The Sign of the Times: The Significance of Marvel's Dominant Market Share

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Keith Dallas: I'm sure you guys have read about Marvel's recent dominant market share. If you haven't, allow me to inform you that Marvel Comics' titles comprised 50.92% of all comic books distributed to retailers in September 2008. DC's titles meanwhile comprised 28.47% of all comic books distributed to retailers that month.

Think about that: Half of all the comic books distributed to retailers were Marvel books with DC a (very) distant second. September's data isn't anomalous. In August 2008 Marvel's market share of comic books distributed was 48.09% (DC's was 32.73%), and in June 2008 Marvel's market share was 48.39% while DC's was 29.56%. Even if Marvel doesn't replicate a 50% share for the month of October (it assuredly will not since DC released Final Crisis #4 in October), we're witnessing a consistent trend that has been playing out for months now.

So every month there are more copies of Marvel Comics being sold to the retailers than nearly all the other publishers combined. And what does that fact mean really? What is the significance of Marvel's dominance? Are we in the midst of a genuine "Marvel Comics Renaissance"? A new "Marvel Age," if you will? Or does Marvel's dominant market share somehow signify that it's DC that is losing readers rather than Marvel gaining them? Or perhaps there are alternative interpretations?

The incredibly informative Comichron.com shows that the annual number of comic books sold has steadily increased since 2001. However, unit sales for 2008 are down 6% from 2007. We'll see if this is a portent of further weakening sales in 2009 and beyond or merely a one year abnormality.

Your thoughts please, gentlemen.

Paul Brian McCoy: Let me just say right off the bat that I'm not a math guy. Unfortunately, I think that to really develop a theory about just what's going on with Marvel's market share we've got to look at the numbers and extrapolate from there. So, I've looked at the breakdown of Marvel:DC:Other comics sold over the last two months (August and September) and here's what Iíve noticed.

Among the top 300 titles, there's a noticeable split between Marvel's dominance and when the Big Two level out. In September, Marvel took 49 of the top 70 sellers, while DC only had 19 titles and other publishers had two. That ended up being a grand total of 2,794,119 individual comics sold by Marvel to DC's 1,034,151. That's nearly a two-to-one margin in the 70 highest sellers of the month. However, from number 71-300 there's an almost exact tie in the number of comics sold by Marvel and DC: 67 for Marvel and 68 for DC. Other companies make up the bulk of the rest with 95 issues sold. Once we get beyond the 70 best selling comic books, the Big Two's rankings remain fairly consistent, usually splitting each subsequent 10 almost evenly.

However, in that lowest 100, the majority of Marvelís titles are Second Printings and reorders, along with some of their Marvel Adventures titles. For DC, there are some Second Printings and reorders as well but also a number of Vertigo titles.

So the bulk of Marvel's market dominance is in that Top 70 where DC is only selling 39% of the total number of individual titles that Marvel is selling and 38% of Marvelís volume. What's truly startling is that in the Top 50, the ratio is a little over 2:1 in Marvel's favor, but then from number 51Ė70, Marvel has 17 titles to DC's 2 (with IDW snaking a spot with their Angel: After the Fall series Ė which, interestingly enough, is a Joss Whedon property, as is the number 11 title, Dark Horse's Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

September was a rough month for DC, though, with Final Crisis on its break. August saw them fairing better, but still only selling 51% of the numbers Marvel did in the Top 70. Again, it was closer in the Top 50 (60%), but then Marvel outsold them 16 to 3 in the 51 Ė 70 rankings. And from ranking 71 through 300, the Big Two split 62 (Marvel) to 65 (DC) with other publishers selling 103 of those titles.

So what does any of this mean with regards to analyzing Marvel's market share? Well, it looks like at the most basic level, the sheer volume of titles being published becomes an influencing factor in dominating the sales charts. In August, Marvel had 107 books in the Top 300, compared to DC's 88 and other publishers combined total of 105. That means that DC sold 82% of the volume of Marvel. In September that dropped even lower, with Marvel having 116 Top 300 books and DC claiming 87, or 75% the total volume of Marvel's sales. That's give or take the reorders. Second Printings of titles, I assume, should still count in the volume of books released.

