BLACK PANTHER & THE CREW: Who’s to Blame? The Data Say Us.


By now you’ve probably heard about the cancellation of Black Panther & the Crew.  A proliferation of thinkpieces and outrage followed the announcement of its cancellation, and rightly so.  That said, another refrain also rose up: “I only just heard about it now that it’s being cancelled!”

Why is that?

Realistically, we can’t expect every company to promote every book equally.  There isn’t enough time in the day.  But Black Panther & the Crew had some PR gold attached, which went virtually unnoticed by the comics press and at Marvel itself.  Specifically: with Yona Harvey co-writing the book, Black Panther & the Crew marks the first time a black woman ever wrote Storm.  Ebony.com gave it the headline ‘Yona Harvey: First Black Woman to Pen ‘Storm’ For Marvel.’  They interviewed Harvey and talked about the big deal that writing Storm was for Harvey.

Not a single comics press organ picked it up.  Not TheMarySue, not ComicsAlliance (may it rest in peace), not CBR or Newsarama, and not us here at Capeless.

This headline is the kind of lede that journalists like us jump on, especially at progressive-leaning sites.  I can’t explain why none of us proliferated it.

Aside from the fact that no one leveraged that PR dream of a fact, there was a relative dearth of promotion from Marvel in general regarding Black Panther & the Crew.  The official Marvel twitter account posted one tweet about the book, on the day that the #1 arrived on shop shelves — months after that pivotal ordering period.

Compare the 19 tweets since January 1, 2017 about the Secret Empire Event, or the 17 tweets about Black Panther in general in the same period.  The Marvel Facebook page fares a little better, with 4 posts mentioning the title.

As for comics presses, CBR posted the most articles regarding Black Panther & the Crew before its cancellation, with 3 articles dropping before the comic cancelled: mostly previews, admittedly.  Newsarama also did well, with 2 articles, and ComicsAlliance and Time Magazine’s website ran an article apiece.  Comicbook.com didn’t have any posts before cancellation, and ComiConverse didn’t run any articles at all either before or after.

While the old adage holds that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, neither Marvel nor the comics press as an entity did not do a very good job of even making the horse aware the water existed in this case study.

The average consumer doesn’t sit down every month to read the solicits so they can preorder comics.  New audiences — the kinds of people who would be most keen on reading a book like Black Panther & the Crew — certainly don’t.  Considering preorders make up a huge part of how Marvel decides which comics to keep, the decision to avoid promoting the book until it hit store shelves strikes me as shooting yourself in the foot.

My conclusion: given the structure of the industry and the decision-making processes by which books like Black Panther & the Crew are kept or cancelled, this book was not given the press attention or marketing backing that would have helped it be profitable.  You get what you pay for, in essence — so Marvel, it’s on you.  Fellow comics presses?  It’s on us.  And while we’re not 100% responsible — because the consumer themself has a hand in this, too, though it’s obscured by the arcane numbers game that is the industry — we bear a fair brunt of the burden.


 

Murphy Leigh

Murphy is a vaguely femininish malady who spends most of their time worshipping at the altars of Lois Lane, Chloe Sullivan, Jean Grey, and Wanda Maximoff. Their first confirmable event-memory is Princess Leia at the start of A New Hope. Has more in common with Lex Luthor than Lex Luthor would probably like to admit.

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  • Jay Gabel

    This is in line with what Marvel has done for years. If their big event flounders and flops (or a Brian Michael Bendis book sells less than they expect), they’ll start cancelling lesser selling books that they barely promoted at all. Back when Siege underperformed, they cancelled both Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova, during the runs that are currently serving as the primary inspiration for this massive film franchise they now have on their hands. Their press releases at the time made it sound like they were punishing their readers for not buying into Siege, also.
    While all of this about lack of press or promotion is true, the fact that it got cancelled during another event that isn’t going quite how they wanted is giving me flashbacks to that time.

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