Right as I was getting this whole thing set up, the new #1 item came into my inbox. But what a story to lead off with! Let’s look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics in Comics Disassembled, led by a partnership that was so obvious I can’t believe it just happened.
1. Marvel and Scholastic, Teaming Up
This is massive news: Marvel and Scholastic are teaming up for a line of original graphic novels for young readers, with the whole thing being kicked off by a Miles Morales graphic novel called Miles Morales: Shock Waves in Spring 2021 by Justin A. Reynolds and Pablo Leon (all with a gorgeous and super fun cover, which you can see above), a Kamala Khan graphic novel written by Nadia Shammas, and a Shuri OGN written by Roseanne A. Brown. Artists haven’t been announced for the latter two yet, but Scholastic and Marvel teaming up is like the forming of The Avengers: it’s one of those moments that feels like it just had to happen, and it’s going to change things going forward.
Because you know what? You know what kids like? Marvel superheroes. You know what they also like? Graphic novels, particularly ones published by Scholastic. You know what’s going to sell like hot cakes? These graphic novels! Here’s a prediction for you: I bet this line of books makes more money than all of Marvel’s top 750 selling book market books combined within three years of launch. Now, please note I mean the Bookscan Top 750 – of which there were only 27 Marvel titles placing in 2019 – but honestly, I might even take them over the top 750 selling titles for Marvel in the book market. That’s how confident I am in this move. This is going to be huge.
Now, to answer a few questions about this.
Why do I think Marvel took this long to sign up with Scholastic, as this was an incredibly obvious move – it’s like taking an A grade muscle car and giving it to Dominic Toretto with an unlimited NOS budget – to anyone with a brain? I don’t have any behind the scenes insight, but I’d wager Marvel went with IDW first instead of Scholastic because a) IDW offered them a bigger cut of profits and b) because they’d stick to single issues. But then Marvel was like, “Wait a second, our profits would be bigger if we sold millions of books instead of tens of thousands of books!” Because of course they would.
Is this that big of a deal? After all, Marvel and Scholastic already had a deal! That was for prose books. This is for original graphic novels. This is a much bigger deal, and one that could lead to big gains for Marvel’s entire line going forward.
Well, who cares, right? DC already did this with Ink and Zoom! Isn’t that the same thing? I’m a big supporter of Ink and Zoom, even if that isn’t what they’re called, but DC’s DIY operation is the publishing equivalent of an Etsy store compared to Scholastic. If Marvel’s Scholastic graphic novels don’t sell several orders of magnitude higher than DC’s graphic novels in the same realm, it would be an upset. This is a much bigger deal because it’s like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones of kids interests just teamed up.
Why are they leading with Miles, Shuri and Kamala? Shouldn’t they have led with A-listers? I saw this said on Twitter quite a bit after the news dropped. First off, shut up. Second off, Miles is immensely popular, Shuri was arguably the most entertaining character of a billion plus dollar movie, and Kamala is about to be the main character in a massive PS4 video game and is slated to get a Disney+ series. They are A-listers, and crucially, they’re all young. And you know what? It turns out young people really like reading about young people with superpowers, especially when they are from typically underrepresented groups! Imagine that!
This is massive, massive news. I’m glad this is happening, because this is good for comics as a whole. It’s a prophesied pairing, and one I’m glad to finally see take place. Now give me that Squirrel Girl graphic novel and everything will be okay! Ryan North! Erica Henderson! Rico Renzi! Travis Lanham! Reunite the squad and let’s goooooooo!
2. Bookscan, Breaking Down
Speaking of Scholastic, Brian Hibbs did his yearly breakdown of the Bookscan numbers over at The Beat, and you know what? Scholastic is rather popular! In 2019, they represented 22% (!!) of all sales in the book market, with the publisher’s sales roughly equaling the combined power of Viz Media – the #2 publisher – and Marvel, the #4 publisher. As we’ve come to expect, that dominance was heavily fueled by the god engine that is Dog Man, Dav Pilkey’s unstoppable, unbeatable superhero dog, which took up eight of the ten spots on the top ten highest selling graphic novels tracked by Bookscan in 2019. In fact, as noted by Hibbs in the piece, Dog Man alone represented 16% (!!!!!!) of all comic sales tracked by Bookscan, more than double Marvel’s presence in the market.
It is honestly ludicrous to look over these numbers – it’s no surprise why Marvel would be wanting to get on a little of that Scholastic action when you look at it – but they are very much worth a read, even if it’s an outrageously gigantic piece. Recommended things to look at: Scholastic’s dominance, how well the Big Five book publishers are doing in comics, Marvel and Image’s downfall in the book market, Watchmen’s continued, eternal dominance, and a whole lot more. Give it all a read. It’s a must read each year for a reason.