Marvel Sales SVP on Marvel NOW! and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700
The issue ended, for now, the 50-year run of Amazing Spider-Man, with follow-up series Superior Spider-Man debuting on Jan. 9. That's part of the ongoing Marvel NOW! initiative bringing multiple restarts throughout the company's publishing line, including new #1s for Avengers, Iron Man, Deadpool and many more.
Given the newsworthy time for the business side of Marvel, we talked with David Gabriel, their senior vice president of publishing sales and circulation, about the performance thus far of Marvel NOW!, the big success of Amazing Spider-Man #700, the undeniable value of a #1 issue and more.
second printing.Newsarama: David, it was a no-brainer that Amazing Spider-Man #700 would sell big — from the anniversary angle alone, let alone all of the multi-layered buzz surrounding the story itself. But how has the performance of the issue compared to Marvel's expectations? And from your stance, did the unique positioning of the issue — coming out the day after Christmas, with it and Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 the only Marvel titles out that week, and a $7.99 cover price — affect its reception at all?
David Gabriel: Sales far exceeded even our wildest expectations, which is truly a testament to the incredible work by Dan Slott and everyone else involved with the series. Some folks will erroneously claim the sales were driven by deep discounts to retailers (we didn't do that), but this is all about the excitement that Dan Slott's been generating on the series since "Big Time." In fact I think it's safe to say that this is a record-breaking book!
Both Amazing Spider-Man #700 and Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 were strategically placed in that final week of December a long time ago. Once we learned about the story details and knew that this was much more than just an oversized anniversary story, it made sense to release these comics in a week where they received the appropriate spotlight. We knew it would be groundbreaking, we knew readers would react passionately (though death threats are immature and stupid) and that this would be one — if not the — biggest comic book stories of the year. And from all reports it certainly turned out to be an even bigger monster that we expected, on all levels!
Gabriel: This is a decision driven by editorial and creators on a series. Our sales and marketing team do not weigh in on stories or character changes. Editorial and creative folks work this all out on their own, and in most cases will let me know what they are planning and we discuss how I think retailers will respond to the story in terms of their orders. It's then turned over to our publicity (Arune Singh and James Viscardi), marketing (Pete Charpentier) and digital media (John Cerilli, Ryan Penagos, Ben Morse) to handle getting word out to fans and making sure that they are there at the stores demanding that issue. It's really a terrific thing when all this works according to all our plans. But the key thing to remember is that this process starts with editorial.
Gabriel: Every situation really is different. In this case, you've got to remember the books purposely shipped a full two weeks ahead of the on sale date in order to work the year end shipping schedule, so we really shouldn't have something like that happening for quite some time, if at all. I think that in this instance the leaks definitely didn't hurt the sales and the excitement of the story, no matter what those folks intended. I clearly saw the increases in demand from retailers mounting each time things were "discussed" on the Internet over those few weeks, whether or not they were correct. So no matter the intent of the people who seem to find joy spoiling the hard work of creators online early and possibly taking money away from them, they didn't succeed in hurting sales at all.
As to the second part of the question, I don't think it's getting worse. I think it continues. I think the thieves who "spoil" comics in advance will continue to find ways to assert their "abilities." At the same time we'll find ways to combat them, which we've been doing successfully for quite some time. Thankfully, it seems the majority of fans are disinterested in spoilers and we thank those dedicated, true fans for supporting us.
Gabriel: We had another great month in December thanks to the strength of all our titles. It's refreshing that see that while we've greatly decreased the number of titles that we put out each month, about 20 percent year over year, our sales have increased, and, for those that closely value this sort of thing, that market share has also remained steadily in our favor. It's a clear indication that the market is definitely favoring our strategies and our product!
Nrama: Speaking of Marvel NOW!, with many of the major releases underway, and a couple of months of sales numbers in, what's your assessment of how the initiative has performed so far? What has surprised you along the way?
Nrama: On the flipside, is there any challenge in keeping series that aren't being relaunched or (as in the case of Red She-Hulk or Journey Into Mystery) revamped — Astonishing X-Men, Captain Marvel, Daredevil and the like — in the eyes of retailers and retailers, at a time when they're not getting as much attention as the rest of the line?
Nrama: To touch on the issue of volume, Marvel has been double-shipping books for quite some time now, and it's a practice that's continued with several Marvel NOW! books, including All-New X-Men and Iron Man. You wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't paying off, and I know that at least some of the time it's a creative decision in the case of titles like Avengers, but at the same time, there presumably is a point of diminishing returns for at least some books. Is it tricky finding the right balance? And in general, can readers look forward to seeing similar rates of release for the near future?
Nrama: The success of the Marvel NOW! launches leads to something of a philosophical question: If Captain America #1 is guaranteed to sell better than Captain America #25, why wouldn't Marvel relaunch the series as often as possible? Again, there is likely a point of demising returns to this as well, but are we at a point where a high number doesn't really have much purpose in the market, and we might not see too many issue #50s and beyond in the future? Basically, if sales can get a considerable boost by relaunching Captain America every couple of years, why not do it? Of course, some of that seems to be cyclical, too — there were a lot of relaunches in the mid-to-late '90s, before publishers started re-embracing high, "legacy" numbers. (And to bring this conversation full circle, obviously the significance of Amazing Spider-Man hitting #700 was a major factor in it attracting the attention that it did.)FACEBOOK and TWITTER!