ICv2 recently caught up with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley for another in our series of interviews with key comic and graphic novel publishers.
In Part Three of this three part interview, we talk about highlights of Marvel’s 2009 schedule; more on coordinating publishing with movie releases; and the “connective tissue” between movies and comics.
In Part One, Buckley talks about the current state of the comics and graphic novel market, including the possible impacts of the economic turmoil; the impact of increasing bookstore sales on Marvel’s publishing strategy, especially on comics for kids.
In Part Two, we talk about the changing relationship between movies and publishing; Marvel’s digital initiatives; and Marvel’s position on a shift to a universal Tuesday delivery day to retailers.
What are you most excited about in Marvel’s 2009 schedule?
I’m very excited about what we’re looking to do with the Ultimates books. You can see where we’re gearing up with Ultimatum and Ultimate Origins. And with what we’re coming out with on the other side, next April, May, June, July next year with [Jeph] Loeb and [Mark] Millar and the penciling teams, I’m very excited about that.
I continue to be impressed with what Axel [Alonso] and Tom [Brevoort], with the help of our creators, have been managing with the Marvel Universe books; the Dark Reign event (it’s not an event--it’s more of a political banner to say this is the context of the Universe at this time); I continue to be impressed with the people developing what we’re doing with Iron Man and Thor. The Spider-Man books I’ve been pleased with and continue to be pleased with. I’ve seen the publishing plans for that.
Third party and development stuff--The Stand. I see more and more of that book, I just think Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] and Mike Perkins are doing a great job with that.
A surprise hit that probably won’t do huge numbers--the Wizard of Oz book by [Eric] Shanower and Skott Young that we’re producing is probably one of the prettiest things we’ve ever done.
I know there’s probably plenty of stuff I’m leaving out, but I’m very happy with what we pulled together for the publishing schedule so far next year. The Ultimates stuff we’ve been working on hard for the last year trying to make sure that feels like it has a position against Marvel U that’s meaningful and different. I’m really pleased about that.
We have a lot of good things happening and I’m very optimistic about next year. I see us growing another year.
Marvel controlling its own movie production for the bulk of its releases has allowed you to have a schedule laid out a number of years in advance. Does that give you more ability to coordinate the publishing side with the movie releases?
Yeah. There’s no doubt about it, and not just from a marketing standpoint. Creative discussions are very open between me, Joe [Quesada], and Kevin Feige and his production teams and directors. They’ve been great to us; they’ve been incredibly respectful. I know Jon Favreau and Kevin had conversations with Matt Fraction recently about what his thoughts were on Iron Man.
We’re not making the same universe or anything like that, but it allows us to make sure we’re treating our supporting characters properly and that we’re not stepping on each other completely.
So yeah, it has been helpful. The good thing--even before this thing was put together--we really put a lot of our resources into the Avengers books at that time. We just need to make sure we’re supporting the characters they’re supporting and vice versa, by putting the right editorial support behind it, the right creative teams, so that we’re reinforcing the messages to make sure we get these characters out to as many people as possible, because, well, they’re pretty cool. [laughs] We like them. And they’ve been moving books and people have been excited about them for years.
We have some pretty clear visibility into what is going on with Iron Man, and we can make sure that we’re thematically on the same page. We’re not going to replicate stories; we’re not going to do adaptations, but it makes sure that there’s some tonality that’s consistent between the two mediums that makes it easier for new readers to come in and for our regular fans to say “Hey, that’s cool. I appreciate what Iron Man is right there.”
It does help us gear up from the marketing standpoint. I know what products we have to load up three months ahead of time. So that’s how it helps us on the creative process, because now I can move back a year and say, “We really need to make sure we’re hitting Thor right,” because I really want to make sure we have great trades coming out three months before the Thor movie comes out. So it is easier because we don’t have to turn on a dime as much. We can make it feel a little more organic. It gives our creators and editors a chance to say, “Yeah, I can make this mold into something” and not say “oh, [expletive], that’s in there? I’ll put something together real fast.” We are thinking about how Thor, Cap and the Avengers books are going to work over the next two years because that’s what’s going to complement what we’re doing with our film slate.
Is there anything else going on at Marvel that you’d like to tell us about?
Next year, I’m really excited about how we’re putting time and effort into building connective tissue. We’re getting big tentpole movies out there where a lot of people are excited and doing quality product on the publishing side, but I think there has been a gap in keeping a mass market communication connection between movies and creating a platform to transition people to publishing, reading comics.
I’m very excited about what our animation guys are doing next year. We’ve got a lot of stuff that’s going to be picking up a lot of eyeballs next year with Wolverine and the X-Men and Iron Man Animated coming out on Nicktoons. Black Panther on BET is skewing a little older, but it’s going to get a lot of exposure for that Marvel character.
And we’re looking at doing some fun things with the Superhero Squad all-ages characters, kind of playing off the toy line that we’ve produced with Hasbro for the last couple of years and there’s been some imagery put out on the Internet of what we’re doing. I’m very excited from a Marvel standpoint because that creates more opportunities to share high-quality content for our Digital Media Group on TV. The more we can get people looking at stuff, the more we can also get people looking at published product. So I am very happy and excited that we’re committed to doing these things next year.