Marvel has declined to comment on reports circulating today (most notably, and first, on CBR) that as many as 15 employees in editorial and production roles are being laid off. At least one editor, Alejandro Arbona, has obliquely confirmed his layoff on Twitter.
The layoffs follow the departure of Chief Operating Officer Jim Sokolowski, who was laid off a couple of weeks ago in a costcutting move.
The rumors coming out of Marvel at New York Comic Con were bleak, and included a reduced number of exclusive contracts for creators in the future (Andy Diggle has since revealed that he’s no longer under exclusive with Marvel), declining freelancer rates, projects that had been planned but were now being eliminated, and a general belt-tightening.
Cutting back on the poorest-selling titles is certainly one way of reducing costs and improving profitability, but as the sales charts reveal, Marvel also has a problem with its top releases, which are selling significantly below where they did a year ago. This September, for example (see “Top 300 Comics—September 2011”) Marvel’s best seller, Fear Itself #6, sold around 93,000 copies. A year ago, in September 2010 (see “Top 300 Comics—September 2010”), Marvel’s top seller, Wolverine #1, sold around 104,000, already not a stellar performance for a new #1 featuring the most popular member of the X-Men. Marvel’s been drifting for a couple of years, and it’s probably going to have to look at fundamental issues affecting creativity, as DC has, to turn things around.