But I don't have the actual release numbers for August and September at hand, so I'm not sure if every release was represented in the Top 300. If it gives us any more insight into the disparity in release volume, according to both publishers' websites, Marvel is releasing approximately 10 more titles than DC in both October and November, and nearly 20 more in December.*

Also, by paying more attention to the specifics of the Top 70--where the real distance between the two publishers is evident--another detail comes to light. In that Top 70, Marvel has a wider variety of titles represented than DC.

Keith Dallas: In what sense?

Paul Brian McCoy: In September's list, DC has four books in the Batman family of titles, four in the Superman family, two Green Lanterns, three issues of Teen Titans, four issues of Trinity, one Final Crisis tie-in, and one issue of Wonder Woman. There's no representation of Vertigo or Wildstorm. And even in August, when they released more titles and had stronger representation in the Top 70, the only real addition to the titles already mentioned is Justice League and Justice Society along with more Final Crisis issues.

Marvel, on the other hand, has a range of titles encompassing their crossover event Secret Invasion with around 20 books, eight different X-Titles, five Ultimate Universe titles, two Stephen King comics (both in the top 10), and around 15 other individual titles that are operating on their own, ranging from Captain America, Hulk, three issues of Spider-Man, Iron Man, Daredevil, and The Fantastic Four, to Hercules, Captain Britain, Skaar: Son of Hulk, Venom, and two Marvel special minis: 1985 and Marvel Apes.

Adding to that variety, they also have New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Avengers: Initiative, Deadpool, Thunderbolts, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ms. Marvel, Nova, Black Panther, She-Hulk, another Iron Man title and six stand-alone minis with Thor, the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Runaways, and the Inhumans, all providing different facets of the Secret Invasion experience along with a new incarnation of Front Line. And none of them are essential for understanding what happens in the main event, which is a nice change from previous event tie-ins.

So again, with the sheer volume of books being published by Marvel comes the opportunity to provide a much wider variety of books with more mainstream appeal than DC's Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints.

Keith Dallas: Actually, I'm going to debate you on this point. What you describe as "wider variety," I would label as "a slew of super-hero books." Undoubtedly, Daredevil, New Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Nova, Black Panther, et al. all provide different kinds of super-hero narratives. But the fact remains that they all offer violence-themed stories about characters wearing spandex. Similarly, we can talk about how Burger King offers a different menu than McDonald's and Wendy's, but there's no getting around the fact that all three are fast-food restaurants.

I understand your essential point here though: even if a comic book reader isn't interested in X-Men titles or "Secret Invasion," there are still plenty of Marvel super-hero titles to choose from, including lines that offer completely different depictions of Marvel's cast of characters (e.g. the Ultimate universe, Marvel Adventures and First Class).

Paul Brian McCoy: Yes, you're right. That's what I meant by "mainstream" appeal, but you're right. The word itself becomes loaded, as it's the overwhelming supply of superhero books that have redefined what "mainstream" means in this context (in America, anyway).

But at the same time, I don't want to suggest that DC doesn't have a wide range of titles to choose from, but only a handful are selling enough to crack the Top 70. I don't know that Marvel's releasing 10 to 20 more books per month is enough of a factor to allow them to dominate in overall sales, though, is it?

Keith Dallas: Well, allow me to relate this anecdote: one of my local retailers recently told me he was a bit dismayed by how many titles Marvel has been publishing this year. He confessed, "It seems like every month I have more and more Marvel books to sell." When I perused this retailer's recent comics rack, I noticed he carried NO Vertigo books and hardly anything from Image, Dark Horse, Avatar, IDW and Dynamite (nevermind Oni Press, Moonstone, Devil's Due, Boom!, et al.). I asked him why he didn't stock titles from those publishers. He said that if one of his customers pre-ordered an independent title, he would of course get it for him but that he's not going to order extra copies because he "knows" they'll go unsold and consequently he'll have to move them to the back issue bins to collect dust.

So this retailer is simultaneously complaining that he's selling too many Marvel books and unwilling to risk losing money on independent fare. My suspicion is that this has become the prevalent retailer attitude/method of operation, which of course feeds on itself: the fewer books retailers buy from independent publishers, the more independent publishers go out of business, the greater the market share goes to Marvel/DC.

