Marvel’s Senior VP of Sales David Gabriel doesn’t do that many in-depth interviews, so a four-part mega-chat currently running in the retailers-only Diamond Daily is definitely worth reading. Diamond graciously made the text available to The Beat and there’s much of interest, which we’ll do our best to summarize.

In response to Gabriel’s recent announcement at the Diamond Retailer Summit that Marvel would be doing smaller events, lasting only a few months as opposed to yearlong mega-events, Gabriel says it was a widespread feeling. “Everybody is in absolute agreement that the longer these stories play out, the less likely people are to be interested in them,” but denies this means “event fatigue”:

I really think there is no event fatigue. 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.

Later in the interview, Gabriel explains that more self-contained events will be easier for retailers and readers alike to find, and also easier for Marvel to market.

Some more excerpts:

On “The Heroic Age,” a new initiative debuting in 2010 which will be a “new way of branding at the Marvel characters.”

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.

On One Shots that draw people into ongoing series which are harder to jump into:

But when you do a one-shot, we’ve found people are more apt to try something like that. We’ve rolled those out very successfully with a lot of the X-Men books. Messiah CompleX had one, and Utopia had one recently. [A special] just makes a better starting point for a big series like that, when the event playing out doesn’t have its own dedicated limited series.

On other ways to get new readers into ongoing continuity, specifically the new event “Siege”:

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.

On Marvel Women, a year long program launching in March which will feature, among other things, one-shots for female characters who don’t have their own books, new Young Guns and Write Stuff talent promotions featuring female artists and writers, respectively, and a series of variant covers by Jelena Djurdjevic, wife of Marvel mainstay Marko.

[L]ater on in the year, we’re going to do an omnibus with full runs from things like Night Nurse, Hellcat, and some other things you really wouldn’t collect anywhere else. Because this 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. 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.

Marvel will also launch a new all-ages title aimed specifically at young girl readers.

On the Deadpool Corps, a March fifth week events introducing Lady Deadpool, Kid Deadpool, Headpool and Dogpool:

I think nearly every single issue of Deadpool since we relaunched it last year has sold out. 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.

On DoomWar, a new event featuring both Black Panthers, Deadpool, several X-Men, and the Fantastic Four:

That is going to be a six-issue limited series. Think an event rolled out similarly to Captain America: Reborn. It’s going to be that kind of series. It won’t be a huge crossover. It won’t have a Siege-like prologue and epilogue. It will be self-contained within the six issues.

One thing summit retailers were concerned about was Marvel’s tendency to ship all the books based on a character in a single week – sometimes four or more books. Gabriel acknowledged that this happened, but logistics make any solution other than trying harder problematic:

So the first response might be, “Well, just push [a book] to the next month.” But then, instead of just having four Avengers titles come out in a week, for instance, you might end up with nine. There’s a point where you can’t keep pushing things off into other months. 
It’d leave a lot of retailers with no books certain weeks. So we really do our best to make sure things like that don’t happen. I think if you look at the September shipping schedule, as a recent example, you’ll see we didn’t have the issues we had in June.

On collections in 2010:

There are a couple of things I know of right now. I know we’ve been toying with some smaller-sized hardcovers, what we’ve been calling graphic novel-sized hardcovers. (That’s just what we call them in the office.)
We’re also going to be putting out hardcover comic collections with motion comics, so there you’ll see a motion comics DVD packaged with the hardcover.   
That’s something we’re looking to do mid-year 2010. 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. 

On collection release schedules — Premiere hardcovers are typically released followed by a paperback three or four months later. However that schedule will change. 

There’s a gap there because the idea is we want to sell out of the Premiere hardcovers first, making those the collectibles for readers that have to get a story right away and can’t wait on. Then those that wanted to wait could get the collection in paperback a few months later. 
Now, however, they’re going to have to wait a little longer, as we’re going to push back the release of trade paperbacks out to about four to five months after the Premiere hardcovers’ releases. That should really give retailers that are selling those Premiere hardcovers an extra couple of months to sell them. 


  1. Yeah, the hardcovers-versus-TPBs publishing schedule is insanely stupid.

    You know who’s willing to wait longer to buy a collected edition of a comic book? The type of fans who are also willing to pay out the nose for a super-deluxe edition of the book.

    You know who’s going to get super-impatient about having a collected edition of the book? The type of new readers who want to catch up on the series by buying TPBs of back issues.

    Hell, if you wanted, if you could get away with publishing them both at the same time, because the hardcovers and the TPBs are basically being bought by TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT AUDIENCES.

  2. I’m with K-Box. There are so many times I’m going through the monthly Marvels Previews, see a collection of something I didn’t buy in singles, and think “Oh, I meant to get that, I should get the trade.” Then I see it’s a hardcover and I don’t get it. And by the time the trade comes out, I’ve lost interest.

