You see, somewhere along the line, one of the newer breed of Marvel editors ... had come up with one of those incredibly snappy sounding and utterly stupid little pieces of folk-wisdom that some editors seem to like pulling out of the hat from time to time... 'Readers dont want change. Readers only want the illusion of change.' Like I said, it sounds perceptive and well-reasoned on first listening. It is also, in my opinion, one of the most specious and retarded theories that it has ever been my misfortune to come across ... If readers are that averse to change then how come Marvel ever got to be so popular in the first place, back when constant change and innovation was the order of the day ... Perhaps I could have a little more sympathy for pronouncements like this if there was some solid commercial reasoning behind them. If, for example, Marvels books suddenly started selling significantly more during the period when this Lets-Not-Rock-The-Boat policy was introduced...This is not the case. Marvels best selling title ... sells something like 300,000 copies, and it is regarded as a staggering success. Listen, in a country the size of America, 300,000 copies is absolutely pathetic. Back in the early fifties it was not unknown for even a comparatively minor-league publication ... to clear six million copies every month. Even in the early days of the Marvel empire, any comic that was selling only 300,000 copies would have probably been cause for grave concern amongst those in charge of its production, and indeed it would have most likely been cancelled. These days, its the best weve got.
[Stan] Lee behaved from the start as if a vast, passionate readership awaited each issue that he and his key collaborators, Kirby and Steve Ditko, churned out. And in a fairly short period of time, this chutzpah-as in all those accounts of magical chutzpah so beloved by solitary boys like me-was rewarded. By pretending to have a vast network of fans, former fan Stanley Leiber found himself in possession of a vast network of fans.