Ten years ago, the the combined market share of publishers other than Marvel/DC actually exceeded the market share of Marvel/DC in many months. Nowadays Marvel and DC's combined market share is on average four times greater than the combined market share of everyone else. That's telling. And unless a gaggle of popular writers and artists heed Robert Kirkman's rallying cry to produce creator-owned comics, I don't see that imbalance reversing itself. In fact, I anticipate it only moving more drastically in favor of Marvel/DC.

Paul Brian McCoy: I agree, it looks to be heading that way. But Iím still not convinced that just having the books available is explanation enough. If the books were unreadable, then it seems they wouldnít be bought, and yet, those extra books apparently end up landing in the Top 70. So if Marvel's volume provides them with the opportunity to sell more, then what role does the quality of the work play? Can they effectively be compared with the quality of DC's product? And what about the PR machines? There is still a spread of 20 to 30 books in the Top 70 rather than scattered down the charts. For some reason, readers are choosing to buy the Marvel titles over DCís.

Keith Dallas: Okay, lots of important, related questions there. To answer your first question first, I don't think we can convincingly argue that the reason why the best selling publisher sells best is because its titles are "the best." Aesthetic judgment is inevitably subjective, no matter what criteria one uses. Name me a Marvel or DC title that has been either unanimously praised or unanimously condemned. Even critically acclaimed works like All Star Superman and Watchmen have their fair share of legitimate detractors.

I'd rather focus on the disparate "appeal" of Marvel and DC's titles. Let's address the publishers' two current major events: Secret Invasion and Final Crisis. I won't claim that one is "better" than the other. Instead I will argue that Secret Invasion is more appealing than Final Crisis in that the Marvel event can be encapsulated into a premise that easily draws in readers: the Earth has been invaded by aliens who have disguised themselves as established super-heroes. The same can be said of Civil War (Iron Man and Captain America fight over the registration of super-heroes) and World War Hulk (Hulk is pissed at Earth's super-heroes. 'Nuff said). We can argue (and have argued in our posted reviews) how each of these Marvel events had flawed executions, but the fact of the matter is that their premises had a basic appeal that attracted new readers, regardless if they had been devoted Marvel readers leading up to the event.

The same can't be said of either Infinite Crisis or Final Crisis. Try to encapsulate either as an appealing premise. I wouldn't know how to start. Many readers who aren't devoted to DC Comics have confessed to me that they were daunted by both series (as well as 52 and Countdown, just to name two other high profile DC projects). It's as if DC opted to reward its loyal fans with books that only their loyal fans can fathom. Whether DC realizes it or not, the fundamental flaw in their editorial plan since Identity Crisis (a series which can be encapsulated into an appealing premise, by the way) is that it has actually disengaged those who haven't been devoted DC Comics readers.

Marketers in every industry strive to determine the most effective ways to get consumers to switch brand loyalties. How can the devoted Coca-Cola drinker switch over to become a devoted Pepsi drinker? DC Comics, however, isn't effectively reaching out to Marvel Comics readers to get them to switch publishers. Instead, DC Comics have been trying to make their loyal DC Comics readers into REALLY-loyal readers. The inescapable end result is a diminished readership because eventually readers will fall by the wayside for a variety of reasons (e.g. they can't afford the hobby anymore, they lost interest in the hobby, et al.), but no one replaces those lost readers because the editorial plan intimidates uninitiated readers.

So my criticism of DC Comics is it has catered to an insular readership with series that can only appeal to them, while Marvel Comics has produced events that have been accessible to the broad consumer base.

Dave Wallace: Iím going to jump in here, because I think that this is an important point, and one that has definitely contributed to Marvelís current edge over DC.

Letís look at the ďeventĒ comics first. Marvelís event comics are summer blockbusters that can be summed up by an easily-marketable concept, even going all the way back to the original Secret Wars. In many ways, that single book (which, incidentally, was devised primarily as a way to sell more Marvel action figures) has set the template for all of Marvelís crossover series that followed. Yes, they can sometimes turn out to be dumb and simplistic stories, but the concepts are easily grasped and easy to market to even the most casual readers.

Unfortunately for DC, their Crisis on Infinite Earths seems to have become the template for their big crossover stories. Final Crisis and Infinite Crisis both spring directly out of that original miniseries, and even some of the not-so-recent events like Zero Hour: Crisis in Time have reinforced the notion that DCís big stories revolve around their messy continuity as much as their characters or the storiesí core concepts. Yes, DCís weekly miniseries 52 achieved a certain amount of success, but it seems that that was as much due to the gimmick of a weekly series as anything else: Countdown to Final Crisis and Trinity have both been met with significantly less success, both critically and commercially.

