Marvel Sr. Sales VP Talks Event Fatigue, MARVEL WOMEN, More

Earlier this month comic book retailers from around the country gathered in Baltimore, MD at the 2009 Diamond/Alliance Retailer Summit in Baltimore. Several publishers like Marvel and DC presented some of their 2010 editorial plans to the attending retailers. After the event, David Gabriel, Marvel Comics’ Senior Vice President of Sales, spoke with Diamond in a little more detail about some of the projects discussed at the presentation and some general topics surrounding the publisher.

During the interview Gabriel discussed details on how Marvel plans to present "event" titles at least in the first part of next year, spoke briefly about the "Heroic Age", in greater details about the "Marvel Women" program, the current popularity of Deadpool, and how Marvel plans to merge their Motion Comics program with traditional comic book collections.

Here are some highlights of the four-part interview that was published last Thursday through this Tuesday at Diamond's retailer website Diamond Daily.

Diamond inquired about Siege, and specifically how it’s a part of Marvel's 2010 plan to focus on four-month long "events" (Siege, Fall of the Hulks, The Gauntlet (Spider-Man), and X-Men: Second Coming) rather than longer events like Secret Invasion of the past few years.

Gabriel described it as a "unanimous decision"; from everyone involved, including Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, to the Senior Editors, to Publisher Dan Buckley, to himself, to Assistant Editors, writers, retailers, and fans.

"Everybody is in absolute agreement that the longer these stories play out, the less likely people are to be interested in them," said the Senior VP.

He did not, however, says this was a remedy for what Diamond called “event fatigue.”

"You know, I really think there is no event fatigue," responded Gabriel. "When we hear that here in the office, we all sit back and say there isn’t event fatigue; there’s extended, prolonged story fatigue. That’s what nobody wants.

"But still, the fans are still going crazy over stuff like bannering books and sticking crossover labels on things. We also love that, as fanboys. We all love seeing stuff like the Utopia banner on a bunch of books. I’ll even give a shout-out to Blackest Night’s bannering. But I think we realized towards the latter part of Secret Invasion that sometimes [the story] is too long. It’s just too long.

"We’re going to try to get in and out now, hopefully within four issues. The editorial idea is that everything is going to be big and fast. That’s not to say that if Jeph Loeb, Mark Millar, or Brian Bendis came to us with a Civil War 2 that we’d turn it down. Then we’d, of course, present what would be another industry-altering, eight-issue story.

"But really the focus is on four-month events for the first quarter of next year."

Speaking of Siege, Gabriel offered a few details about he special, free Origins of Siege one-shot that will be available during the retail "skip week" this December 30th, calling it "the best one".

"Origins of Siege will feature an eight-page, all-new prologue by Brian Bendis that sets the stage for Siege. There’s going to be a first preview of Siege #1 in there. And we’re also bringing back, for the older fans – in the late '70s/early '80s there was a series of posters that Marvel and Coca-Cola did on the origins of different characters – and we’re bringing those back.

"These will each be on one page and tell the origin stories of the major players in Siege. These are poster-style pages, so they’re going to be heavier on art than text. Anyone that hasn’t read a comic in years and doesn’t know who the major players are will really be able to get into this thing with Origins of Siege’s origin pages and the prologue.

"The origins will also be available on the Marvel Print Shop online the night before December 30th. Fans will be able to order posters of these origin pages, and when they go online to do that, there will be an ad there telling them to go into shops on December 30th to get the free Origins of Siege book. There you’re seeing synergy between the .com aspect and retailers.

Gabriel then offered a few details about a more vague event or initiative premiering in 2010, the "Heroic Age", which he described as "some interesting stuff coming out, probably in January of next year.

"That’ll be a different way of looking at things – a new way of branding things, a new way of looking at the Marvel Universe."

While he admitted being purposely vague, he went on to say: "It’s a way of looking at the Marvel Universe as it hasn’t been looked at in years. I don’t think any other publisher is really looking at things like this right now either.

"This is all a result of Siege. If you remember the first pages of the Marvel books from the '70s, Marvel always had these lines at the top of the page, month after month, giving a synopsis of what the comic was all about. We have something already written up that explains what the Heroic Age is, and we should be ready to roll that out sometime in January."

Later Gabriel and Diamond spoke about Marvel Women, a year-long "program" that launches in March 2010 – which is Women's History Month here in the U.S. – and kicks off with some one-shots featuring female characters that don’t necessarily have their own titles right now.

"This won’t be another She-Hulk one-shot or Ms. Marvel one-shot. We’ll see some other, large female characters we haven’t heard much from recently," explained Gabriel. "Along with that program, we’re going to announce a new Young Guns promoting female artists throughout the year, and we’ll be doing a Write Stuff as well. Whereas in the past we picked four of our best male writers, this time we’ll be picking four or five female writers and promoting them throughout the year."

