Thursday, June 18, 2009

Go Joe: Marvel EIC Sees the Light

From Comic Book Resources, Cup O Joe, 6/17/09

Jonah Weiland: People always look at the big summer competition between Marvel and DC, and that's probably not really fair because summer events lead into the fall and go on for months. But in terms of upcoming events, it's a little different than it's been in the past. You have Dark Reign, which is an overarching tone to the entire Marvel Universe. You don't have a single mega-event like Secret Invasion, with an anchor book and a beginning, middle and end. DC Comics has Blackest Night, which will be in a more traditional format and drive their superhero titles for the next eight to ten months. Marvel does have a few mini-events that are sort of connected and sort of disconnected. You've got "Reborn" and the "Dark Avenger/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia" story. Do you have a big event planned for next year?
"Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia" is one of Marvel's big summer books

Joe Quesada: This is all part of a plan. We listen to our readership and hear the things that they're looking for and some of the things that they want or that they're tired of. We're very turnkey at Marvel, there is no spoon and now we’re shifting gears, and I think you can expect a bigger shift in gears come next year. We've already started planning next year and the year after that, and I think you're going to see an interesting marketing campaign from us where even the tone of Marvel Comics will be changing in a big sense. What you're seeing right now is just the tip of the iceberg of where we're headed, but it's all very much within the realm of the plans.

Here's the thing. The easy button to push, the very easy button to push is the button that says “Big time summer event. Everyone in the pool. Everyone ties-in.” But you can only do that for so long, it becomes the laugh of diminishing returns. Sometimes you need to pull back a breath. And sometimes that little restraint helps you for later on when you decide you want to do it again. So for us, I think you’re going to see some interesting new approaches and ideas, especially next year. That doesn't mean we don't have big stories coming out. We have several different big stories coming out within different lines and different books and character families, I wish I could say more about it, but it’s way too soon. Either way, it's going to be pretty amazing ride for all our fans.

Jonah Weiland: So this a reaction to cries of "event fatigue?"

Joe Quesada: It's more than just the cries of fans of event fatigue. We're fatigued. [laughs] Internally and creatively, while events are fun and yes they drive a lot of revenue, they take a toll. They take a toll on the editorial level. People begin to snap at each other. Trust me, Tom Brevoort is a bear. And it takes a toll on our creators. It gets difficult to do for an extended period when everything has to tie-in to everything else, and sometimes it does hamstring you from telling a particular story you want to tell in a particular kind of way. And it's exhausting. It's keeping plates spinning for a very long time. Sometimes you need to step away, refresh your batteries and let fans refresh their batteries and show them what's special about the individual titles and character families.

I have in the past done surveys and blog posts about fans and event fatigue. My findings were that people don't buy events - they buy good stories. They were tired of the big event crossovers and wanted the publishers to focus more on quality characters and writing. It seems that Marvel has caught on to this. While Marvel is still doing some crossover type stories, I've noticed that that's more just letting readers know which stories are in continuity with each other. Sure there have been some Dark Avengers mini-series, but these have not received all of the hype events usually get.

Quesada says Marvel has some new plans and some new ideas. I for one, am excited to hear what they are. Knowing that the publisher is taking a break from the summer event marketing idea has caught my attention and I'm ready to hear what else they have in store. One change already visible is the Anniversary event that I posted about yesterday. For Marvel to actually plan something out and not only provide retailers with comics, but also with other marketing tools, that's a positive change I hope they will continue and build from. I'd still rather see JQ be an artist and not the EIC, but I am glad that he and his staff had this realization -- better late than never.

I know lots of credit goes to David Gabriel, Marvel's connection between the corporation and the direct market retailer channel. Whenever we've talked to him as store owners, even though we just have one small store, he has listened and done what he can to help. Sure, sometimes Marvel does things that make me scratch my head, but on this I'm quite happy. For this company to actually look at the direct market and come up with ways to COOPERATIVELY work to promote the Marvel brand is great and I definitely hope this is something that other retailers are also excited about.

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