Thursday, April 10, 2014

Surfer In A Soapbox

Five months after the end of the original Silver Surfer series, Stan Lee explains (from a "Stan's Soapbox" entry in February, 1971) why the book was cancelled:

(paragraph breaks inserted)

One thing we've always promised to do is level with you. After all, you're both our reader, and our friend--and no one is more deserving of being taken into our confidence.

Therefore, we want to give you the straight scoop as to why the SILVER SURFER is no longer being published. In a nutshell, we had to drop it--'cause it was losing money! But, as you may guess, there's a bit more to the story than that. Actually, the Surfer was one of our biggest successes from the standpoint of reader acceptance. Those who bought it were fanatical about it. The silvery sky-rider became an almost immediate sensation on campuses thruout the free world. Announcers on FM radio stations began to quote from the stories and to read portions of them over the air. The Surfer's philosophical musings were actually discussed in pulpits thruout the nation. Truly, we had succeeded in our goal--we had created a comic book for the older reader, for the more literate, more perceptive, more cognizant fan.

But, in so doing, the Surfer's exploits were too far over the heads of many of our younger readers, and for that reason, we lost a great many sales, since no comic magazine can be financially successful unless it sells to young and old alike. Finally, we realized there were only two choices--drop the magazine, or change the format so that it would be more acceptable to the younger reader. Rather than compromise our own integrity, or be untrue to our own objectives, we have chosen to discontinue the magazine.

Needless to say, your own comments and opinions on this matter will be very much appreciated.


I've posted my own thoughts here and there on the demise of the Surfer's first series, but did Stan pretty much hit the nail on the head here--or do you feel there was more to it? I'll be interested in hearing your comments and opinions on this matter!


Anonymous said...

Marvel UK's "The Super-Heroes" comic printed those Surfer stories in 1975 and I was nine when I read them. I don't remember them going over my head and when I read them again a few years ago I found them to be rather simplistic and a bit boring. I think the reason for the cancellation was that the Surfer was just a dull and boring character.

Anonymous said...

Yes and Yes. I think Stan stated the facts of the case but I think there's was more to it.

The market at the time was very competitive. For titles, for sales, the spinner/rack space. Marvel was a growing company but had not been that way for long. The title was one that the "team" liked to put out there.

What was the return rate? Was it a strong seller in certain markets but not in the corner drugstore? Like Stan was saying, great around college campuses but not in the Mom and Pop five and dime. Perception can kill you more than reality. If you have one title that doesn't produce the numbers, the guy who stocks the shelves may not be in a hurry to put your product out. Other titles or companies get the prime spots, you get stuffed where there's space.

The Prowler (trending in the opposite direction).

Comicsfan said...

Colin, both you and the Prowler raise fair points. I suppose it might help to know just how young Marvel considered "younger readers" in late 1970--though I can't imagine kids between 7 and 12 perplexed by characters such as the Surfer and Mephisto and yet still grasping the concepts presented in Thor or Lee's moralizing in Fantastic Four.

Prowler, how does your theory about marketing numbers play into the decision to reprint the original failed X-Men series? You might find the upcoming post on X-Men: The Hidden Years interesting in that respect.