Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Marvel's new $1 flipbooks - a couple questions

This is from my response to a great thread started by James Sime over on the IsoLounge, about the new, cheap Marvel flip-books.

When I was getting into comics (around age 8-11), I didn't read any of the "old" stuff. I read what was new at the time; PAD's Incredible Hulk, McFarlane's and Larsen's Spidey stuff, Silvestri's Wolverine, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - these were my bread and butter.

If you'd handed me a Stan Lee comic, I don't know how I would have responded. Never happened, so I don't know. Could have been anything from "WOW, this is awesome!" to "Jeez, this is campy and stupid. I'm gonna go watch Tiny Toons."

Much as we may appreciate Jack Kirby's art style now, to a pre-teen, it's all about Rob Liefeld, y'know?

So I'm curious if anyone has actually witnessed or recorded how kids respond to comics that are 40+ years old.

Don't get me wrong - I think this is an awesome move on Marvel's part, and I want nothing more than for these kinds of efforts to succeed and grow - but I'm unsure of the chosen material. After all, if they try this, and it flops because the kids aren't excited by Reed Richards' imperative mission to beat the commies in the space race, that's money that Marvel's lost on a "Hey Kids! Comics!' initiative without seeing any return. Which, if I were running the place, would make me feel pretty shy about doing something similar again.

Follow-up question: Any idea why they chose the material they did? Would it have cost a lot more to use, say, Jim Lee's X-Men run?

To answer my own question: It seems likely that comics this cheap are to Marvel as newspapers are to their publishers. That is, the cover price is so low that every sale represents a loss to the publisher, because that price is actually lower than the cost of production. In newspapers, this is seen as a portal to increased revenue from ad sales - "Hey, Nike - we've got 500,000 people reading our newspaper. Wanna take out a $10,000 ad?" But in this case, if Marvel used a more contemporary, popular comic, a huge portion of the sales would likely be existing readers, picking up a little piece of their youth on the cheap. So Marvel would not only be taking a loss (from all those sales to fanboys) without reaching their intended audience (the kiddies), they'd also be cannibalizing their own sales of things like the Spider-man Visionaries: Todd McFarlane trade sales - because if you could get two of those issues for a buck, why shell out a Jackson for nine issues?

Tough situation. At least they're not responding with inaction. Nice to see a little chutzpah in the face of a challenge.

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