In the first part of our planned Marvel publishing revival we took at look at fundamental changes the House of Ideas could make to begin its return to comic book ascendency: an admittance of business before stories, a rededication to mini-series, honoring the art, and putting innovative creators in powerful positions.
In this section, we’ll suggest different publishing strategies the comics giant could adapt to increase sales/influence, as well as breaking up the universe and divvying up books.
Buckle up, folks, here we go!
Phase Two – Books for Fans
One of the first orders of business is to address a problem that’s plagued Marvel for years: the tardiness of titles. We saw how the recent Secret Wars event was hampered by not just delays from the main title, but also the event itself with the relaunched titles hitting stands before the thing was even over. Same thing with Civil War II – the overall Marvel narrative moved on despite the core title not even finishing its story. And then there’s individual gaffes which irritated fans to no end (the end of Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye, anyone?).
If the publishing branch makes it a series point in addressing this issue (no pun intended), makes it a priority to hit its deadlines and get those books out on time, fans will see stories unfold in a timely manner. Things should be easy for readers to purchase and follow, and with that in mind…
…lower the cover price drastically.
I actually spoke with star comic writer Justin Jordan about the adjusting of cover price recently. As someone whose livelihood is tied to getting his stories out, and adhering to the market, he’s a tremendous source of knowledge on the subject:
And there it is: lowering the price could really make a difference, as long as the sales were there. I'm in the crowd that believes that a cheaper book will find more readers - actually moving those copies instead of overshipping and letting the issues take up space in comic stores’ shelves would result in a better revenue stream. Marvel should drop the cover price to $2.50, really start moving their product, making these books more than accessible to new and old readers alike.
With prices that low, why not also strike deals with stores like Target, Meijer, and Walmart to sell your books there? Most readers my age (35) or older fondly recall picking up comics on spinner racks at drug stores and grocery stores. Marvel movies are already making fans, and films can often serve as wonderful commercials for comics. Why not pick up fans all over? Why not create more fans with cheaper comics that are more readily available? This way Marvel could still help comic store retailers by not over shipping, and by sending the every-once-in-a-while awesome variants (and second or third printings) straight to them. So far, revenue is being generated and interest is spreading.
Also, give the people their digital copies. You buy an issue, you get that issue’s digital copy, simple as that. The kerfuffle over this issue several months ago was ugly, a black eye on Marvel’s otherwise sterling digital reputation.
Before we get to the books themselves, one more note: Avoid planned huge Events. Just ignore them for a while, don’t let them interrupt a book’s momentum. Don’t force these things (looking at you, Civil War II…), let them occur organically (if they’re gonna happen at all). Keep crossovers at a minimum. Let books sink or swim on their own.
OKAY, on to the titles themselves. This took days – it was harder than I thought because, on one hand, you don’t want more titles than you can sell. On the other, there’s just so many fantastic teams and characters that you don’t want to waste stories. So, I broke things down into seven different sections, each with its own specialized house editor:
Avengers Related Titles
Avengers (flagship book)
Young Avengers (younger characters)
Secret Avengers (an espionage-like team)
Invincible Iron Man
Mutant Related Titles
Uncanny X-Men (flagship book, more mutant-centric problems)
Astonishing X-Men (more super-hero problems)
Generation X (using the school and all its students)
X-Factor (a global book featuring badass female characters)
Wolverine (the original, OG Wolverine)
Marvel Knights (Street Level Heroes)
The Defenders (the only team book)
Amazing Spider-Man (the only in-continuity Spider book)
Alias (Jessica Jones solves crime)
Power Man & Iron Fist
Renew Your Vows (out of continuity Spidey book)
Bloodstone (Elsa Bloodstone in her own solo ongoing)
Midnight Legion (the supernatural team)
The Ultimates (flagship book)
Guardians of the Galaxy (the free-wheeling adventure team)
Gaurdians of the Galaxy: Deep Space (exploring the dark cosmic parts of the MU)
Mainline Marvel (books that essentially stand on their own)
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
The Incredible Hulk (the Bruce Banner version)
FF (Future Foundation)
And this is where things take a turn. I felt that the regular Marvel Universe was getting too cluttered, too busy. Part of Phase 3 will be the introduction of the storyline that serves to organize things, return them to a place of fresh starts for characters. Part of that is, essentially optimizing the Pocket Universe. Basically, without giving things away right now, it will result in a branch of Marvel Publishing that resembles the Ultimate line, which we’re calling Timely.
The Amazing X-Men
The Spectacular Spider-Man
Next up is the final phase, where we identify storylines, characters, and divvy up creators for the books!