The Death Spiral of the Big Two

And the concomitant rise of Arkhaven Comics. The 2023 numbers are in and they look absolutely disastrous for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics alike, as Fandom Pulse reports:

A new report shows DC Comics is in massive trouble, with a 25% annual sales drop as the comic industry continues its death spiral.

Sales figures have been confirmed to be in a state of decline, again in a ComicsBeat expose on the industry. Brian Hibbs released an annual report from Bookscan, highlighting sales in the industry to regular bookstores. While we still don’t have the accurate numbers for comic shops, this gives a bellwether as to where the industry is going. In this expose, Hibbs writes that Marvel and DC Comics represent less than 10% of comic book sales, a shockingly low number for what many call the Big 2.

However, it gets worse for DC Comics, as he writes, “DC had a pretty bad year, with their lowest sales since 2004 – down 25% from 2022 in the bookstore market – even with their highest ever number of titles in the total list. In 2023 they had only 14 titles in the Top 750; in 2013, ten years ago, they had 130. That is a huge and troubling drop – but maybe laying off nearly your entire sales and marketing team is not a great strategy for growth? If someone had been been making a concerted effort to dismantle DC Comics, they couldn’t have been more surgical – luckily, DC still has talented execs like Marie Javins, Jim Lee, Annie de Pies and the rest of the staff who have thwarted those plans. And from what we’re hearing, 2024 will see some more moves to reverse this concerning trend.”

Amazingly, ComicsBeat writers can still spin this as “and that’s a good thing” as many mainstream articles try to mitigate the destruction of entertainment industries like comics at the hands of the woke. These are the same executives who initially led DC Comics into this mess. A new relaunch of a universe—as he’s alluding to with the Absolute DC line—might give a short-term boost but isn’t going to fix the comic industry problems.

DC Comics is on a death spiral, and unless they make wholesale changes to prioritize story and less identity politics virtue signaling at the hands of creators like Tom King or Tom Taylor, we can expect this sales decline will continue.

The sales declines at Marvel and DC going to continue because the very same individuals who have taken what was already a converged situation and gave it turbo cancer are still in control at both companies. This situation is, as Fandom Pulse correctly noted, a death spiral, because as with all fully converged companies, the Big Two have completely lost the ability to serve their traditional market, which is to say they can no longer entertain young men with illustrated picture books.

IDW is almost certainly going to auger in as well. It lost $5 million last year thanks to a 26 percent collapse in revenues. Meanwhile, independents such as Arkhaven, Razorfist, Ethan van Sciver, and Eric July have repeatedly proven their ability to raise more than $250k to develop a single title, and have reliably provided better storylines, characters, and art than the mainstream publishers. The demand is there, it simply isn’t being met by the traditional publishers.

Yesterday, Razorfist released the trailer for GHOST OF THE BADLANDS, his new Western comic that is now being published by Arkhaven Comics. The Monochrome Hardcover and the Monochrome Paperback editions are now available on the Arkhaven store in oversized European bandes dessines-style formats, and the two color editions will be available there from May 17th. Later in the year, there will be a deluxe leather edition as well.

In other Arkhaven-related news, both ALT-HERO: Q volume 1 and MIDNIGHT’S WAR volume 1 are now complete and published in the system. We’re making some final touches before sending out the Gold Logo editions to the backers, and the retail versions will be available on the Arkhaven store before the end of the month. AH:Q backers should note that due to the format’s lack of popularity, we will NOT be producing six separate small Gold Logo issues; the 37 Gold Logo Edition backers will instead receive their choice of a standard Gold Logo paperback omnibus or the variant cover Gold Logo paperback omnibus.

Both AH:Q and MW will be released as large-format 10.88 x 8″ omnibuses, as we find this format to be preferable to the 10 x 7″ format previously utilized for the Alt-Hero and Chuck Dixon’s Avalon omnibuses.

The standard Gold Logo omnibus cover.

The process may be taking much longer than any of us may like, but slow and steady is how Arkhaven will gradually, inevitably, and inexorably outlast and outcompete our much larger predecessors in the comics industry. Project Asteroid has landed, but its ramifications and reverberations are only beginning to be felt.