Robot 6

By the Numbers | Millions and millions of comics

one piece-v69

In “By the Numbers,” ROBOT 6 takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers. Our starting point this week is Wednesday’s announcement that retailers ordered a record-breaking number of comics for Free Comic Book Day, an international event that will draw millions of customers into specialty shops on May 4.

However, there was another figure that’s almost as impressive: the print run for the latest volume of the hit manga One Piece.

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1. One Piece Manga #69 Gets 4-Million Print Run  (Anime News Network, March 4, 2013)
2. Magazine: One Piece Creator Oda Made 2 Billion Yen (Anime News Network, Dec. 22, 2010)
3. Marvel Moves Unlimited Digital to iPads, iPhones (Comic Book Resources, May 7, 2013)
4. You Won’t Find Sex in Apple’s App Store (ROBOT 6, March 7, 2013)
5. Retailers Order Record 4.6M Comics For Free Comic Book Day (ROBOT 6, March 6, 2013)



Martin Costello

March 9, 2013 at 11:38 am

Why did the numbers dip so much for FCBD 2010? Or is it not properly shown on the graph?

One Piece always sets records, which is why I assume you wrote “another figure that’s almost as impressive” with the emphasis on “almost.” Because that number dwarfs ANY Western first printing. It took ALL of FCBD combined to hit 4.5. One Piece did it with a single book, and the only thing stopping it from being more impressive is that the series is such an incredible, massive hit, that it’s not unexpected. The last four volumes have all been at that number.

The big comic book companies need to examine Manga. One Piece, Bleach, Naruto among others are all massive hits world wide. They stick to an overall story. While, respectively, Marvel and DC are dealing with a “universe” (“multiverse”?) they depend too much on spectacle instead of a straight story with continued growth.

It’s too bad a big majority of U.S. comics come out monthly and not weekly. It might also play a roll in increasing sales. Look how well the first “52” did weekly, and had some good storytelling in it. Maybe an experiment is in order?

Not all manga comes out weekly, in fact very little does. Most of it comes out monthly in phone book-like magazines with a bunch of other titles. And readers send in votes on which series they like the most to let editors what is working, what isn’t, and if a title should be cut. Of course sales of the collected volume also play a part in it.

It would be interesting to see American publishers try something like that but it would mean a complete overhaul of the way things are published with little to no guarantee that it would work.

Johnathan, while I agree that the continued growth of characters and the world is one of the elements that make manga resonate with many more people than superhero comics, there’s also the fact that they do crazy spectacle – 200 pages of multi-character battles is normal. And the epic action is always perfectly set up. Plus there’s more bang for the buck.

Though, I agree that it could be a very interesting experiment if one of the big two put a single creator on a black-and-white weekly out-of-continuity series. I mean they regularly try the restarts, but keep the same price point and the same format.

There’s manga that come out weekly(about 50%) biweekly, monthly and some bimonthly. The reason they can come out weekly is 1. it’s in black & white(so no colorist) 2. a lot of the times the artist does the inks and lettering themselves. 3. they have multiple assistants. 4. most don’t come out in floppies but out in several hundred page anthologies.

I think of a comic like Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon, which I greatly enjoy, and how that is the closest thing there is to a Manga story, but as Diarra points out a lot of Manga creators have multiple assistants that help them.

Good point Cich, maybe if Marvel or DC picked somewhat lesser B or C characters and just put a continued team with a new writer willing to work with that one character it would be…difficult. Wait, let me think about this.

Thennarynak, thank you for the clear up.

Agree with Jonathan above. I’ve been a long term comic’s fan for the past three decades and for the first time am beginning to drift away from the medium or at least focus on fewer more arc driven works.

What strikes me about American comics is they’re increasingly suffering from a few core problems:

1) They seem to be mediums designed purely to sell products/film rights. Superheroes are essentially locked onto ‘brand’ which means nothing can ever change. Ever. Even simple things such as a character’s suit will usually return to normal after a few years unless the look was outlandish enough to be dropped and forgotten. Clark Kent will always work at the daily planet and love lois lane. Peter Parker will inevitably lose his job and end up living with his aunt, taking photos for the daily planet. Batman will never gain true happiness and the joker will never be executed. Contrast that to manga where the character’s do grow, age and change over the series. A manga spider-man might grow older and watch his aunt die. Superman might find a new girlfriend. Hell…. batman might change his suit. Just… something different. In US comics as soon as a new film or tv show roles around its the same old same old.

2) In most cases characters and settings are swapped between creators who come and go on a title every year or so. Contrast that to manga (or european comics). A single creator (or team of creators) is responsible for all the stories involving a character. A manga might be market tested and pushed in certain directions depending on the reactions of the fans but in general it sinks or swims based on the creativity of a small group of people who remain constant. The few American comics which have done a similar thing (Hellboy, Sandman, Fables, 100 Bullets, etc) have usually been far more interesting and progressive works.

3) The usa comics seem to be trapped in a hideous nostalgia cycle. Every time a new team comes on the inclination is to reboot a character to a ‘classic’ stage and remove any character development. Worse the hard core fans seem to crave this which might explain the aging and diminishing readership. Rather than young kids getting into this the comics are increasingly being made for and targetted at aging geeks (like me) and not refreshing the creative pool. That said I suspect the same is happening in Japan; I recall an article a while back talking about how the increasingly mature takes on Shonen Jump titles is due to a falling readership of older readers.

Yeah, it would definitely be difficult to accomplish.

You mention Savage Dragon, but Walking Dead and Ultimate Spider-man are similar successful examples of borrowing from manga. Arguably Walking Dead, despite being an American comic through and through, is very Japanese in its form and structure – black & white, cliffhanger-driven, one narrative which pushes the story forward, many characters and constant introduction of new villains and allies.

You know, the system is actually already in place, just in a different form. We have years of Morrison’s Batman; of Johns’ Green Lantern; of Peter David’s Hulk; of Bendis’ Avengers. These are long moments of superhero clarity and development. Claremont’s X-Men?

Also, I read One Piece. I love One Piece. It’s adventurous and makes me feel good. But it’s an extremely simple comic. The author has a pattern for each arc and just fills it with different villains. In a lot of ways its just as repetitious as your random superhero comic trapped in its tropes. But One Piece is also a comic that anyone can read. There are pirates and there is violence, yes, but there is no cynicism or big ideas. It’s a manga that can sell you hope, and that’s not an easy task to accomplish. Though, funnily enough, Americans and Europeans aren’t really buying it. One Piece sells so well only in Japan.

That’s also why I think it’s unrepeatable. After all, Walking Dead is one of the best selling American comics and it’s actively interested in murdering hope.

“Because that number dwarfs ANY Western first printing.”

No, it doesn’t:

“Spring 2013: New Asterix comic
New artist, new scenarist
Initial print run of 5 million in Europe”

And that’s DOWN from an initial print run of SEVEN million for the last book!

Asterix has sold 360 million comics over the world to date. And that’s actually over the world, not 99% on its home country and 1% abroad like One Piece!

(Well, OK. One third in France, another third in Germany and the rest abroad…)

A post on these kinds of comparisons. X-Men #1 shipped nearly 8.2 million copies in 1991. (Not saying retailers sold them all, but they were sold as far as Marvel was concerned.)

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