  3. Oh, that new policy on the collections is just swell. I am one of those who waits for the paperback because the premiere hardcovers are too expensive and not oversized. So now I have to wait longer? Joy.

    I swear to God, with the insane price increase and now this, Marvel is making it harder and harder to read their books. The policy should be: Paperbacks first, and quickly, followed by oversized hardcovers for the stories contained in two trades within 6 months. Why is this so hard?

    And, I’m sorry, but why is Marvel more concerned about the retailers than they are their readers?

  4. The comic shop I go to no longer orders the Marvel hardcovers (unless they’re for special orders). They do order most of the trade paperback versions though.

    I think Marvel is fooling themselves that there is all that much demand for their “Premiere” hardcovers.

  5. And, I’m sorry, but why is Marvel more concerned about the retailers than they are their readers?

    Because the retailers are their true customers under the direct-market system we’re stuck with?

    I’m with you on the collection scheduling, though. Isn’t that what they used to do? Have those oversized editions disappeared?

  6. “why is Marvel more concerned about the retailers than they are their readers?”

    Because the retailers are their customers.

    And from Marvel’s point of view, maximising revenue is more important than maximising the readership – at least in the current climate. Evidently they’d rather have a smaller readership buying more expensive products. That’s suicide in the long term, but possibly defensible as a short time strategy in a recession.

  7. Actually Matt – if Marvel were going the New York Times Best Seller route – it would be hardcover first and paperback somewhere else along the line.

    When Stephen King writes and publishes a novel – it’s in hardcover first and people are willing to shell out the thirty or so bucks to read it a year or so before the ten dollar paperback comes out.



  8. When Stephen King writes and publishes a novel in hardcover, that’s the first edition, and the only copy available until the cheaper softcover becomes available. In comics, the serialized pamphlets are the first edition. They’re also generally collectively more expensive than the trade paperback volume.

    The more comparable analog is the original graphic novel, many of which *are* being released as hard covers in their first edition.

  9. … so to conclude: in order to follow the typical book route, Marvel would have to stop serializing all together, release the first edition in hardcover, then the softcover. I don’t think that would go over well.

  10. So… why should I buy a hardcover when there’s a cheaper edition available?

    Why does every MAINSTREAM publisher (you know… the ones who sell books that the general public buys) issue their best titles in hardcover, and then a trade edition six months to a year later? Because there are fans who will want to read that book, and are either going to purchase the book in hardcover, usually at a discount, or go to the local library, which will purchase the book because their patrons want to read it.

    Marvel is more concerned with comics retailers because they are Marvel’s customers, not the readers. The retailer orders the books on a non-returnable basis, and Marvel ships the books one way. If those books get sold for full price, or end up in a 50% bin at a convention, Marvel doesn’t care.

    The store cares about the reader, and if the reader doesn’t buy the book, then the store won’t order the book, and Marvel will reconsider their policy.

    Libraries, the other “direct market”, love hardcovers, which are more durable than trade paperbacks. (Some libraries automatically send trades to a bindery to get a hardcover, and at least one company sells rebound trades directly to libraries.)

    Marvel knows what sells. They know which series will support a hardcover, and which will support a trade edition. (Although I am mystified over Ms. Marvel…) The problem with issuing a hardcover edition afterwards is two-fold… some people have bought the cheaper edition, cannabalising sales of the hardcover; some people bought the trade not knowing there was a hardcover edition, and end up buying the book twice, creating resentment.

    Hmmm… remember that “double volume” hardcover edition of Ultimate Spider-Man, which contained the first two trade volumes? The hardcover cost $29.99 when it was released in March 2002. The current trade paperback edition costs $24.99. She-Hulk: Jaded was issued in HC at $19.99, TP at $14.99. The first Dark Tower GN has a difference of $7 between editions. (For comparison, the Da Vinci Code is $24.95/14.95/9.95 for HC/TP/Mass Market editions.)

    So… comic book readers are actually complaining that a hardcover edition, which is usually less than $10 more than the trade edition, is too expensive? Well, they complain when a comicbook costs a dollar more, so I should not be surprised.

    Myself, I don’t wait for the trade, I wait for the deluxe edition, the Absolute Deluxe Omnibus Library edition of a title. I’ve got so much stuff to read, I can wait a few years to get the slipcased edition. Of course, I can always visit the public library and read it for free.

  11. I think they are two audiences (hardcover & PPB), and neither likes the compromise of the “Premiere” format, which isn’t as nice as the larger HCs that Marvel publishes or as inexpensive as the trades. As a dedicated HC buyer, I’d rather have all the HCs be high-end. Keep in mind the trad book industry has been doing this type of scheduling for years, albeit w/out the pamphlet. No doubt the Barnes & Borders factors are part of Marvel’s equation.

  12. It’s extremely challenging balancing types of product, pricing, scheduling, etc. for mass market vs. direct market, and of course keeping the end consumer in mind as top priority.

