Comic Investing Tip #11: Understanding the Character Appearance Metric

One of the hardest thing to do in comics is to estimate the demand a character that leads to increases in his or her first appearance comic books. It is twice as hard for modern characters who lack history to establish him or herself.

This is why I use the comic appearances metric in my PSM model as a proxy for character demand. However, I never properly explain the rationale for its use, leading to misinterpretation and incorrect ways of using it.

In this article, I am going to draw detailed linkages between comic appearances, exposure and potential increases in demand for a character. Hopefully, you will then appreciate how to better use this metric and even improve upon it.

What does comic appearances represent?

At its most basic level, comic appearances simply means how many times a character has appeared in a comic book. However, what does that imply?

These implications are the parts that I did not articulate before. However they are important reasons for using this metric.

Specifically, there are 3 implications that a high comic appearance points to.

1. Potential to draw more readers/supporters

A character is like any product in the market. No matter how awesome a character is, if nobody has read him or her, it is as if the character does not exist.

It is the whole “if a tree falls in a forest but nobody heard it, did it really happen” thingy.

In this case, comic appearances can be interpreted as marketing or exposure to this character. If a character appears everywhere, he or she has a higher chance of connecting to readers who might appreciate him or her.

The higher the appearances, the more readers/supporters the character can potentially connect to.

More supporters, in turn means a higher demand for the characters books, including their first appearances.

In contrast, if a character only appears say 3 times in a year, what is the probability that a potential reader/supporter happen to read about him or her? Very very low.

2. Potential to further develop the character

A character needs to appear in comics before they can be developed as they don’t get developed by themselves. It is rare for a character to connect with audiences immediately although there are always exceptions such as Spider Gwen, Cable, Carnage etc.

Deadpool for example didn’t really get going until Joe Kelly developed him in his own series. He wasn’t really popular when he was first introduced in New Mutants #98.

Imagine if he stops making comic appearances and never got developed. We might not have a Deadpool today.

Hence a high comic appearances number implies that a character has more opportunities to be developed, in a way that can eventually connect to a bigger audience.

This also implies that even for characters who are not so likeable currently, they might run into creators who can turn them around if she or he continues to appear in comic.

Hawkeye for example found his footing only after the 4th volume of his own series.

To summarize, a high “character appearance” number implies a higher probability of being developed into something that might find a larger audience and translates to stronger demand.

3 Potential of being heavily marketed by companies

The final interpretation for a high comic appearance number is that it acts as a signal to gauge whether the companies are keen to push this character. If not, why would they place the characters in so many comics?

This intention is important because it affects the 2 points highlighted above i.e. exposure and potential to be redeveloped.

For example, if the company wants to push a character and give him or her a lot of comic appearances, it might also assign the best writer or artist to the series. This in turns affects the probability of turning the character around.

The latest X-Men Dawn of X series is a clear example of this happening.

As readers, we usually don’t know what the companies will do. However a high comic appearance number is a good hint.

Of course, what is being pushed might not be always succeed but it implies a higher probability.

An added benefit of the comic appearance metric

Beyond the 3 implications highlight above, another strong benefit of this metric is its objectiveness.

It is a number that is

  • easily verified
  • can be obtained by anyone
  • can be compared across characters
  • perfectly neutral and not affected by one’s personal biases

This last point is especially important.

A lot of other demand metrics do not possess any of the above characteristics.

For example, we talk about cosplay.

  • cannot be verified by anyone
  • cannot be obtain by anyone if he or she does not go to conventions or only a limited number of conventions
  • cannot be compared across characters as there is no objective number
  • can be subjected to bias as you see what you want to see

There is only other metric that I like beside comic appearances, which is the number of Google searches. It contains all the 4 benefits that the comic appearance number has.

The below is an example of the number of searches being done for 4 different characters

Its only flaw is that it doesn’t work for characters that just starting out because the searches will be too low to be able to show up in the graph.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has clarified the usefulness of the ‘comic appearance’ metric. It is not the end-all of all metrics but is a valuable input into your comic investment framework. At worst, it is better than having nothing to work on.

However, we should always be on the lookout for better metrics that can reveal the demand for characters.

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