As DC Comics kicked off its "New 52" initiative this week, a few biting comments from Marvel and DC executives had fans wondering if the publishing rivalry had gotten a little heated.
Early indications are that Marvel, which is usually the leader in sales share for direct market comics, will lose that crown in September as DC Comics offers sales incentives to retailers and targets marketing to its 52 new #1's this month.
That appeared to cause a little friction among company leaders.
First, Marvel Senior Vice President Tom Brevoort said he "doubted" Marvel would lose market share advantage to DC long-term. And he said Marvel wasn't even close to considering a similar reboot in response.
Then DC's Executive Vice President John Rood said DC wasn't interested in only pursuing market share with its initiative. ""If we were, we would not be creating a quality lasting direction across a controlled number of titles. We would instead be flooding the market with over 200 titles a month, changing our prices with abandon, killing off a character every quarter or so, and/or randomly announcing decimal-pointed event-ish thingies. We haven’t."
The pointed zing toward Marvel's "Point One" issues and its pricing had fans once again taking sides on the never-ending DC/Marvel debate.
But Newsarama had a chance to talk with Brevoort about what was said and found out the heat isn't quite as hot as fans might expect. While each side is clearly trying to be successful, it's not necessarily their goal to eliminate the competition.
Newsarama: Tom, you recently had a comment that made news, where you said Marvel wouldn't need to reboot in response to a DC market share domination.
Tom Brevoort: My Formspring question that became a front page article on Newsarama? Yes, I remember it well.
I think some people get the wrong message, or certain people do, from what I say on this, because to some degree, it's individual fan partisanship. DC fans hate it whenever I say something about DC, and it's all really viewed as being "picked upon."
I view it somewhat differently. And to some degree maybe I'm just fooling myself.
Nrama: Then let's just clear this up. Obviously, your goal is to make successful comics for Marvel. But does that mean you want to see DC fail?
Brevoort: No. Marvel is actually better off when DC is strong — strong sales-wise and creatively. So success for DC helps everybody, because it makes the infrastructure of our marketplace stronger, it brings more dollars into the market and more eyeballs into the stores. And I have absolutely no qualms or fears. I welcome the chance to battle it out with the competition on the racks.
On my perfect, lovely, beautiful world, a lot of people going to comic stores this week, or next week, or the week after, because they've heard about this big initiative and Justice League #1 or whatever, and they buy Justice League #1 and they buy X-Men — that's a big win for me. And I'm very happy about it.
And the reverse is true as well. If people go into stores because they're very excited about "Fear Itself" or "Schism," and they buy those comics but they also buy Justice League, that's a win for them.
I think that, particularly in a world where we have what amounts to a two-party system in the direct market, in terms of publishers who are selling an aggregate amount, you need at least those two to be strong. And ideally there would be a third that would also be strong, so that no one leg of that stand is having to support so much weight.
The thing that scares us the most at Marvel, honestly, is having too much of the market, having too much of the dollars, because that's just an untenable situation for growth and long-term health. We want retailers to be financially successful; consequentially, we want all the other companies to be successful. We want to be more successful than they are, and we work very hard at that every day.
Nrama: Are the biting comments, like what we saw this week by you and John Rood, just playful banter between two companies? Or is there a serious meaning behind those words?
Brevoort: They're my competition. I don't have any problem at all throwing an elbow or taking a jab at them every now and then, particularly when they do something that I think is reckless or ridiculous or stupid. But to a large degree, that's really all just hyperbole.
I don't have a problem in the world with the ridiculous jab/elbow throw that John Rood made in his statement a couple of days ago about their DC thing. They're the competition! They're not supposed to talk good about us and what we're doing. And vice versa.
But beyond that, I want them to do well and succeed, because I need the comic book industry to do well and succeed.
Nrama: You're a fan of DC characters anyway, aren't you?
Brevoort: Yeah, it's no secret I like all the DC characters. I grew up reading that stuff as well as the Marvel stuff. So you put out a good Superman book, a good Batman book, then I like it as much as anybody else. And I'm as frustrated as anybody if there are Superman and Batman books that I don't think are particularly good — not that I'm saying that right now. I'm just using that as an example.
But you know, you're in the industry and you're held to a slightly different standard. The words that you say take on a larger meaning. You can answer a question on Formspring, and it can be a front page story on Newsarama [laughs].
Nrama: So how would you sum up the DC/Marvel competition?
Brevoort: There's a genuine rivalry. We're competitors. But generally speaking, the actual individual people within the comic book industry are friendly with each other, as a general rule. Within that group, as with any group, there are individual people who don't care for other individual people, but the same is true anywhere. There are people at Marvel, believe it or not, that I don't love as much as other people. That's just the nature of any organization.
But generally speaking, we're all pretty friendly, especially in a world where, quite often, creators go back and forth from one company to the next, doing what they're doing and following the best or most lucrative or interesting offer they have at the point.
It's all kind of a bigger, larger community.
So yeah, I don't particularly want to live in a world where there is no DC Comics, no Image Comics or no Dark Horse Comics. I would like it if there were a couple more publishers, quite honestly, that were a little stronger, which is not to say that I want that strength to come out of Marvel. I want to add on top of what's already there.
Nrama: As long as Marvel's got the major part of the market share.
Brevoort: Sure, within that larger community, I want Marvel to continue to be No. 1. I wake up every day and come into work and push to maintain that.
But the fact that DC is doing a big media push and is relaunching all their stuff and is trying to drum up a lot of attention and get more people reading and following what they do, I think that's excellent. I think that's actually what they should be doing.
I support it there. I support to the level of, I'm not going to go out and sell copies of Justice League. Every time there's a copy of Justice League out, I'm going to be trying to sell a copy of Avengers instead. But anything that gets people into the stores gives me a chance to do that. And certainly gives retailers a chance to put a few more dollars in their cash register and order next month's comics.
And if they sold a lot of copies of Justice League, that gives them the money to order a lot of copies of Avengers in the next order cycle. So it's all good.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!