I think all three of us have gone on record to argue that Final Crisis is a more satisfying story than Secret Invasion at this stage. However, thatís almost beside the point. Itís the perception that DC books require an extensive knowledge of their impenetrable continuity that has led to so many readers failing to buy into DCís storylines, and DC isnít doing enough to correct that perception. Joe Quesadaís oft-repeated, DC-baiting line ďat Marvel, we donít have a CrisisĒ is a fairly succinct way of vocalising exactly why Marvel is outselling DC at the moment.

Paul Brian McCoy: Very true. Final Crisis is much more satisfying and will reward reading again and again, unlike any of Marvelís events of the past few years. But even with the added complexity and, as you say, ďperceivedĒ impenetrability of the DC events, theyíre usually still DCís highest ranking comics week in and out. The event titles (including this yearís Trinity and the core Superman/Batman/Green Lantern family of titles (plus the tiny handful of others) are the only books that are challenging Marvelís Top 70 dominance.

Marvelís found a way to make their second and even third-tier characters marketable. Why isnít DC doing something similar?

Dave Wallace: Thatís a difficult question to answer, because youíre really asking what makes a book successful, and of course there can be all sorts of reasons.

Looking at the two publishers' approach broadly, I can't help but wonder whether DC are as willing to take chances with their characters as Marvel. Regardless of your opinion of Marvel's events, it's difficult to deny that they've made some major changes to their biggest characters over the past few years (Captain America? Dead. Iron Man? Leader of the pro-registration movement and S.H.I.E.L.D., in charge of putting his friends in jail. The Avengers? Split along political lines and fighting amongst themselves. Nick Fury? Missing for years. Spider-Man? Retconned back to 1973). They're not always satisfying changes, but they demonstrate a willingness to try new things in an effort to give readers something fresh, whereas DC seems to trade more on the iconic, timeless nature of their characters Ė but risk stagnancy as a result.

Marvel have also showed a willingness to shake up the status quo of their entire shared universe with events like Civil War - and those kind of changes always provide a fertile ground for new titles, even if not all of them are going to be successful.

Keith Dallas: I think Dave posits a really compelling theory on why readers choose to buy Marvel's titles: over the past few years, rather than maintain the status quo, Marvel has boldly changed their (core) characters. Even when we consider that there are many readers who despise the fact that Peter Parker is no longer married to Mary Jane, are revolted by the fascist bent of Tony Stark's "Initiative," and are shocked by the death of Steve Rogers, the data indicates that sales on the titles showcasing these altered characters have improved. So rather than driving thousands of consumers away in disgust, these changes have intrigued the overall readership and brought more readers into Marvel's fold.

Dave Wallace: Exactly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, DC does seem to be taking a cue from Marvel, to some extent - it looks like Bruce Wayne might be absent for a little while after the "Batman R.I.P." storyline concludes, and there have been some pretty significant events in the Superman titles recently that have shaken things up a bit. Still, there isn't anything that has been quite as revolutionary as Marvel's changes. The biggest change that I can think of to the DC Universe has been their recently-reinstated Multiverse Ė and again, that carries a certain stigma that can be off-putting to casual readers.

DC's image problem isn't just confined to the "event" comics, either, as even some of their most high-profile characters can struggle to attract a steady audience. Major franchises are mired in problems of the companyís own making. A good example is The Flash, a property that has been subjected to so many relaunches and reboots in recent years that fans could be forgiven for not having a clear idea of what the book offers. Botched relaunches like Allan Heinberg's much-delayed Wonder Woman arc or Richard Donner's "Last Son" story in Action Comics also haven't helped.

There are places where DC seems to have got it right (books like Action Comics and Green Lantern have adopted something of a back-to-basics approach, and have won over new readers as a result), but they tend to be exceptions rather than the rule. That said, DC seem to be using those relaunches as a template for future success, with the recent announcement that Geoff Johns will be looking to bring new readers to another of DC's major franchises with the upcoming Flash: Rebirth miniseries giving me some hope that the company can learn from their mistakes.

