trend was the advent and proliferation of television. Not regular black and white, but colour TV. There was a slew of family TV shows that ate into the time that people had for comic books. As other distractions were introduced, kids found less & less time for comic books. Still, I don’t believe that this was a big driver in the decline of sales. TV played a small part in it sure, but inflation in the U.S in the 70’s started to get really bad. Inflation in the 40’s, 50’s & 60’s was fairly tame, but in the 70’s the oil crisis had caused a major spike in inflation starting from 1973. In turn, the rising cost of paper, production & distribution played a big part in forcing the publishers to raise the price rapidly from 15c to 25c between 1970 and 1973.
Again, I believe this wasn't the main cause for the drop because from 1971-1973 there was already an increase in the cover price from 15c to 20c. The introduction of a lot of new reprint comics namely the 48 pagers and giant size books would cost 25c, 30c or even 50c. In those days, the gimmick was so offer a lot of reprints of the 60’s where they’d provide 48 pages to 50 pages to justify the 25-50c charge. Now, in those days the main significant cost of making a book was the writers and artists. The production i.e. printing cost was cheap and if you’re doing reprints there’s practically no cost because back then there were no royalties for reprinting. So, when Marvel and DC decided to put out 48 or 50 pages where 8 pages would be a new story and around 40 pages would be reprints, it would cost them next to nothing. So, instead of paying the full production cost for the 48 page books, they’d pay literally half or a third of the production cost of a regular 20 page comic book. In other words, the profit margin on these giant books was rather fat. 100 page spectacular #1 (1971) was probably the first book to have a 50c cover price, so the reason for the hike in price not being related to the popularity of colour TV and the inflation of 1973-1978 is indubitable.
Another problem that comic books faced was the low price. Comics have always been at the bottom rung of profitability to the distributors. Distribution is the key for every sale, especially tangible products. Even in today’s world of online shopping, distribution is key in how one gets their product to the consumers. This has always plagued the comic book industry because it’s always been some of the lowest margin for distributors. It costs the same amount to bring a bundle of comics to the newsstand as a bundle of magazines like Life or Sports Illustrated, so it would hassle the distributors to bring comics to the newsstand where they would literally earn 2/3rds less. How did we arrive at that figure? Let’s go back to 1970. The cover price was 15c. If one looks across the many different periodicals which were distributed by the same distributor that would bring comics as well as magazines like Life, Sports Illustrated, Playboy etc, one would observe that they were all priced at 50c or more. So, the introduction of the 48 page comics (25c) and the 100 page comics (50c) in 1971/72 is more likely the by-product of the publishers trying to appease the distributors.
This was one of the first, if not first ever 50c comic book.
As far as comic books went, it was always the norm that unsold comics were returned to the publisher and the seller would get a certain amount of credit for it. In the old days, a distributor would deliver a bundle of say 500 comic books to the newsstand. The newsstand would sell about half and in 3 months time, when the distributor would have to take back the unsold copies, he would physically count the books & then give the seller credits for the comics he didn’t sell. This was the case from the 40’s to the mid 60’s, but then as cost of shipping and returning became more expensive, someone came up with the idea that the top or 1/3rd of the cover be ripped off and just that portion would be sent back to the publisher in order for the seller to get a refund. These were known as remaindered copies. When the books were returned, the publisher could choose to destroy it or re-sell it. That’s how the 3 in 1 and 4 in one packs came to be. Gold Key originally started this method from the mid 60s. The earliest instance of these bundled packs was most probably late 1966.
The big change occurred when in the early 70’s; the distributors somehow coerced the publishers to change policy and convinced them that the unsold comics didn’t physically need to be returned. That is almost exactly where the slump started and I believe that this change in return policy was where the “decline” in sales from the early 70’s to 1976/77 started that almost ran the publishers out of business. This new return policy was known as the “affidavit return” where the publisher would accept in writing the number of copies that were unsold without any real proof.
