It's 1993, Again

By | Monday, June 15, 2009 1 comment
You're likely to hear/see something today about the return of Captain America. I'd just like to reprint a few excerpts from an article Chuck Rozanski wrote in 2004...
While there were certainly a plethora of other reasons why the American comics market began falling apart in 1993 (including higher cover prices, overproduction, and deteriorating art/story quality), in my opinion the "Death of Superman" promotion inadvertently exposed to the general public (many of whom ignorantly bought into the prevailing delusion that all comics were collectibles that infinitely rose in value) the "Ponzi Scheme" reality of the market for recent back issue comics.

What made the "Death of Superman" promotion so much different than all the rest of the specious comics marketing schemes cooked up during the early 1990's was that it was aimed at the general public...

There was only one problem with this entire program. It was based entirely on a lie. DC never had any intention of actually killing off Superman. His entire "death" was an event solely contrived to sell lots and lots of comic books...

Where things went wrong, however, is that this particular promotion seemed like a sure bet to those members of the general public who had come to believe all the hype during the early 1990's about the investment value of comics...

By the end of 1993, it became painfully clear to anyone who studied the market numbers that the comics world was starting to shrink. Little did we know, however, that the decline would last for more than a decade, and would eventually reduce the overall unit sales volume of comics by a disastrous 80% from the 1992 peak. That huge decline in overall unit sales inevitably led to a severe consolidation in not only the comics retailing community, but also in the number of publishers and distributors...

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." You can read Chuck's article, in its entirety, here.
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The primary difference between the death and the comeback of Superman and the death and comeback of Captain America is this:

Superman's death episode #75 sold something around two million copies. Captain America #25 maybe cracked half a mill, if that.

The general public is much more jaded toward the comic book get-rich-quick schemes than they were 15 or so years ago.

Also, death is a viable story element that allowed DC to tell some different stories in a "World Without a Superman", while Ed Brubaker and the artists on recent Cap arcs have been telling some terrifically fun stories in a spy motif with some superhero trappings.

When it all comes down to it, it's really about how this story will satisfy readers... not how swindled speculators might possibly feel sometime down the road.

Personally, I'm relieved this "news" story wasn't about Obama choosing a new Cap, or worse.

Getting outside publicity about comics is good thing... and it's up to those who sell comics to represent them as entertainment first, last and always.