Still, despite these moderate successes, DC clearly isn't matching Marvel in accessibility terms. It's interesting to note that the development of their All-Star imprint (intended to provide out-of-continuity, accessible versions of their most iconic characters) appears to have stalled. Marvel, on the other hand, has seen its Ultimate line of comics go on to great success with its continuity-light reinventions of their biggest properties. The company has also made several high-profile attempts to reach out to a wider audience with projects like their adaptation of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and The Stand.

However, whereas Marvel seem to be actively reaching out to new audiences, DC seem to be preaching to the converted, with series that continue to revolve around their convoluted decades-old continuity. Even the marketing of these series seems to be based around nostalgia and readers' knowledge of DCU history: a big selling point of Final Crisis was the return of Barry Allen, a character who was killed off more than twenty years ago. Why should DC expect today's readership to care?

As Keith indicated, this approach just isn't sustainable. In politics, the equivalent would be a political party becoming more and more extreme in an attempt to keep its core membership happy, rather than reaching out to the wider voting populace to find out what policies theyíd actually be keen to vote for. The only possible result is that the support will eventually wither as the old target audience dies off. What's needed is new blood Ė and I think that we can agree that DC simply aren't doing enough to reach out to new readers.

Paul Brian McCoy: I hate to focus so much on DC in this discussion, but it really does seem like the market is there for the taking, if they could just find a way to harness it somehow. It may be a little overstated to say that they're only preaching to the converted with the return of classic characters and the emphasis on tweaking their continuity, though. Remember, DC is the company of Legacy Characters, too.

For the most part, they aren't retiring the younger, newer, replacement characters when the old guys come back; so far, anyway. The Green Lantern titles are very effective at keeping a variety of characters in play and for the moment, at least, we have two Flashes. The JSA is active, providing another outlet for classic characters alongside newer versions, and the family of titles around Batman concentrates almost entirely on ďsecondaryĒ characters.

Where Marvel seems to be outmaneuvering DC is with the mobilization of their lower-tier characters, launching new series from and/or tying in to the major events when possible (as with Deadpool, Initiative, and Captain Britain), keeping established creative teams on titles for extended runs (Brubaker on both Captain America and Daredevil and Matt Fraction on Invincible Iron Man), and coordinating successful secondary events like the two Annihilation series (both of which have also spun-off titles and dedicated creative teams), as well as the yearlong run-up to World War Hulk, "Planet Hulk," and the "Messiah Complex" storyline in the X-Titles.

There are also a lot of mini-series on Marvel's roster, which allows readers to follow stories without feeling as though they are committed for long hauls. Looking at my own pull list, there are always three or four minis cycling through, keeping my monthly haul usually around the same volume, but with a lot of variety over the course of the year.

And when we look at the comics that make up Marvel's entries in the Top 70, we see not only their core family of comics, but we see the Big Event actually bringing comics from across their publishing spectrum into the fold. Again, the simplicity of the event story allows nearly any creative team to incorporate it into their ongoing storylines, and, maybe more importantly, creative teams who want to stay clear are able to do so as well.

This flexibility in Marvel's continuity becomes another positive factor for increasing the likelihood of sales.

Dave Wallace: Well, since this discussion is concerned with the significance of Marvel's dominant market share as well as the reasons for it, it might be useful to step back and get a little more historical perspective on the relationship between the two companies, to see how their behaviour has affected their sales in the past. From this, we might be able to extrapolate the reasons for their success (or lack thereof) today.

The most comprehensive sales figures that Iíve managed to find have been those obtained from the Audit Bureau of Circulation offices (in Schaumburg, IL), and posted online by the likes of Russ Maheras and Jonathan Hoyle. A handy graph demonstrates quite clearly that Marvel have held a dominant position over DC ever since the mid-Ď60s. The only notable exception is those few years in the late 1990s/early 2000s during which Marvel experienced severe financial difficulties. You can see more recent market share figures here, which reflect that period clearly.

It's interesting (and possibly significant) to note that the point at which Marvel's sales begin to exceed those of DC Ė and at which DC's sales begin a fairly consistent decline Ė is the mid-to-late sixties. Of course, this was the point at which the modern Marvel Universe was born Ė but it also coincides fairly closely with the point in 1969 at which DC became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Entertainment (itself now a subsidiary of Time Warner).

