All Ages

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Marvel confirms 7-11 books

In a sort of piecemeal, round-about way, Marvel has confirmed the titles in their line of comics distributed in 7-11s across North America.

The line will be comprised of flip-books, the equivalent of two comic books, 64 pages each, priced at $3.99 with titles from Marvel's Ultimate line, their new all-ages Marvel Adventures line and "key" issues from the past few years including the relaunch of Avengers and the first issue of Joss Whedon's X-Men book.

As I mentioned in a previous post, most people are extremely positive about this and while I think it's a good deal in the fact that they actually got their foot in the door there, there are a few issues that really need to be addressed.

The line as it stands is marketed in the language of comics fandom. Your everyday casual reader will not understand the difference between an issue of Marvel Select and Ultimate Marvel. Give consumers Spider-Man or X-Men or even Hulk -- recognizable brands that the mass market knows from the recent movies. Hopefully these will be the prominent titles with the 'umbrella' titles having much less play on the covers. What most comics people don't get is that casual readers outside comics have no concept of Marvel as a brand, or even DC as a brand. And more importantly, they have no concept of the shared universe concept that's what makes superhero comics unique and niche as the same time. Shared universes require investment and casual readers just don't have that zeal that most hardcore fans have.

The fact that this line is made mainly made up of parts-of-a-storyline instead of stand alone stories (except for the Marvel Adventures books) seems to me that Marvel is hoping that by giving a taste to the casual reader that they will in a sense graduate from the 7-11 to the direct market comic book store. But how will they know where these stores are or whether or not they even exist?

Still no information on specific format changes, if there are any at all. In order to justify the price point here, Marvel should be making changes to the format so it stands up to like product on racks, your regular magazines and more importantly, the line's biggest competition, Shonen Jump. Perhaps a squarebound, larger trim size magazine style book with a higher quality paper for the cover, similar to the failed Ultimate magazine and the Target exclusive comics.

While content and format are important here, price is the key factor in the success of these books. $3.99 for 44 color pages of story, as opposed to Shonen Jump's 500+ b&w pages at $4.95. Will the remaining 20 in the Marvel book be ads like the comics or additional content created specifically for the line.

I hate picking on Marvel because I've been doing it a lot lately but these kinds of initiatives that have one foot firmly planted in the Direct Market and the other one firmly planted in the terms, ideas and headspace of comics fandom just seem not very well thought out to me.


  • Yeah, I have to say I feel the same way. I want them to succeed, but I have a lot of reservations on if this particular push is actually going to work.

    By Blogger Shawn Fumo, at 10:03 AM  

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