The subject of Marvel's press conference today was the new Captain America mini-series, The Truth, by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker. The Truth functions as a sort of prequel for Captain America by proposing that the segregated U.S. military of 1940 might well have tried the super soldier serum on a black man first (see 'Marvel Preps Black Cap'). With its echoes of the horrendous Tuskegee syphilis 'experiments,' the new series not only provides a black American the chance to be an iconic hero (if only for a short time), it also lays bare the racism of the era (the U.S. military was not fully desegregated until well after WWII). Like previous Marvel efforts such as Heroes and The Call to Duty, The Truth is bound to generate a good deal of attention in the press. One of the major points that Marvel CEO Bill Jemas made at the press conference was that Marvel wants to get the wheels of its well-oiled publicity machine moving sooner so that retailers will have a chance to gauge interest in the title before ordering it.
The final cut-off for orders that will affect retailers' Marvel discount is October 4, and the final date for obtaining guaranteed reorders is October 31. Marvel hopes to avoid the situation that occurred with Heroes, Amazing Spider-Man #36 and the first issue of The Call To Duty in which publicity blitzes right before publication stirred up interest in the titles which sold out quickly because retailers had ordered them long before the publicity campaign kicked in. And since Marvel neither over-prints nor reprints, if the books aren't ordered in advance, they aren't available at all. Jemas noted that Marvel 'kept getting whipsawed where retailers wouldn't know what was going on (publicity-wise) and would under-order the books. So I can't, and shouldn't, say which mass media outlets will cover the story, but I can say that there is a very good likelihood that mass market media will happen much earlier in the ordering cycle than it ever has before. If everything goes according to plan, you will see it very soon.' The tricky part, according to Jemas, will be managing to keep the project in the news when the comic ships as well as coming up with a second barrage of publicity aimed at civilians, when the trade paperback collection of The Truth hits bookstores sometime next year.
Comparing the Black Cap saga to Wolverine's Origin mini-series, Joe Quesada, Marvel's Editior-In-Chief said that while Wolverine is a more popular character with hardcore comics fans, Captain America resonates more with civilians. Jemas agreed saying, 'It would not surprise me if five years from now, The Truth would be among our top five trade paperback sellers of all-time.' Jemas also noted that if orders for The Truth were 'in the 100,000 to 140,000 range there will be plenty of regular weekly comic shop buyers who will make those units disappear.' If an influx of civilians causes the book to sell out quickly, Jemas promises quick action: 'It will become a Marvel Must-Have immediately, it will also become a dot-comic right away, and we will accelerate the trade paperback.'
When asked about the reasoning behind the meticulously researched examination of racism in the military in The Truth, Quesada remarked, 'The whole comics industry tries for more realism as we go along. Every 10 years or so we look at our icons and try to re-envision them as we learn more about ourselves, humanity, and human nature. You can go back to the sixties when Stan Lee had a whole new take on superheroes, more of a real world approach. What we're doing is just more of the same -- adding more real world stuff into the mix as the years go by.'
Quesada also mentioned that Marvel had another 'origin' saga in the works. Garth Ennis and Darrick Robinson are working on an origin story for the Punisher, now entitled simply Born, which should be out in late 2003. Quesada warned fans, 'If you think the origin of the Punisher was the day his family was killed, you're very wrong.'
When asked by ICv2 about Marvel's recent about-face on the returnability issue (see 'The House Backs Down'), Jemas declined to comment because of the publisher's on-going lawsuit with retailer Brian Hibbs. Marvel has also not answered previously submitted written questions asking why Marvel issued the list of returnable books, why the list was issued so long after release of most of the books, whether more books would be made returnable, and what advice Marvel had for retailers that had long ago liquidated the books made returnable.