Normally, for example if Marvel would publish around 400,000 comics of say Fantastic Four #108 through the distribution system and the newsstand, on an average they could sell 240,000 to 275,000 copies, basically around 60-65% which was a margin that was profitable for everyone involved. However, after the implementation of the “affidavit return” policy, dishonest sellers would claim that they only sold say 50,000 out of the 80,000 copies and would want credit for the other unsold 30,000. Marvel then would credit him and he was free to sell the other 30,000 to whomsoever he wished. There was no system in place at the time to verify any of the numbers sent back by the sellers. There’s an article by Jim Shooter that has been linked on this page, wherein he makes a mention of the widespread fraud going on at the time where the distributors would lie about how much wasn’t sold in order to get credit. There would be some sellers that would take up to 70-80% credit at times and were in turn free to still sell the remaining stock to other comic book shops and newsstands. These kind of side-deals really hurt Marvel and DC’s business. The numbers kept getting worse. In the early 70’s, Marvel were able to sell around 60-65% of their material, but in the mid 70’s those numbers went all the way down to 20-25%. Imagine printing 400,000 copies and only getting the money for 100,000 copies. There is no business model in publishing that could survive the scenario of making four and selling one. The production and distribution cost would be sure to end the business and this was almost the case for Marvel and DC. Gold Key or Western Publishing on the other hand was not fortunate enough to survive this. This also played a big part in Neal Adams leaving the X-Men book at the time. His run was very successful in reality, but the falsified numbers said otherwise. As mentioned earlier, the rest of the “unsold” comics would somehow get sold through various means and discounts which is also the main reason so many Bronze Age comics from the mid 70’s are still available in very high grades or even near mint. To conclude, in my opinion, the decline in readership and collecting was not as bad as Marvel and DC perceived it to be at the time. Both companies were almost driven to bankruptcy and both barely survived which lead to the birth of the Direct Market, which offered readers huge discounts for annual subscriptions. This, in reality was much more of a necessity to the publisher, than a luxury for the consumer.
Here’s a link to Jim Shooter’s page which further explains the birth of the Direct Market and comic distribution in the 70’s:
(Special thanks to Nick).
I found this storyline boring.
The whole thing culminates in her having special powers that end up healing Bruce. The Search itself puts a rift between Bruce and Alfred, who leaves him for a time. Alfred is Bruce’s surrogate father. The years take their toll on him and he can’t take it anymore. Think of it like watching your child go to war every night for decades, getting beaten and bruised, coming home with broken bones and cuts and scars so deep, no amount of healing ever truly worked. That’s what Alfred had to deal with, and what he couldn’t deal with after such a close call when Bruce’s life hung in the balance.
On the flip side, we have The Crusade.
This is the story of Bruce’s hand-picked replacement, a guy named Jean-Paul Valley. Valley was the vigilante known as Azrael. Brainwashed by something called “The System” during his days as an avenging assassin Azrael, Valley saw the ghosts of his ancestors who told him what to do, how to act, how they world needed his brand of justice.
As Batman, he started doing his own thing, started changing. Batman became more violent during his tenure. He kicked Robin out of the Batcave, changed the costume, didn't mind letting criminals die, started adding armor, claws – all in line with his ‘more violent’ nature.
Soon, it wasn’t just the bad guys who were afraid of him, the good guys were too.
The two storylines run their course as Valley becomes more and more un-Batman-like and Bruce Wayne eventually returns to Gotham to see what a mess it all is and take back his mantle (KnightsEnd).
A side story is Robin turning to Nightwing for help when he is expelled from the Batcave. Tim Drake starts to come into his own during the whole Knight series as he is forced to work alone and later, with Nightwing.
During The Crusade, several notable folks recognize that Batman is not the original; Jim Gordon – who starts to distrust Batman as he changes, The Joker (who knows how he realizes it?) and Catwoman, who says he just doesn’t smell right. This just fuels Valley’s insanity. His goal is to be a better Batman, to do it all better, to prove that he is not just a worthy successor – that he is the only Batman.
KnightsEnd comes next.
Knightquest was one of the best Batman storlylines ever. The really surprising part was that most people just loved Paul as Batman although he was brutal, had armor, threatened to kill Robin and had no life apart from being Batman. It's a side of Batman we thought we'd never get to see.
(sp. thanks to Patrick)
The manga DragonBall by Akira Tokiyama is hugely popular over the world and he has inspired some of the current hugely popular manga artists in Japan. Here are some Dragon Ball illustrations by other artists from the likes of Eiichiro Oda of ‘One Piece’, Tite Kubo of ‘Belach’, Masashi Kishimoto of ‘Naruto’ and others. 17 more pics after the jump.