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Earlier this week, Simon Spurrier, writer of the ongoing series Cry Havoc, released a brief criticism of the comic book press on his website. In his note, he criticised the media for what he perceived to be a disinterest in covering ongoing series’ after its initial launch. As he says, “What’s weird is that our press focuses all its attention on the takeoff – and occasionally on a spectacular crash – but none at all on those planes which were designed to settle neatly on the grass.” He goes on to challenge the media to cover his own series by offering all six issues of the first arc for free to anyone wishing to review his series.
Spurrier raises an interesting point in that most sites spend a disproportionate amount of their resources covering debut issues and potentially write an article when the series comes to a halt due to poor sales. However, he seems to be forgetting the benefits that are derived from this model, and how he himself has actually benefited from it. Before looking at the benefits of the current model though, let’s investigate his claim that sites only care about initial launch fanfare, and why most sites employ this model.
Looking at the review coverage on Comic Book Resources, one of the biggest comic book related sites on the internet, they have reviewed 66 books so far in May. 23 of those reviews were for debut issues (including a review of Civil War II #0), 14 were reviews for issues between #2 and #5, 15 were reviews for issues between #6 and #10, while the remaining 14 were for issues higher than #10. For comparison, comiclist.com reported that for the week of May 25th alone there were set to be over a 100 new releases. That’s discounting reprints, graphic novels, volume collections, etc, and only focusing on single issues. If you extrapolate that number across the month of May, there might’ve been over 400 books released during the period that Comic Book Resources managed to write 66 reviews, effectively covering less than 20% of the market.
As not all sites cover the exact same issues, and there’s plenty of sites that exclusively focus on smaller publishers that aren’t usually covered by the bigger sites, we can probably estimate that the comic book press are able to cover about 25% of the market combined. While it’s hard to make conclusive statements based on a single month of reviews, it seems likely that Simon is right that the press covers more #1’s than any other issue. However, the reason for this is a lot more sensible than he gives the press credit for.
One of the issues readers often have with ongoing series is that they tend to feel quite lost once it goes beyond a certain number. It’s easier for a reader to join during the first 3-5 issues of a series than it is to enter a series that’s on issue 200. The same applies for reviews. Unless you’re actively following a series, you’re not likely to worry about whether Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #27 is any good, but you might be interested in seeing whether Captain America: Steve Rodgers #1 is worth the cost. Since most sites have a limited capacity as for how many issues they can cover in a given week, they need to tailor their coverage for maximum impact for their readership. As most readers are more interested in reviews for debut issues, this is what they’ll focus most of their attention on.
The benefit of this model is actually quite apparent if you give it a second look, and they’ve actually benefited Spurrier more than he gives it credit for. Since most sites spend more time covering debut issues, there’s a constant influx of new titles for them to review every week. This is why when Spurrier’s own series debuted, it was able to receive coverage cause several sites had resources available to cover it. However, if Spurrier got his way, and sites spent more time covering subsequent issues of series they review, there would be less manpower available to write reviews for new series and the initial launch fanfare given to a lot of series would be reserved for the truly spectacular collaborations from major publishers.
It is understandable that Spurrier is frustrated about the waining media interest in his book, however it’s unquestionable that the model as it is benefited Simon Spurrier in particular more than a model focused on continued coverage of every series they cover would.