Various stories have circulated over the years concerning the extent to which DCís behaviour is affected by Warnerís ownership. DC consistently play down this relationship, but the truth is that they as a publisher are answerable to a larger parent corporation that has the ability to limit their flexibility (and certainly prevents them from acting autonomously). Marvel are answerable only to Marvel Entertainment Inc. (the company that was formed when Toy Biz merged with the Marvel Entertainment Group during Marvel's financial difficulties). It's an important distinction and one that I'm sure has an effect on their marketing and publishing decisions.

As I mentioned, the birth of the Marvel Universe as we know it today also came in the early sixties. Looking at the sales data, this is (perhaps predictably) the point at which Marvelís sales began to increase dramatically. Books like Stan Lee's Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man redefined the concept of the superhero, bringing audiences something genuinely new and revolutionary and receiving a massive sales boost as a result.

Later came the so-called "DC explosion" of the 1970s, in which DC tried to compete with Marvel by increasing the number of titles that they publish to match that of their competitor. They also made a conscious effort to branch out, with new characters and several non-superhero titles. Their established books also made attempts to break new territory, with trailblazing books like Green Lantern/Green Arrow dealing with real-world social problems amid the superhero trappings. You can see this period represented on the chart as the point at which DCís sales are closest to those of Marvel after Marvelís initial success.

In light of Paul's earlier comments about Marvel currently producing more titles than DC and producing a wider variety of books, this could suggest that a similar move might be to DC's advantage today.

However, the "DC explosion" of the early 1970s was followed by a "DC implosion", during which several underperforming titles were unceremoniously cancelled mid-flow and several DC staff members were fired (supposedly at Warner's request), and in 1978 DC's line of books was dramatically reduced again. Whilst you could argue that Warner were too controlling, and applied hard and fast principles business principles to DC's books in such a way that creativity was stifled, there is obviously a question of whether the market can support a sudden increase in the number of books available. Perhaps it's quality, rather than quantity, that really wins through.

Talking of which, after the 1970s came the creative renaissance of the 1980s that saw both publishers take a chance with status-quo-altering storylines, new characters and a fresh wave of creators. Marvelís sales continue to increase under the leadership of E-I-C Jim Shooter, with titles such as Frank Miller's Daredevil, John Byrne's Fantastic Four, Peter David's Hulk and Roger Stern's Amazing Spider-Man that are still fondly remembered to this day.

DCís sales also began to pick up again after the nadir of 1985. Crisis on Infinite Earths addressed the barrier to continuity that the multiverse provided to new readers, and the1986 publication of two of DCís most acclaimed books: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen also helped to give the publisherís sales a boost.

You can see the figures show that both Marvel and DC achieved sales increases in the early '80s, and itís no coincidence that this occurred at the same time that the medium of comics was revitalized with a genuine creative spark.

All of this suggests that the answer to Paul's earlier question of whether the quality of the work is significant is that, over a sustained period, higher-quality comics generally result in a higher levels of sales. Of course, no-one sets out to make a bad comic, but it seems that the medium of comics has only really taken major leaps forwards when publishers have taken a chance with new ideas and creators, rather than playing it safe.

However, quality isn't the only reason for high sales. Other historical factors were certainly at play too. The end of the 1980s and start of the 1990s saw an industry boom that was followed by a disastrous bust that, combined with an over-reliance on hype and high-profile "events" (such as the death of Superman, or the crippling and replacement of Batman) led to diminishing returns for both companies.

It's impossible not to draw comparisons between those days and todayís market, in which variant covers and other investment incentives appear to be on the rise, and every year brings at least one "event" comic from each publisher. However, itís also arguable that the general overall quality of comics has never been higher than it is today Ė and that the reason for Marvelís dominant position is simply that they have more successful writers and artists on their books.

I think that you could argue that Marvel's dominant position isn't as surprising as it might at first appear, especially in light of the historical precedent. However, the recent trends certainly suggest that the disparity between DC and Marvel's market shares is only going to grow if no major changes in their creative and marketing strategies are made. That's a concern, as the presence of a single dominating publisher could ultimately be bad for the consumer.

[*EDITOR'S NOTE: This column has been slightly revised since its initial posting. The authors realized that the number of titles that DC Comics is currently publishing was underestimated. The column initially reported that Marvel is publishing 50 more titles than DC. The true difference is between 10 and 20 titles (depending on the month in question). We apologize for the miscalculation.]

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