It was recently announced that issue 12 will be the final issue of She-Hulk from the team of Charles Soule and Javier Pulido. Does this latest breakup between readers and She-hulk come as a surprise? Since 1980 and her first series, The Savage She-Hulk then into The Sensational She-Hulk to The She-Hulk and now She-Hulk, we readers have fallen quickly in love with each incarnation until our infatuation fades and She-Hulk is relegated back into a supporting role. What happened?
She-Hulk isn’t the only book to have an on and off again relationship with readers, but why do certain characters ride the series carousel.
Let’s try a little relationship speed dating:
First up: Us the readers, are we not supporting them enough? Well maybe. September sales of She-Hulk #8 broke the 21000 in sales and several issues before that had similar 20k numbers. (I am excluding digital for simplicity) A lot of books would love those numbers, but I’m guessing in the Marvel stable that those numbers are on the disappointing side.
In defence of the reader, it’s hard as a consumer to support the things we like. With all the choices out there and our finite spending money, we have to make our choices wisely. I try very hard to support certain creators and even certain characters (Hey, I’m a Ghost Rider fan, so I know about dying and resurrecting titles) but I will pass on a “good” series simply because it’s not enough for me to invest in no matter how much I like the character or creative people.
Second up: The creative team. As they sit down in front of us, we remind ourselves, “looks don’t matter.” But reality is…Yes, sometimes first appearances count and an art work that doesn’t “float your boat” or “spin your wheels” is going to be hard to get past. I have heard some peers mention they passed this book up because they didn’t like the art. And maybe the writer isn’t writing the character to your liking, they say toMAto, you say TOmato. So without chemistry between the reader and the creative team, maybe the book has a harder time selling.
But to blame them is wrong. This is their job and it provides for them. They are doing the best they can and to think they want to fail isn’t fair.
Third up: Marvel (or any publisher) They sit down across from you dressed in their power wear you know they mean business…dollars and cents. Sales are the bottom line. Is the product sustainable? What are the forecasted numbers? Is it consistent? Does it spike and fall?
I applaud Marvel. They throw a lot of darts at the board. Every so often it seems they will take a chance on that precariously stuck dart…just hanging there. (Like, in my opinion, the upcoming Squirrel-girl book) With so many darts thrown, one or two is going to hit the bulls-eye. That’s a happy accident. I’m sure that’s not how Marvel conducts its business leaving things to chance, but to the outsider it can appear that way. So when a series starts and stops then starts up again (never mind the revenue gained by launching a #1 issue every 8-14 months) gets you wondering what were they thinking. So Marvel is what Marvel is….
So why do books like She-Hulk fall short?
Maybe they don’t. Like any relationship we start, each of us has an expectation of the other. We can’t really expect every new series to be as iconic and long lasting as the heavy hitters (you know who they are, they have the best table in every restaurant) If we honestly love the character and or creative team and not just spend because they are the tie-in, treat of the week, female or a person of color (could be a pandora’s box here -I’m not suggesting don’t support just support for the right reasons), the series will live on its own and not walk through the peaks and valleys of consumer sales.
Perhaps publishers need to look at more producing more mini-series and specials for fringe characters rather than a full series. I believe that is a large factor in the success of DeadPool. I might commit to buying a 48 page issue of She-Hulk every three or four months over buying a monthly. I “like” She-Hulk but I don’t “love” She-Hulk but this would satisfy me without disrupting my wallet.
So feel bad for She-Hulk and the many like her but remember in the end, buying comics is like dating. We meet someone that interests and excites us. We start going out, doing things. Eventually we introduce them to our friends and we all start going out as couples or a group. Then one of two things happen: The luster begins fading and come Wednesdays our eyes start to wander the shelves and eventually we go our separate ways. OR. The relationship deepens and each month as you learn more about them, your twitter activity includes them often and you introduce them to more people and they become a part of your life and together you ride into the long box sunset.