ICv2 continues its series of interviews with comic publishers with a talk with Marvel publisher Dan Buckley (who asked VP Sales David Gabriel) to join in. In Part 2 we talk about more of the newer distribution channels for Marvel books, and Marvel's publishing plans to tie into its 2008 movies. In Part 1, we talked about the state of the market and the reasons for the success of Civil War in bookstores as well as comic stores. In Part 3, we talked about publishing Amazing Spider-Man three times a month, lessons learned from Anita Blake and
A year ago when we talked you gave an update on the status of your efforts to reach new consumers through new kinds of outlets that you hadn't been targeting in the years prior to that. You said that the 7-11 outlets had performed pretty well, Blockbuster was still in there, and Walgreen's not so much, primarily because of the demographics. Has anything changed in your outreach programs, in terms of that evaluation and where things were?
DB: It's pretty much the same. You're just talking about one part of the outreach program, but there are multiple pieces to it, and that newsstand distribution is strictly an awareness and trial program. And you know that the newsstand business is the newsstand business, and I'm not going to be able to change the operation of that. But we wanted to make sure we had some intercepts and we're pretty happy with it.
Would I like it to be more profitable and more efficient? Yeah, but we're achieving our needs. If we can get one out of 200 kids that goes into a 7-11 to pick up a comic book they've never run into before, that's a big 'W' for us because we weren't even doing that before. From a distribution standpoint, we're pretty happy with that.
The incremental distribution piece that we've worked out this year that's very product-specific was with Wal-Mart--we did some Spider-Man magazines. It's also available to everyone else, but Wal-Mart really jumped on it and did very well with it. We have our second Spider-Man magazine out there now--Spider-Man and FF, I think. We'll probably do about three or four of those a year to help us intercept the Wal-Mart consumer. I tread very warily into the Wal-Mart world, because I want to make sure we get stuff that they feel comfortable with and that can't harm anything else. They're taking very specific SKUs that are a good fit for them for a younger demographic read. We've been working on Wal-Mart since I got here, and we said no to them a lot and they said no to us a lot, but we found a happy medium with the Spider-Man magazine.
Is that going to the magazine department?
DB: It goes in the newsstand area.
It sounds like in both the case of Target and Wal-Mart you had to come up with specific SKUs that fit their market. Is that a fair assessment?
DB: It's a fair assessment, but Target basically had a unique trade paperback program, it's just slightly different format. The Wal-Mart one was pretty low hanging fruit--we were going to do the Spider-Man magazine anyway so it wasn't like we created anything specific for them. We did work with them on their pricing and we gave them a cover, but it's not a collectable and it got them excited about merchandising the product. In either category we played around with the format, but we didn't create any content we weren't creating for everybody else already.
We've also had some other successes in the past year with our top trade paperbacks in Target. 1602 did very well. The New Avengers have done well. They take just six titles and they switch them out every six months or so. It's been a good year, so we're intercepting a lot more consumers.
There are other pieces to the new readership programs (it's not just new distribution). Stephen King is part of that. Anita Blake is part of that. Our Marvel Illustrated line is part of that. Marvel Adventures, which we've been very dedicated to for almost four years now is part of that. And they've all in their own way been fairly to very successful, and they've all achieved their goals for us. We're pursuing Halo as part of that. We'll consider pursuing other opportunities that will increase readership and be profitable for us at the same time to try to get more readers in.
Next year, in the movies you've got Iron Man coming out, and you've got a comic that is going to be written by the director and illustrated by someone that worked on the movie. Is that the first time that's ever happened, and what are your expectations for how that's going to do?
DB: I'm trying to think if the Donner's did something like this a little bit for Superman, but they weren't involved with directing the movie. Singer did it a little bit with Superman, and Dougherty and Harris did a lot of writing on the four issues that went out before Superman last year, but for us this is the first time.
For us, the thing that makes it really unique is the fact that Adi [Granov] was involved a lot in concept designs from the movie. [Visual effects supervisor] John Nelson requested Adi when he started this process, so Adi was very much involved in the look of Iron Man. That's was really drew [Jon] Favreau into this. He talked to Adi about the differences in storytelling and things like that, and they have a very close friendship now. They kind of came to us with it. We didn't want to get in the way of making the movie because it's our movie, so I didn't want our studio to call us up and say we have to make a movie so don't bug anybody for a comic book, but the bulk of Adi's work on the movie was done about three or four months ago, since he's more design than actual production work, and Jon expressed interest in doing something that could be high action fun. You can tell from the press that he's been doing that he has a great deal of kinship with the character. So the two approached us and we're more than happy to say, 'yeah, go ahead.' But it is the first time we've ever done it and it's the first time that something like this as been done, because how Adi is attached to the movie is a very unique situation. And we're really excited about it because Jon's been really great to work with.
And then you've got the Hulk movie coming out next year. Last week, we published news from the book trade solicitations for the World War Hulk collections, and then we heard from Marvel that they're being pushed back. Are those being pushed back to get some time connection with the movie release?
David Gabriel: The production schedule from us is just set so that the trade will come out two to three months after the last comic ships. I didn't realize that had gone out to anybody yet. We want to make sure that the trades for World War Hulk come out the same way the trades for Civil War came out where the main book comes out first and the frontline books and all the side books come out afterwards. And really the best time for the Hulk books is going to be around movie time, especially for the mass market. It's really a matter of pushing it about six to eight weeks out [from the originally scheduled Marvel release date] and that's really about it.
DB: We're also doing some load balancing with the shipping schedule of those books. There are a lot of big trades coming out in the next three to four months, so we want to make it so everyone can digest everything that's coming out. Between the Dark Tower and the Captain America collections, there's just a lot of product.
Anything else interesting you're going to be doing in conjunction with the Hulk movie next year?
DB: From a mass market standpoint?
DB: We're doing a lot of fun stuff. I'll let David talk about whatever we announced at Baltimore this week. We did announce that Loeb and McGuinness will be doing a Hulk project that's kicking off in January, I believe. It's not tied to the movie, but it will generate a lot of buzz around Hulk, so we'll have a lot of cool product going on around movie buzz. We do have something called Ultimate Human, an Ultimate Hulk-Ultimate Iron Man crossover being done by Warren Ellis and Cary Nord, which will be four issues, and we'll have that collection out by the movie. We're trying to make sure we have a good mix of solid product out when the movie hits the masses so people can experience it.
DG: And I'll give you the scoop that we're looking to do The Hulk: The End in a Premiere Hardcover. A lot of people have been asking for that. So that will be one book that will be coming out that will hit the classic guys.
That's for spring?
To be continued on Tuesday with Part 3 and Part 4.