All Ages

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Marvel Digests out today in comic stores

Sorry about the lack of posts, school -- all hellish.
I owe a big catch-up update very soon. Until then, here's my comments from Previews Review regarding the launch of the 4 new Marvel Age digests, as well as the new Marvel Age: Fantastic Four title.

Despite the variety of opinions (both positive and negative) regarding this new all-ages line, I've been behind MARVEL AGE from the first press release. In the 3-ish years I've worked at Scholastic, I have always been pretty vocal about my opinions regarding comics and the potential they have to reach a wide audiences, especially 8 to 12 year olds. The industry has come a long way in 3 years-formats, price points, perceived value and stories that truly appeal to kids are starting to appear-and now it's a matter of putting it in these kids hands.

I've read the stories in the Spider-Man digest and sure, they aren't sophisticated, they're a bit cliché (especially in the eyes of a long time comic book fan), they do take an easy road in repackaging old stories with more appealing art-but this is what will sell to an 8 year old who wants to read Spider-Man.

The tricky thing about children's books is that you really have to know your market. It becomes clear very quickly when a book will tank. Spider-Man, and to a certain extent, Spider-Girl have already in-place audiences and markets for the books, thanks mostly to the successful movie. Kids wandering through a bookstore will recognize Spider-Man. In fact, I'm selling the Spider-Man digest on my book club this Fall.

It's the other two I worry about. Even though RUNAWAYS and SENTINEL are critically acclaimed books in the direct market, will this translate into sales in bookstores? Marvel really needs to get out there with some aggressive marketing strategies to make kids, parents, booksellers, and everyone else aware of these books. I'll be picking up both to see if they're as good as everyone says they are and if, more importantly, they will speak to a tween/teen reading audience.

I do find it interesting that this line, touted as being Marvel's foray into the bookstore market, currently has each title CURRENTLY NOT AVAILABLE for order on Canadian bookstores like Chapters and as well as American stores like Barnes & Noble and For some reason I would've thought these would hit the bookstore market before the direct market.


And here we come to the next book in the MARVEL AGE line and, like the Spider-Man book, FF will retell old stories with new manga-esque art. Joe Nozemack from Oni Press had a great observation regarding the Tokyopop Cine-manga books. In a nutshell he said that one of the reasons Tokyopop is having so much success with these titles is because kids already have an 'in'-they've seen SpongeBob Squarepants on television and they've seen Spy Kids in theatres. Books that connect to outside media have greater penetration, greater awareness and a greater chance that a kid will recognize it and want it. Why Marvel wouldn't wait for the Fantastic Four movie to come out is beyond me. A bit of a missed opportunity.


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