(The above numbers are November 2010 Comic Book Sales Figures Reported by Diamond Comic Distributors. Information courtesy of the Comics Chronicles)
The above numbers, whatever way one wishes to try and spin them, show Marvel and DC's place in the Market. Or, to be more accurate and business specific, it shows their Market Share.
Depending on which numbers you use, Marvel and DC combined have a 76.91% Market Share in Units, 67.53% Market Share in Overall Dollars or 62.66% Market Share in Items in Top 300. Combine them all and Market and DC have a combined 69% Market Share.
This means that Marvel and DC dominate the Direct Market, easily. If you only look at the 76.91% share of overall units for the Big Two, then realize the other 23.09% of share of overall units is spread between every other publisher. Keep in mind the next-closest publisher, Image, only had a 4.32% share of overall units.
If either Marvel or DC were to go out of business the industry would be badly hurt. It would be a devastating blow.
Marvel and DC's presence is so vast that they could be considered an industry unto themselves.
Why is this important for any new publisher looking to get into the marketplace?
First, you need to know your industry. Second, you then need to know your competition.
One of the first rules of getting into any business is to know your business (industry). You need to know how the industry operates, then who dominates your industry.
One research and study Marvel and DC has little to do with their Market Share, but has to do with their successes and their failures. Marvel and DC are the Big Two for specific reasons. Those reasons are their successes in business and their ability to overcome, rebound and find success out of their failures.
Just like other companies, Marvel and DC have failed more times than they have succeeded. Simply take a look at their long history. See how many titles are still being published after twenty, thirty, forty and even sixty years. Then see how many more titles have come and gone in that time, never to be heard from again.
A perfect example of success out of failure is one of the most well known and popular characters of all time: The Incredible Hulk. The Hulk's original series, launched in 1962, was canceled with issue 6 in March of 1963.
It wasn't until over a year-and-a-half later that the Hulk became a featured character in Tales to Astonish, which became the new Incredible Hulk comic in 1968, which led to the successful franchise we know today.
This is why you need to study these businesses, and what they do. Then, learn from them: pay attention to what works and try to emulate it. It may not get you a fifty thousand-plus print run or a top fifty comic, but it could get you a few thousand-plus print run, which would be a major advantage in the marketplace.
Pay special attention to what doesn't work. If a business plans fails to spark for Marvel and DC, then it probably would be best not to emulate that plan. Study the plan, learn what went wrong and learn from it. Maybe it was a flawed plan from the start. Maybe they went after the wrong audience.
If you learn from the mistakes and failures of other (such as Marvel and DC), then you can hopefully avoid them yourself.
Marvel and DC market's presence is vast and omnipresent. No one has ever really challenged them in the last thirty years (including Image and Valiant).
Study. Watch. Learn.
Try to think of some way to use Marvel and DC's experience and what they do to your advantage.
I leave you with these Burning Questions about the Indie Comic Book Industry: What makes it tick? Why do the big indie companies succeed? And what is the backbone of this sub-section of the Direct Market?