If you’ve been following the comic and pop culture blogosphere over the last couple of days, you may have seen a flurry of activity about the news that Marvel has cancelled X-23. While a lot of electrons have sacrificed themselves with people talking about Wolverine’s daughter, there are a number of other books that aren’t coming back as well.  But is this the news that signals the beginning of the end of Marvel, or is it news that signals the beginning of something better?

The decision to cancel X-23 isn’t over a perceived dislike of the character or because of editors being let go, but rather due to “budgetary mandates” – this according to Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso.  Though X-23 isn’t in the Top 10 of comics sold in the direct market, it also isn’t at the bottom of the Top 300 list either. In October 2011, X-23 made it to #104, with an estimated 24,043 issues sold.

Ghost Rider will also conclude sometime after February. Ghost Rider hit #113 on the Top 300 list, bringing in an estimated 21,012 issues. Even then, it wasn’t the lowest selling Marvel comic for the month, as several Fear Itself tie-ins fell lower on the list.  While budgetary mandates may be comforting to some, there may be more than meets the eye, such as the rumored increased focus on core characters.

Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive wraps with issue 529 (February), however with Daredevil back, and the interesting teaser that came with the Daredevil #7 sneak peek, it isn’t too hard to predict that Daredevil: The Man Without Fear will return with issue #530.

Interestingly, it looks like T’Challa will go head to head with Kingpin in issue 529, at the same time The Punisher is doing the same thing in the pages of PunisherMAX, which is also ending in February.  At first, news/rumors circulated that the series had been cancelled, however writer Jason Aaron is stating on Twitter that the series is simply concluding the way he intended it to.

There’s no word on how Marvel is wrapping up these four series, but hopefully the final issues are satisfactory to the tens of thousands who are reading those titles.  With news that Marvel has cancelled titles like Victor Von Doom, Alpha Flight, Invincible Iron Man 2.0, and the anticipated Destroyers series before they even hit the stands, some could perceive there is a  huge shakeup happening at Marvel as a direct reaction to DC’s recent market share wins in September and October. But what if there was something else at work?

The early Spring has never been a big time for comic sales, and if Marvel has decided that core characters like Wolverine and Captain America will sell more than X-23, that seems like a good business decision in the short term.  Of course, as time goes on, that game plan will falter as the publisher realizes too much of a single character won’t sustain the company.   Instead, what if the publisher has realized that fans of X-23 and Ghost Rider will stick around for five issues at a time?  It would make more sense to cancel an ongoing and then relaunch later as limited series.

The limited series model is one that has proven to work, just look at Hellboy and Atomic Robo. While each limited builds upon the other, the pressure that comes with an ongoing series that result in the occasional story that isn’t well received is greatly reduced. The creators can take their time to develop a solid story, work on the script and art until it is ready to head to the printer, and then announce the series.  Yes, there may be huge gaps between story arcs, but the end result is the publisher can then use their PR machine to generate positive hype about the limited series and get fans excited to spend their money again. Readers would know the series has a conclusion, and won’t worry about the rug being yanked out from under them five or six issues in, which might result in more new readers jumping on board for a short time.

This isn’t a new idea, as small publishers have been doing this for years, and it may be logical for the big publishers to split their model between an even mix of core titles that fans will always pick up (X-Men, Captain America, Wolverine, Iron Man, Thor, and so on), and a series of limited series that will have a longer shelf life in the stores.

There is also another option for the publishers, and in the next installment I’ll look at what is shaping up on the digital frontier.



About Author

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...


  1. This is a good thing, far too many Marvel books or characters are derivatives of something else better and more original. The house of ideas is not so. I mean Red She Hulk, Red Hulk, Daken, X 23, Two Captain Americas etc.

    • Sorry to disagree, there is nothing else like x-23 out, and I’m not talking about just some one with claws and can heal. Those were well told stories aimed at a market the industries could you right now.

  2. An optimistic opinion. Good to see.

    But can’t a title just suck and get cancelled? I wonder how many of these books getting cancelled were actually purchased by readers and not just filling store shelves with the sales numbers, although I doubt we can know that.

    I don’t think any publisher releases a 5 issue arc of an ongoing series with the thought that it will not be well received. I’m not sure how they will decide if a 5 issue mini will go the same way. Unless they just want to stamp “#1” on the cover to try to trick readers.

    One very positive thing I can see coming out of a transition from ongoings to minis is that new readers and trade readers will have an better time of things. But when you begin linking together mini arcs, as exampled above in titles, you sort of get right back to an ongoing that doesn’t come out monthly.

  3. It’s an old story. A publisher’s book become popular, and so then they beat it to death. At one time Marvel came up with three more Spiderman books so one book would be released each week during a month. Good idea on paper, but the art and stories suffered. The X-men became popular, so then we got half a dozen or more X-titles, and sure enough, the art and stories suffered. Wolverine became popular, so then we got a superabundance of Wolverine. Hulk became popular so then we got Green Hulk, Red Hulk, Grey Hulk, She Hulk, World War Hulk, ad naseum. DC is just as guilty, Batman and Superman got popular, so then we got Superman Family, Superboy, Supergirl, Superpets, Superman’s Best Friend Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, Superbabies, and, from Disney, SuperGoof. Need I list the uncountable number of Bat Titles that have come and gone? Smaller publishers have an advantage. They can’t afford to produced fifty-two or more comics a month, and so they don’t often dilute their best product by spreading it too thin over too many books. It’s almost always a good thing when the big two retrench and get back to basics. Sure, some sorehead is always going to complain that their favorite “Legend of the Bat Guy” book got cancelled, but I’d much rather see one good bat book produced a month than twenty lousy ones.

  4. There are a lot of micromanaging problems happening in Marvel right now. It is going to come to a head like a huge pimple and it is going to pop. Don’t stand too close.

    • And the New 52 didn’t outright require a micromanaging of some sort?

      Not that I disagree with you, but I don’t think we have any way of knowing how keen an eye or hard a hand editorial has at any publisher.

  5. saw this coming as the list of marvel monthlies is ridiculous, with many characters with multiple books (many of those not in continuity) yet both female lead books are gone. GR is one thing (as it is relatively new with lack lustre sales) but there is nothing else like x-23 coming out of the bigs, and this is coming from a DC fan.

    That’s one less of the few Marvel books on my pull list.

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