Whither Marvel Comics?
My friend, Fred, recently pointed out an article on that subject that gets out some telling facts and figures. "Will Licensing Doom Marvel?" by Nathan Alderman was posted on September 19, 2005, at Fool.com, and I wanted to feature it here because I think what it says is important, or at the very least, interesting. The point of this article (about investing...) is that Marvel Comics make a poor long-term investment because the company has focused on movies and toys instead of their publishing world. The article notes that the most famous characters in Marvel history were born in the early 1960s (1963, 1965) with Wolverine coming in 1974, and that without popular new characters as exciting as Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk, the publishing part of Marvel just won't survive.
Here's a clip:
In its most recent quarter, Marvel's publishing arm tallied $20.9 million in net sales, comparing respectably with its licensing ($43.9 million) and toy ($23.4 million) ventures. But remove that mask and look at the operating income: While licensing brought in $28.2 million and toys commanded $13.2 million, publishing brought in only $7.89 million -- down more than 12% year over year.
Though the comic book industry moves in boom and bust cycles, the average circulation for even the most popular comic books has gone nowhere but down over the past four decades. Comic book readers -- at least the ones in which superhero comics like Marvel's are concerned -- are a dying breed.
Can that be right? Are comic-book readers vanishing? Has interactivity (video games) and big screen excitement taken the fun out of adventures on the page? I don't know, but I wonder. It seems to me that experts have talking about the death of the comic-book as a viable format for years, if not decades. Weren't Internet comics supposed to replace old-fashioned comic-books in popularity at one point last decade? That didn't happen. And I actually wonder if the opposite won't be true. As our generation (X) gets older, won't we (hopefully...) have more leisure time to enjoy comics? As we get to retirement or near-retirement, won't we decide to pursue then our love of comics, which we can't do now because we're young parents, or because we're trying to make our place in the world at work? I wonder if those who have always loved comics will find time again in the years ahead. I know that my wife is fascinated by comics, and wants to find time to read them...that's hopefully something she'll get to one day.
IWhat do you think? Are we witnessing the end of an empire, a transition to video games and movies that will ultimately kill comics? I sure hope not...