Now Comics' Tony Caputo saw our interview with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, in which he said that Marvel would not license its comics to other publishers (see 'Interview with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, Part 4'), and suggests that Marvel give it a try:
Dan Buckley, Publisher of Marvel Comics, said in his interview with ICv2 that Marvel Enterprises licensing its intellectual properties (IP) for comic books is 'something I would not foresee happening...at all!' He reiterates this belief by also stating that Marvel Comics is where 'we manage the IP.'
I understand this is a successful formula in Japan, where IP starts as manga, and if popular, moves to anime and merchandising. However, comics typically don't sell millions of copies here in the USA, and even with Marvel's return to newsstand and expansion into the bookstore market, they still will not sell in the millions. Marvel's marketing muscle can crank out about 220,000 copies of a premiere issue, but most likely that figure cuts in half by the fifth issue as first issues still feed the speculators and collectors. The USA has a different attitude towards comic books and sequential art, and it will take far more than superhero movies to expand the minds of our fellow Americans. Incredible graphic novels such as Frank Miller's Sin City sold an initial 14,000 in bookstores in Q1 2005 (The Hard Goodbye, Second Edition), thanks to the movie release, but in 2004, the Sin City graphic novels sold an average of about 1,200 copies. It's not necessarily the sales that drive Sin City, but the quality of the IP.
The Spider-Man 2 video game is a good example of a licensed property where Marvel had complete control of the IP, and the licensee brought the IP to a new level (not Marvel). The sensation of web-swinging while playing the Spider-Man 2 video game is not something you can get from a film or comic book. The incredible physics of the game gives the player a different way to experience Spider-Man, the IP, and introducing the next generation to Spider-Man. However, this new generation may not be comic book readers, but that's okay because the 'core heartbeat' of Marvel is 'managing the IP.' The next generation may prefer the 'interactive' experience, and possibly the 'linear' experience of the movies, but not the unique 'interpersonal' experience that is sequential art. Sorry, Dan, but Marvel Comics doesn't 'manage the IP,' Marvel Enterprises does. Marvel Comics 'publishes the IP.'
The production of a comic book can be complex, but it doesn't compare to the convolution of the production of a film or videogame. To say that Marvel continues to publish Marvel Comics because it is the 'heartbeat of creating properties' is somewhat inaccurate, because Marvel's licensed film, game and toy production and development is of decades old IP.
I've had some experience publishing other's IP in comic book form. Some were stricter with guidelines and approvals, far more than even the 'Comics Code.' I also understand the mechanics and formula for publishing comic books, which leads me to my next step in this discussion. I know that as Publisher, Dan Buckley wouldn't find this concept appealing at all, and would be adversarial, so this is to the board members of Marvel Enterprises. I'm going to put my money where my mouth is... I challenge Marvel Enterprises.
Sell me (or anyone) the license to ANY one of your 4000+ intellectual properties - anyone - and I'll publish it for you, following your licensing guidelines and show you a royalty check somewhat the same, or better than if you published it yourself, but I'll take the risk and headaches to produce it, thus giving you 100% gross margin. The IP can be obscure; in fact, I'd prefer it.
I'm willing to prove to Marvel Enterprises that there is nothing to fear and that licensing your IP to even the likes of my little company will:
(1) Not reduce your potential revenues, because it's the IP and creators that sell the books
(2) The quality will not degrade
(3) You will not lose control over the editorial process, as every step of production will go through the proposed approval process
(4) Save the comic book, because smaller comic book companies make their bread and butter from publishing licensed titles, not licensing titles, thus they will handle the IP carefully.