Marvel's POINT ONE, One Year In (And What's Coming Next)

Bryan Hitch Leaving Marvel

Invincible Iron Man

#500.1 cover.

It’s been a year since Marvel’s “Point One” initiative debuted on comic book shelves. In February 2011, the publisher released Amazing Spider-Man #654.1, Invincible Iron Man #500.1 and Wolverine #5.1; all intended to provide easy jumping-on points for new and lapsed readers.

Back in February 2011, the Point One issue of Amazing Spider-Man — which served as the launching point for the current Venom ongoing series — out-sold the three other issues of Amazing Spider-Man released that month, according to Diamond sales estimates. A year later, sales on the Point One books remain steady if not spectacular — in January 2012, Uncanny X-Force #19.1 ranked just two spots below the regularly scheduled Uncanny X-Force #20. Secret Avengers #21.1 ranked eight spots below Secret Avengers #21, a drop-off that could be attributed to the departure of superstar writer Warren Ellis from the title.

In the past year, Marvel has extended the Point One initiative from their initial list of big-ticket launch titles to other series like X-Factor and Thunderbolts, while some comics, like Secret Avengers and Uncanny X-Force, have already gotten two Point One issues in less than a year’s time. In November 2011, the publisher released an oversized Point One one-shot, providing glimpses of upcoming books like Age of Apocalypse and the initial tease of this year’s event series Avengers vs. X-Men. In May, a reprint of April 2011's Avengers #12.1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch will serve as Marvel's annual Free Comic Book Day offering.

"I made a list for myself of 'everything you would need to know about Daredevil if you've never read the series before' — everything from his name to his profession to Foggy's name to the reasons why he does what he does to his every superpower and so on and so forth — and then I very carefully and very deliberately laced all that information into a story that shows DD in action and sets the stage for the next story arc," Daredevil writer Mark Waid told Newsarama about his approach in writing April's Daredevil #10.1.

With Amazing Spider-Man #679.1 out next week (preview here) and marking the one-year anniversary of the initiative, Newsarama contacted Marvel senior vice president of sales and circulation David Gabriel via email for his take on how Point One has performed in the past year, how it's evolved, and what’s coming next.

 

Newsarama: David, with the Point One initiative at the one-year point, how do you assess the success of the line — both from a sales perspective, and also from its stated original goal of reaching new readers?

David Gabriel: The mere fact that a year later people are still talking about the initiative says to me that we struck a chord within the industry. The idea behind Point One from its inception was to find a way to do simple, single issue stories that fit into a series’ continuity, and left readers with a feeling that the stories mattered. They could springboard a new idea, like the Venom or the Age of Apocalypse launches, or they could get readers up to date and ready for what’s to come within the series itself. From the very beginning, the naming convention served as the marketing message, and that served to communicate to retailers and fans exactly what these books are. The culmination was evident with the Point One book back in November, which effectively launched a whole series of books and even served as a starting point for AvX. It seems to me that our entire editorial staff, creators, retailers and fans caught on to the “point” right away — it was that simplicity of concept and message, along with execution, that’s given the initiative such staying power.

From a sales perspective they’ve been a huge success. They’ve always done a little better than what we thought they would do which is a testament to both the quality of the books produced and the retailers having confidence in the program in addition to their ability to sell these to consumers.

Nrama: On the other side of that, what kind of feedback have you gotten from retailers?

Gabriel: The first barometer of success with retailers is always orders — if they’re willing to invest money in these books then we know they believe in what we’re doing. So when we see a year of ordering Point One issues with confidence, we know this is something that’s working and bringing retailers some dollars. We want to make sure we’re always supporting retailers year round with strong, diverse product.

 

The second thing, and this goes back to last year, was that we heard that retailers found it very easy to hand-sell these and the concept to customers. Like it or hate it, the numbering system caused people to talk about these, making them easy to spot on the stands, and in the end just helped to sell the program and the titles.

Nrama: Clearly something is indeed working for Marvel with the concept, as it's continued and expanded in the past year. What do you see as the Point One program's long-term prospects? Do you see it becoming essentially an annual thing for major titles? Several books, like Uncanny X-Force and Secret Avengers, have already gotten two Point One issues, and the second Amazing Spider-Man Point One is out next week.

Gabriel: In the beginning, we were working closely with editorial in terms of what might make the best sense for sales and marketing purposes with regards to choosing the titles that would receive a Point One. Somewhere after the first launch editorial and our creators took hold of the concept and ran with it and we got some really terrific books over the past year. They’ve now been coming up with all the Point One issues within our entire line, and it’s now a totally editorially driven concept.

Nrama: In November, the Point One concept got taken to the next level, with a Point One one-shot giving a peek towards what's next for several Marvel franchises. Do you see a possibility of doing something similar again in the future?

Amazing

Spider-Man

#679.1 cover.

Gabriel: Interesting that this would come up now as we are just preparing, as a result of the success of the first Point One one-shot, that we’ve put into the planning stages the next one set for October 2012… oddly enough right after the end of the Avengers vs. X-Men event. Seems to be a great starting point to me.

Nrama: Part of the hook of the Point One program is that another issue of the series would be out two weeks later. But with so many titles double-shipping with a month as of late, do you think that aspect of the initiative has been rendered moot a bit?

Gabriel: I don’t recall ever stating that we were holding to a strict two weeks later the next issue would ship policy, but of course we’d love to ship the next issue of a series right after a Point One if it’s feasible — we don’t want to rush the craft of our books. As long as the editors still find the program valid and still have the creators interested in creating these books we’ll continue to add them to our schedule whenever they make the most sense. 

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