Here’s a sobering thought. I think streaming might be the end goal for Marvel. Sell a subscription to 5 million readers around the globe that gives them access to their entire history. And that’s pretty much it. You create maybe 10 new books a month, focus on maybe 15 trades a year. You kill the floppy market and go for all that lovely digital profit. And DC follows. And Image. And the rest more or less combine together for the 4th option. Wouldn’t they all take a guaranteed $20 a month from every single comic reader without profit stealing middle men, just pure digital money.
I think comics flipping to a streaming subscription is inevitable. Why not Netflix comics? They’re perfect for it. Marvel have a hundred thousand comics, why not go for it? Put on an award winning slick interface - I believe they haven’t done that because Unlimited is the elephant you mention. It’s the Grim Reaper over the entire model. But with so much free entertainment options these days comics just can’t compete with the rest of the market. This feels inevitable. In 1985 you had comics and not much else to do with your free time. Today a teenager has all of human history waiting in their basement. Who’s going to go to a comic store to waste their pocket money?
It comes in stages. Cutting back because only half their books are profitable. Stores sell fewer books and the majority close. Comics becomes a special treat. I think it’s like cinema, which is undergoing a kind of same degradation and erosion of the market, propped up by increased ticket sales. Eventually mid level movies will just be streaming options (watch what Disney are going to do) and we’ll pay $20 to see billion dollar blockbusters in theaters - a new one every 2 weeks. 50 movies released a year. Why not the same fate for comics? Mid level fades away. 30 books a month instead of 300. You pay the premium for the paper experience only for books that feel worth it, those they hold back from direct to streaming. The only people employed are those who are truly great at making comics.
Tomorrow Marvel could cancel half their line in print and make them day and date on Marvel Unlimited. I think the numbers would be favorable for them if they did that. But they won’t yet because they know half their LCS locations go out of business in 90 days. But it’s got to be coming.