Why Are X-Men Comics Sales Declining? Blame Hollywood

By November 5, 2016
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There was a time when X-Men titles were the highest-selling books in the Marvel comics repertoire. Those days are long gone, however, and former X-Men writer Chris Claremont says Hollywood is to blame.

During his 15-year career at Marvel, Claremont helped pen iconic storylines like “Days of Future Past” and “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” and some say deserves a tremendous amount of credit for shaping Wolverine into one of the most popular characters of all time. But during a panel at New York Comic-Con (as reported by Bleeding Cool), Claremont fielded a question about the X-Men comics no longer being among the industry’s top sellers, and he had plenty to say on the subject.

claremontmug110516That has nothing to do with comic sales, that has everything to do with the fact that the film rights are controlled by a rival corporation.

“I guarantee you that if 10 years ago when Marvel was approached by Disney, if the X-Men film rights were owned by Marvel Studios and not Fox, the X-Men would probably still be the paramount book in the canon. The reason for the emphasis on the other titles is because Marvel/Disney control the ancillary film rights whereas all the film rights for the (Fantastic Four) and the X-Men are controlled by Fox, who has no interest in the comic books.

“So I think the corporate publishing attitude is, ‘Why would we go out of our way to promote a title that will benefit a rival corporation’s films when we could take that same energy and enthusiasm and focus and do it for our own properties?'”

Claremont’s argument is a pretty bold indictment of Marvel’s approach to comics over the past few years, including their infamous cancellation of the Fantastic Four titles before the premiere of Fox’s rebooted film franchise. While the comic publisher claimed there was no connection between the two, fans were skeptical of their explanation – particularly when an issue of The Punisher depicted one of the film’s cast members being killed.

When asked if he thought the X-Men comics might return to prominence if Marvel and not Twentieth Century Fox controlled the rights, Claremont elaborated.

“It’s not a matter of promotion, it’s purely a matter of ownership. If at some point Fox decides that the X-Men properties are no longer lucrative, I’m sure that they will cut a deal with Disney. But I also expect that the deal they would want to cut would be extraordinarily expensive and Disney or Marvel might just as easily say ‘screw it,’ we love the X-Men but we are not going to hurt ourselves to get it because we have our other properties that we own that are doing far better.”

xmen-inset110516With Deadpool raking in $782 million worldwide and X-Men: Apocalypse grossing $543 million despite a sea of negative reviews, Fox likely has no plans to negotiate a deal with Marvel anytime soon. Fans would no doubt love to see the X-Men team up with the Avengers for a colossal big-screen crossover, but we’re probably a long way from that dream being realized.

Claremont, who turns 66 later this month, was the primary writer for the Uncanny X-Men comic series for Marvel from 1975 to 1991. He’s also credited as the co-creator of a number of X-Men characters over the years, including Mystique, Phoenix, Rogue, Sabretooth and Gambit.

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Brent Hankins

Brent Hankins

Contributing Writer at GeekNation
Brent Hankins is a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle and co-host of the Drinks and Discourse podcast. He's also the proud owner of an Italian Greyhound named Sullivan. He's adorable (the dog, not the author).