Movie Marketing: One More Time

As if to emphasize my recent posts, Mike Marts, editor of Marvel's X-Men comics, spoke to Publishers Weekly about the company's movie tie-ins.

One thing that gets hammered home throughout the piece (either by Marts or by how he's quoted) is that Marvel tries to keep their monthly comics accessible to new readers -- which is both tough to believe and tough to believe is worthwhile when the latest issue of New X-Men features Reverend William Striker utilizing Nimrod to attack the school. Even I'm confused (especially since we're dealing with two villains whose heyday was roughly 20 years ago). How often does someone pick up one of Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries, flip to the middle of the book and start reading without getting lost? Sure it may be possible to figure out what's going on, but is it necessarily worth it? The idea shouldn't be to make monthly comics more accessible, it should be to create obvious jumping on points every so often in the form of trade paperbacks through which readers can catch up with the monthly series (hey kinda like how DVD box sets are released just before the new season starts on TV). Then, publicize the fact that these are a great place to jump into the comics, with particular focus on the bookstore market.

The best line in the story, though, provides some insight into Marvel's general approach to using comics and films to cross promote one another:

But how would potential new readers know enough to start out with Ultimate X-Men rather than with Uncanny X-Men, which still builds upon the continuity
that began in 1963? Here, Marts says, Marvel relies on its "relationship with the retailers. They know enough to suggest the Ultimate books as the entry-level, ground-level books."

Therefore, it's up to retailers to understand how to point someone who enjoed the movie towards these books. No, I'm pretty sure that Marts is talking specifically about direct market retailers here, and, as one of them, I do tend to direct people interested in jumping into Marvel towards the Ultimate imprint. Then again, the majority of potential new readers aren't necessarily walking into MacGuffin after watching the movie. But, as Marts himself points out (and as I did a few days ago), the first volume of Astonishing X-Men and "The Dark Phoenix Saga" are the most likely candidates for crossover appeal since they are the storylines cribbed for the movie. The question becomes, why didn't Marvel make a big push to get specifically these two books in front of as many eyes as possible? It's not like DC's consignment sale is a secret, so a program like that for the Direct Market should just as well for Marvel. And certainly some sort of program or advertisement could have been worked out with the chain bookstores to get as much face time for these two books as possible. Instead, Marvel will almost certainly miss out on some potential sales of both books.


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