Robot 6

Evan Dorkin asks, ‘What are the box office bombs of comics?’

Acclaim's sequel to Kevin Costner's "Waterworld"

In the wake of the lackluster performance of Disney’s John Carter movie at the box office earlier this month, cartoonist Evan Dorkin uses that sometimes-comic character to look back on his home medium and ask what would be the comics equivalent. Phrasing it as only he can, Dorkin asks in a blog post, “What are the ‘Holy shit, we spent a lot of money and published this comic book and no one bit’ titles out there?”

While Dorkin notes that comics makes only a small percentage of what the movie industry makes every year, he does stress that most comics have trouble breaking even. His question is which ones had an exorbitant budget that the publisher didn’t recoup in the slightest.

In the long and engaging post, Dorkin describes superhero comics akin to B-movies, saying, “There’s a built-in audience and the publishers generally know what they’re gonna get when they put something out. And by and large, they don’t fork over a ton of dough to the creators or spend a wad on pre-production figuring out what they’re doing.”

Another point I’d add to Dorkin’s question that makes finding an answer even more difficult is how secretive comic publishers are about their budgets and sales figures compared to to movie studios. While publishers are quick to shoot off press releases about comics “selling out,” no major publishing house releases figures the way movie box office figures are put on display every week. Because the general public and even the journalists covering the industry don’t have accurate figures about the money spent and the money earned on a comic, only the publishers know–and they’re not telling. But that’s an entirely separate discussion.

In the comments section, some of Dorkin’s readers chime in with potential examples like the 90s Valiant/Image crossover Deathmate, DC’s War Of The Gods crossover and certain publishers as a whole like Crossgen and Tekno. What do you think?



What about DC’s Trinity 52 weekly issue series?? It was a really hot topic at the time.Mark bagley coming to DC,Busiek working with the big 3. I read it for the first 8 issues or so and stopped reading it.Picked up all 3 of the trades on the cheap thinking it would read better in TPB format. It still didnt appeal to me.

Marvel’s DAZZLER got a huge, huge push (the first direct sale only book) with a supposed back-door movie plan, but quickly fizzled into pretty mediocre sales.

DC’s COUNTDOWN, I have to think, was a bit of a disappointment. As a follow-up to 52, it quickly dropped to HALF the sales of 52 while being the target of critical backlash. It seemed like the mid-way title change (“COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS”) should have increased fan interest, but it really didn’t.

Byrne’s SPIDER-MAN YEAR ONE was a disaster, and surely didn’t garner the sales Marvel hoped.

All the sound and fury regarding Marvel’s gay RAWHIDE KID…. met with silence in the sales department. (Compare to the recent sought-after Kevin Kellner marriage issue of at ARCHIE COMICS…)

There was also DC’s SONIC DISRUPTORS, the canceled MINI-SERIES. There’s nothing sadder than a canceled mini-series.

The Post-Crisis SHAZAM! mini-series, with a more serious version of the character, met with a thud.

Tekno, maybe…Crossgen no…it started big and eventually folded…like the Mummy movies ending in the DVD only Scorpion King 3, but it ran strong.

Deathmate for sure.

Marvel’s M-Tech line got quite a bit of promotion in the late 90s, even getting X-Men tie ins to boost sales, and those folded pretty quick. And lets not forget the New Universe.

Countdown and Amazons Attack are the only two I can really think of. Both were big things for DC and both were absolute disasters. It’s difficult to think of much else; we don’t get many flops so disastrous they become famous, do we?

Cry for Justice.

Since the question seems to be about sales and hype, not what individual readers might have liked or not liked, I have to go with the following: DC’s “Sonic Disruptors” mini-series; the DC “NextWave” books; Marvel’s “New Universe” books.

Marvel “New Universe” line

Sovreign 7.

The only thing I think of fitting the bill (huge advance budget, utter disapproval of finished product by the mass audience) is a comic I actually quite liked – THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN.

Mark, although THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN was critically drubbed, it sold like gangbusters.

Marvel’s NEW UNIVERSE is a good one. That got tons of press and a huge marketing push, yet never caught on.

Also, DC’s FLASH: FASTEST MAN ALIVE series starring Bart Allen…. that sank like a stone.

Amazons Attack pretty much killed Will Pfeiffer’s career, which is a shame as it wasn’t his fault.

Ooh, some very good candidates here! I agree wholeheartedly with Countdown, Amazons Attack, Spider-Man: Chapter One, and the New Universe. Some other additions:

– Tribe, Todd Johnson and Larry Stroman’s Image series. 1 million copies shipped of issue 1, and damn near all of them are in quarter bins, and the series ended up basically disappearing.
– Warriors of Plasm, the book Jim Shooter and Defiant had to defend from a Marvel lawsuit to the tune of $300k only to be greeted with minimal sales.

@Bill Walko: The desperate course correction back to Wally with Mark Waid on board – you can see they were desperate to turn the franchise back around on that one – didn’t do much better, as I recall.

Come to think of it, The Flash in general floundered pretty badly prior to Geoff Johns returning.

Depending on how far you want to go back — and just based on sales, not the long-term influence — Kirby’s FOURTH WORLD series at DC in the early ’70s count. DC thought Kirby would give them huge sales once his ideas were fully unleashed. Alas, none of the series lasted longer than 18 issues. Of course, the characters have endured, but their initial introduction could qualify as a bomb.

if the New Universe was such a bomb, why did most of the titles last 3 years/36 issues?!?

Another bomb I’d say was Marvel’s second attempt at a Star Trek comics. They did a series right after TMP, then tried again w/a line of comics in the 90’s. Stuff like ‘Starfleet Academy’ and ‘Early Voyages’. They cancelled the line PDQ, I recall ‘EV” ended on a cliffhanger! :-O

DC’s Helix line? (Minus Transmetropolitan, of course). There were some big names, but none made it past issue 12 (again, except for Transmet).

How about THE KINGDOM, meaning the sequel to KINGDOM COME? It was only two years later, we were still in love with the original, and the prelude issue wasn’t bad. Then the final product sucked, revealed to be the intro to a plot device (Hypertime) which was used twice again and then abandoned altogether.

I also need to mention MARVEL 1602. Neil Gaiman doing Marvel was sold as a Big. Freaking. Deal. And the story and the surrounding mystery were interesting enough, until we got to the last issue and it turned into this weird political diatribe against George Bush (thinly recolored as the Purple Man), and the time-travel plot wasn’t what anyone expected. Yeah, I know it spawned three non-Gaiman follow-up stories, but I still remember the ending being a big fizzle, and I don’t think it’s fondly remembered the way “Marvel by Neil Gaiman” should be in principle.

I would submit Spider-Man: One More Day. The four issues sold decently, but the fallout was a major outcry from fans and sales on the series following (Brand New Day) sank like a stone. They still haven’t recovered (sales in the 50K range even now). When a flagship title like Amazing Spide-Man has that dramatic of a sales decline, you can label it nothing but a disaster.

No contest: Kevin Eastman’s Tundra Publishing – £14,000, 000 burned through in three years.

Didn’t Dark Horse lose a bundle with that Janet Evanovich thing?

The new Blue Beetle. DC has tried everything to cram this character down the throats of fans and very few seem to care.

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