Also as part of the program, according to the Senior VP, there will be one variant cover a month by Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic, who is the wife of Marko Djurdjevic, who did Marvel's "70th Anniversary" variant covers this year. The first of these is January's Invisible Woman Fantastic Four #575 variant and will be followed in February by a Mohawk Storm cover.

Later in the year fans can expect an omnibus with runs of part Marvel titles like Night Nurse, Hellcat and "some other things you really wouldn’t collect anywhere else.

"Because this is a big omnibus celebrating the Marvel women, we can get the full runs into that and make an event out of its release."

"We’re also looking into doing something similar to what we did for the 70th Anniversary Parties, with that maybe taking place in August," added Gabriel. "And then there will be some kind of a fifth week event in June, taking all the super-heroines in the Marvel Universe and putting them into one story."

Gabriel acknowledged the program is in part meant to help to try to attract new readers to comic book stores.

"One facet of the program is to celebrate the women of the industry, whether they are super-heroines, super-villainesses, artists, writers, editors, colorists, inkers, proofreaders, models, and on and on. Titles like Runaways, Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, Dark Tower, and most important Anita Blake, are books that help bring in female readers. But fear not, we will be working hard to get female readership with a few of the projects over the year. Some I won’t announce just yet, but others I did speak of.

"What we are going to do, however, is – much in the same way as what we just did with the Strange Tales anthology – have some top female creators come in and work on an anthology like that. That will be coming in March. Then there’s more to come after that. We’re making this a major initiative, even launching a new all-ages title, designed especially for young girls."

March's Deadpool Corps 5th week event, which will feature one-shots starring Deadpool, Lady Deadpool (introduced in Merc with a Mouth #7), the new Kid Deadpool, Headpool (the zombie head of Deadpool), and Dogpool, the Deadpool dog, respectively, will all feature a $2.99 cover price (at least that was the plan at the time of the interview).

Gabriel then spoke about the rising popularity of Deadpool and the fact that everything Marvel is publishing featuring the character is selling out.

"I think nearly every single issue of Deadpool since we relaunched it last year has sold out," he said. "The 'Suicide Kings' stuff all sold out. We went back to press on three or four of those books. Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth is all sold out, and we went back to press with the first two of those. I imagine Deadpool #900 will sell out by the time this interview goes up.

"And I also announced, kind of as a joke, that since a lot of people didn’t get to read Deadpool #800, we’ll be going back to press on that sometime next year, too. The never-before-seen reprint of Deadpool #800."

Gabriel credited editor Axel Alonso "claiming" the character and investing in him as keys to his rise.

"Deadpool was all by himself, and when he came back and it was big, we decided we were just going to push the limits with him a little bit, and that’s paid off. Then the announcement for the Deadpool movie, I believe, came out right after our announcement of Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth – and we haven’t heard anything new about the movie – but that kind of opened the flood gates even more.

"And it doesn’t hurt when people are putting out quality books people want to read. I’ve heard, even from people that confess Deadpool isn’t their favorite character, that they’ve been loving his stuff right now. And if you look at the Classic Deadpool trades right now, they’ve been far outselling other Classic trades.

"It doesn’t make sense not to capitalize on that right now. Someone shouted out, 'Why?' after the Deadpool Corps announcement at the Summit. And I jokingly shouted back, 'Because it’s making you money.'"

In other brief news, Gabriel said the new Young Avengers limited series by the concept's creators Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung called Avengers: Children’s Crusade is scheduled to debut in July 2010 before Comic-Con International: San Diego and is expected to be released bi-monthly to assure its timely shipping. Gabriel added, however, that the creative team is already "two or three issues into that story".

Marvel is toying with the idea of smaller-sized hardcovers for 2010, calling them "graphic novel-sized hardcovers" around the Marvel offices.

Their Motion Comics initiative is also going to expand into traditional collections, as Gabriel said Marvel is planning to package Motion Comics DVDs with hardcovers in 2010.

"That’s something we’re looking to do mid-year 2010," he said. "The motion comic DVD for Spider-Woman, for example, will be packaged with a special hardcover edition collecting the comics. Same goes for Astonishing X-Men."

"That’s one surprise we haven’t really talked about before." he continued. "We’re playing with the notion of packaging a digital download within our physical comics. We’ve heard retailers asking how they’re going to make money from Motion Comics and digital comics, and I think we’ve come up with something for that.

"That’s something we’ll be talking more about in the months to come. There’ll be a big announcement about that."

Finally, Gabriel said that due to the increasing popularity of Marvel "Premiere" hardcovers, they'll be pushing the time between the availability of a Premiere hardcover and a trade paperback of the same material from its current "about three months" to "about four or five months" to allow retailers to better sell-through the hardcovers before the trade hits stores.

Stories not collected in a Premiere hardcover will have their trade paperback ship about three months after the last story collected goes on sale, as usual.  

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