***This article contains spoilers for this week's Amazing Spider-Man #700 and Avenging Spider-Man #15.1, both out now.***When comics are controversial on the Internet, it's often a boom to comic book retailers. After all, controversy usually equals sales, and that's a good thing.
But this week, retailer reactions are mixed about the sales resulting from the controversial end of Amazing Spider-Man and beginning of Superior Spider-Man. While there's a definite uptick in sales, the benefit doesn't seem to outweigh the potential negatives for several retailers we surveyed.
"Guests see this as a marketing gimmick at best and a dump being taken on a favorite character at worst," said Ryan Seymore, owner of Comic Town in Columbus, Ohio, who said that although #700 was selling well, it was not as much as he would have expected from the death of Spider-Man. "In all honesty, if I were to have known that this was what was going to happen, I wouldn't have ordered nearly the numbers I did [of Superior Spider-Man #1]."
"Amazing Spider-Man #700 is selling less aggressively than I hoped," said Cliff Biggers, owner of Dr. No's Comics & Games SuperStore. "We have only heard from a few readers who have read the book, but not one of those who read it and then spoke with us about it was happy about the storyline.
"I will have to gauge response to this and to Superior Spider-Man #1," Biggers added. "Thus far, it seems to have failed to excite our customer base. Since this sort of character death really seems to be a victim of the news cycle, the market buzz tends to generate fast and fall off quickly. The lack of first-day interest indicates to me that this has not attracted the level of audience interest that I had hoped it would."
Dean Phillips, owner of Krypton Comics in Omaha, Neb., voiced concern that the change is not beneficial to either long-time readers or the new readers that a #1 should try to attract. "Comic companies throw out continuity and history at the drop of a hat and fans are just supposed to roll with it. It is not a perfect jumping on point, it is a great jumping off point," he said. "[And] how is a comic book retailer supposed to sell this to a young [new reader who is a] fan of the movies?"
Charlie Harris, owner of Charlie's Comic Books of Tucson, Ariz., said that while several of the Marvel NOW! books seemed to make positive changes that benefitted sales, his customers weren't responding well to the Amazing Spider-Man change so far.
"I've had so many lifelong Spider-Man fans throw their hands up in despair and just quit the book over the past 10 years. I think the concept is just another step down the path to failure," Harris said.However, there were several retailers who disagreed and thought this story was a huge success.
"Any comic book story that spurs the attention of the media, and spurs Newsarama to want to talk to comic book specialty retailers about it, is a very good thing," said Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Calif.
"It's cool! Let's shake it up!" said Mike Wellman of The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, Calif. "It's fun to play with the characters and move things around for a couple years to see what kind of new things can be done. And before anyone sends death threats, remember this is all only temporary!"
John Robinson, owner of Graham Crackers Comics locations in Chicago, said most of his customers have responded in a positive way. "Only a handful of haters so far," he said. "I felt it was a clever idea, and am actually looking forward to reading it, but I feel the gimmick can only maintain interest for the length of a mini-series, which is what this should have been. Two years from now I'm not going to care about Doc Ock's take on a situation. The novelty will have faded."
Other retailers said copies are selling out despite the controversy surrounding the story, so they're optimistically waiting to see what happens with the sales of Superior Spider-Man #1 before they say whether the change is a success.
"We are selling copies [of Amazing Spider-Man #700] in the store and online every minute," said Bret Parks, owner of Ssalesfish Comics in Winston Salem, NC. "I can't lie. I need to order more Superior Spiderman #1's."
"Changes in the Spider-Man status quo have pretty much always boosted sales whether it's a new costume, or a change in direction like The Other or Civil War," said Carr D'Angelo, owner of Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks and Northridge, Calif."We ordered about twice as many Superior Spider-Man #1 as ASM #700," he said. "It's a jumping on point and the first Spider-Man book in the Marvel NOW! promotion so we expect a lot of new eyes for that reason. However, we are also aware that stories that alter beloved elements of the mythos — such as the Clone Saga or One More Day — turn off some long-time fans. But Dan Slott has earned a lot of trust with his great Spidey stories so we expect more people to stick around and see what happens."
Matt Price, co-owner of Speeding Bullet Comics in Norman, Okla., agreed that the fact Dan Slott is writing Superior Spider-Man means fans might give it a chance. "I've liked Dan Slott's run, so I'm willing to wait and see where it goes," Price said. "I like Peter Parker as Spider-Man. However, some of the historic ways to drum up interest in a comics character are to change the character in the costume, change the character's costume, or kill the lead character.
So given those historical precedents, this certainly has a chance to draw attention."
Some retailers also admitted they were thankful for the boost in sales that Amazing Spider-Man #700 gave them because this week is traditionally pretty slow.
Mike Banks, owner of Samurai Comics in Phoenix, said many of his customers weren't planning to come into the store this week until they learned #700 would be released. "We also had a ton of new customers come in looking for this book," he said. "The Marvel PR machine definitely did its job well on this one. The result was that we pulled regular Wednesday sales numbers on a day where we only had a handful of new comics to sell."Retailers also echoed what many Internet fans and bloggers are saying: This probably won't last. "No one doubts that Peter Parker will be back to his web swinging within a year," Harris of Charlie's Comics said.
"It’s a great variation on the old villain switches bodies with the hero theme with a new twist," said J.C. Glinmyer, owner of Earthworld Comics in Albany, N.Y. "As professional retailers and readers, we all know this is a temporary storyline and Peter will return, but that doesn’t take away from the great job Dan Slott has done writing this book."
"Look, when it all washes out, Peter Parker will be Spider-Man again," Field of Flying Colors Comics said. "And it will be Amazing."More from Newsarama:
- Axel Alonso on SPIDER-MAN's Controversial Ending & New Beginning
- Behind The Mask: 10 AMAZING, Ultimate SPIDER-MAN Secret IDs
- Spoiler Sport: Dan Slott Talks AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Finale!
- Marvel NOW! Takes Place When? Continuity Takes Beating