Monday, July 9, 2012

Retailing With Ron - Seven Questions on Marvel NOW!

Marvel Comics announced their new publishing strategy for the aftermath of their summer crossover event Avengers Vs. X-Men with the reveal of the Marvel NOW! initiative, a line-wide relaunch of Marvel’s premiere characters featuring new creative teams and new flagship titles.

It’s still early in the news cycle for the Marvel NOW! initiative and with San Diego Comic-Con on the horizon, many more details on Marvel’s plans will be revealed. Fans are certainly wondering how their favorite characters and stories will be affected but I’m more interested in how the relaunch will affect comic retailers and Marvel’s publishing line. Keep reading for Seven Questions About Marvel NOW!

This is Marvel NOW!

Marvel NOW! promo art by Joe Quesada

Similar in nature to DC Comics’ The New 52 relaunch from last September, Marvel NOW! will focus on providing fresh jumping-on points for new and lapsed readers. Each week from October to March, Marvel NOW! will have a new #1 issue of a series providing fans and potential customers with something new to check out each week.

Marvel's executives have talked about how this is a relaunch and not a reboot, but haven't divulged much information on the business aspect of Marvel NOW! How will the multitude of new #1 issues affect retailers and customers? I've compiled a list of seven questions I'd like to see addressed before Marvel NOW! starts in October.

1. Will Marvel match the ordering incentives given to comic book retailers that DC provided for the first six months of The New 52?

Marvel could help alleviate the heavy financial burden on retailers by providing them with deep discount incentives, returnability or other methods. The last thing that anyone in the industry wants is for comic stores to have a ton of unsold stock of issues #2’s and #3’s because of the speculator market and people picking up just the first issues of each title. The returnability offered on the majority of The New 52 titles combined with the increased discounts on certain books gave retailers extra confidence in their orders. Marvel could benefit greatly by offering deep discounts, returnability, or extra copies to retailers whose orders reach a certain threshold.

2. Will potential readers be put off by the $3.99 price tag that many of Marvel’s titles currently have?

Uncanny Avengers #1 cover by John Cassaday

DC’s The New 52 launched with 48 titles at $2.99 and only four titles at $3.99 which allowed for customers to sample many titles that they hadn’t tried before. The majority of Marvel’s Avengers and X-Men titles are $3.99. Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso has said that there “should be no surprises” on the pricing of the new books. With certain books like Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers going twice-monthly, how will the price and schedule affect sales? Avengers vs. X-Men has benefited from a twice-monthly schedule but it’s also an event book with hype and a consistent push behind the title. Will the new ongoing series be able to sustain their momentum and keep readers interests piqued to the point where they’ll be willing to spend $4 almost 18 times a year for certain titles? Marvel's sales have continued to decline for regular series in the past few years but those in charge seem to be content with charging more, removing content, and increasing the publication frequency in order to make up for the loss of sales. It'll be interesting to see how the prices affect the relaunch sales numbers.

3. Will the collected editions of these books also come with a digital download code?

Marvel’s Season One hardcover graphic novels come with digital download codes that can be redeemed for a digital copy of the book. Marvel also recently started putting digital download codes with all copies of their $3.99 titles. Will the trade paperbacks or hardcovers of the Marvel NOW! books have digital codes? This could be a big incentive for buyers but it might also mean that the books would have to be shrink wrapped, removing the ability to preview a book before you buy it. If Marvel's trade department can figure out a way to provide TPB or hardcover buyers with free digital copies without shrink wrapping the books, they'd be providing additional value to all of their collected editions.

4. Will there be widespread marketing and mass promotion of Marvel NOW! like DC’s television and radio advertisements?

"The New 52" television commercial from DC Comics. 

The marketing blitz put forth by DC for the launch of The New 52 included Facebook, radio, television, and movie theater advertisements. DC offered retailers many different ways to promote their stores through co-payment programs and it would be smart to see Marvel do something similar. Marvel has been good at securing press coverage on some of their more news worthy stories but they’re not too big on traditional methods of advertisement outside of online and in-house ads.

