For years, I've been following comics blog The Beat's monthly analysis of comic book sales numbers. It's a deep-wonk look into how many actual comics are getting into the hands of readers. It does seem like the amount of time I've been paying attention to the numbers, the numbers have been in decline. And I don't mean to get all negative on Marvel on Stan Lee's birthday, but shit looks pretty bleak right now. This comment from Brian Hibbs explains things pretty clearly:
If I’m counting everything correctly (might not be), Marvel is now publishing 46 titles will sales under 20k, versus just 45 with sales above 20k
In November of 2009, that was 37 under 20k/59 over.
The majority of Marvel's books are selling less than 20,000 copies a month. Think about how sad that number is. And the thing is, these numbers have been gradually declining for years now. I'm not sure where Marvel's e-comic numbers are, but I'm pretty sure they're not bumping most of those books over the 20,000 copy mark, and collected graphic novels can't be picking up that slack, either. Comic books are literally dying for a mass-market reinvention.