    David Gabriel is an very competent publishing executive, and I’m sure his decision making is based on detailed sales analytics and historical data, with a healthy dose of gut instinct thrown in.

    As for “mini-events,” hey, looking forward to Copper Age type stuff; the nine part X-Tinction Agenda (three titles, three months), Kraven’s Last Hunt (three titles, two books), etc.

    VF / NM

  13. “So the first response might be, “Well, just push [a book] to the next month.” But then, instead of just having four Avengers titles come out in a week, for instance, you might end up with nine.”

    As with most things David Gabriel says, this makes no sense whatever.

  14. I’d be cynical about “Siege” simply because it’s an event, but that event reportedly caused JMS to leave THOR, and I suspect there’s no underlying motivation for the siege of Asgard more substantial than the Loki-Hood alliance. Having the Hood go from being an “empowered” puppet of one entity (Dormammu, as retconned by Bendis) to another doesn’t strike me as inspired writing. What does the Hood do when he runs out of artificial power sources and masters? Die?


  15. I am aware that retailers are Marvel’s customers. My point is that they should be listening more to their readers and less to the retailers. Retailers have all kinds of reasons for why they want things to be a certain way, whereas readers want things a certain way only because they have a preferred way to receive the product. We have no agenda beond that.

    Frankly, this policy is really nothing more than a way to get more people to buy the hardcovers, even if they don’t want them, because they want to read the story in collected format within a reasonable amount of time.

  16. This, too, makes no sense.

    “There’s a point where you can’t keep pushing things off into other months.
    It’d leave a lot of retailers with no books certain weeks.”

  17. Paul O’Brien says:

    “And from Marvel’s point of view, maximising revenue is more important than maximising the readership…”

    That’s what it is looking like. Better 50,000 readers than 100,000.

  18. The hardcover first policy actually works for many people. Especially for those who want their friends and acquaintances to think they read “books’, instead of “comic books”.

  19. Why does every MAINSTREAM publisher (you know… the ones who sell books that the general public buys) issue their best titles in hardcover, and then a trade edition six months to a year later?


    I’m confused. Manga publishers don’t do that!

  20. Good question.
    (Although there are few mainstream publishers printing manga, aside from Random House/DelRey.)

    I think it’s due to quite a few factors.
    1) The fans expect a price point in the vicinity of $9.99, which means a trade paperback.
    2) The manga category is still in its infancy. Just as it took a few decades before there were hardcover editions of science fiction and American graphic novels appearing on a regular basis, so there aren’t many manga titles in hardcover currently.
    (Vertical and Drawn and Quarterly use the binding to differentiate the “serious” content from “popular” manga. Viz and Tokyopop are printing omnibus collections with laminated hardcovers of their more popular titles.)

    I think it would be interesting to see Viz issue the next Naruto in a library binding, with just a laminated hardcover, for $12.99. Perhaps never publish a paperback edition, instead offering a digital ebook six months later.

    I forgot one other quality of hardcover editions: gift giving. A hardcover with a dust jacket is more opulent than a trade paperback. Example: The Marvel Encyclopedia. This title sells consistently (priced at $40), and DK has not only updated the volume this year, but offer a special, limited edition as well!

  21. I still don’t get the Deadpool love. I mean, sure, it’s great that so many enjoy it, but when I read it, it’s just idiocy and weirdness that’s not good. And the writing and art are mediocre.

    Yet some really good stuff gets passed over. Maybe all the Wolverine fans are now Deadpool fans?

  22. Regarding Deadpool, it is a pretty safe bet on the consumer level now that he is the second most popular X-character behind Wolverine. I don’t believe there’s another X-character in current continuity who could sustain more than a few issues besides him. I think it is because Deadpool is different from what is in the standard X-fare. Sales on Deadpool are also very solid across the board. Not a top ten blockbuster, but not everything has to be 100k+ to be successful.

  23. And from Marvel’s point of view, maximising revenue is more important than maximising the readership – at least in the current climate. Evidently they’d rather have a smaller readership buying more expensive products. That’s suicide in the long term, but possibly defensible as a short time strategy in a recession.

    Except that, no, it’s really not, because anybody who knows anything about business knows that a recession is actually when you need to be concentrating on bringing in MORE customers – not only simply to BREAK EVEN, since you WILL be losing lots of long-time customers during a recession, but also as an OPPORTUNITY, to create NEW long-term customers who will have a GREATER loyalty to your brand.

    Only in an industry as stagnant and completely wrong-headed as comics could Marvel even SURVIVE, much less SUCCEED, with such terrible thinking.

  24. All this is moot now that disney owns and is essentially subsidizing Marvel. marvel doesn’t have to sell a single book to a single retailer and they’ll be in business for as long as Disney is. Trust me Disney is not depending on Marvel comic’s sale revenue becuae the money generated by a 200,000 copy selling book is pennies to them.
    I guess Marvel found their “Warner sugar daddy” . Lets hope the book’s quality do not suffer like they did at DC.