5. Will the double-shipping of some of the flagship titles result in readers being less likely to spend their money on a new book?

Avengers is shifting to a twice-monthly schedule which means that for people on a budget, one or more titles may have to leave their pull list. How prevalent will the double-shipping be and what effect will the accelerated publishing schedule have on customers who pick up Marvel comics for the first time? How can Marvel continue to make books easily accessible while also publishing some titles up to 18 times a year?

6. What will the release schedule of the books look like? Will there be an Avengers title every week or will they clump together on certain Wednesdays?

The schedule of The New 52 was formatted so that the different “families” of titles would have one major release every week. There would be a Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, or Justice League title released each week to keep customers coming in to comic stores every week. Marvel is currently publishing five Avengers titles (not counting Ultimate Comics Ultimates), and in all likelihood will expand the line further. Will there be a set schedule with each book coming out on a specific week every month or will the majority of the books get published on the same day? Marvel would be wise to make sure that each week there is a key title from the Avengers, Spider-Man, and X-Men franchises being released.

7. What will be the fate of low-selling but fan-favorite books like Avengers Academy, Dark Avengers, X-Factor, and X-Men Legacy? 

Dark Avengers #175 cover by Mike Deodato


Considered "fringe" titles but still part of a publishing family, books like Dark Avengers (formerly Thunderbolts) and X-Factor have small and dedicated fan bases that have kept these books afloat while others get canceled. Are they going to be relaunched and retooled along with the rest of the line, or will the creative teams stay intact with the Marvel Universe’s new status quo? These titles could benefit from the additional exposure they could receive as part of the relaunch, like Animal Man and Swamp Thing did for DC. It'll be interesting to see how Marvel handles these lower-selling cult favorite titles.

Marvel had a lot of marketing and promotional effort behind the Avengers vs. X-Men launch and provided retailers with many opportunities to have strong sales. Sales on Avengers vs. X-Men have continued to climb throughout the life of the series so there is clearly a demand for the material. I'm hoping that Marvel can duplicate their success with the AvX launch for the new Marvel NOW! titles and retailers and customers can benefit from plenty of available copies when the new titles are released.

What kind of questions do you have about the Marvel NOW! relaunch? What titles do you want to see changed up or which creative teams should stay where they are? Let us know in the comments!

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Dan said...

Cool article, wonder if they're going to push the digital copies as much as DC did with New 52.

Anonymous said...

Not very excited about the whole idea personally, but I do like the strength of the creative teams.

Also, just FYI, Marvel doesn't shrink-wrap their books that come with a digital code anymore. On the inside back cover, there's a removeable sticker with the code underneath.

Ron Cacace said...

Marvel shrinks wraps their Season One Hardcovers.

Adam Wollet said...

I though the NOW campaign was only 3 or 4 new books, not a line-wide relaunch.

I don't really see the comparisons to the DC52 reboot. The four books they've announced seem to directly spin off from the events of AvX.

Maybe I missed a news article about it somewhere though. Either way, I'm actually excited for this. I really like Remender and Hickman's work, and it's time Bendis takes a crack at a big non-avenger's book.

Ron Cacace said...

"With characters that have been around that long, a renewal is needed from time to time, from generation to generation. But Marvel NOW!, the publisher's latest initiative, is arguably its biggest sea change ever, with a relaunch or launch of more than 20 books, new costumes, new identities, new digital experiences for readers and a shifting of Marvel's top writing and art talent among the titles."

Matthew B said...

They only announced the core titles. You can bet the all the other X-books and Avengers books will follow suit. This seems like a reaction to DC's New 52, if not just a flat-out copy.

I'm really excited for it, though. I like Marvel much more than DC.

Adam Wollet said...

Thanks, Ron!

Yeah, I guess this does seem like a response to DC. It should be interesting to watch how it unfolds. As usual, they can change anything they want, but ultimately it's the creative teams and the quality they put out that will make or break it for me.

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