A few people have emailed us with the link to the WWD article on Marvel’s licensing deals for female apparel and cosmetics. Current items include contemporary fashion tops from Mighty Fine, junior fashion tops from Junk Food, mass fashion tops with Fortune Fashions, and jewelry with H.E.R. Accessories. Later in the year, new products include handbags from Bioworld, stationery with iScream, color cosmetics with Lotta Luv, and watches and fashion jewelry with MZ Berger. The piece contains much of demographic interest:

“Since our core customer has always been guys, we need to be very careful when we introduce female product so that we don’t alienate our core,” said Paul Gitter, president of consumer products, North America, for Marvel Entertainment Inc. “What we have found through testing is that we haven’t alienated them, which gives us the OK to move forward with female product.”

Since 2007, the $5.7 billion consumer products division at Marvel has been testing select items for females, such as graphic character T-shirts at Hot Topic and Gap, and jewelry at Claire’s, among other items at select mass and mid-tier retailers. What executives at the firm found while testing was that when it comes to females, relevance to trends is key. Simply relying on the character alone to sell themselves doesn’t fly.

[Thanks to Jeff and Steve for sending the article.]


  1. I think it’s sort of interesting that there was a concern about alienating the “core” audience by offering products that weren’t specifically for them, but were specifically for the female demographic. I don’t really know why jewelry or shirts for women would alienate the male audience, but it’s also interesting that it sounds like they wouldn’t have moved forward with it if they’d gotten that kind of feedback. That they might have left that potential untapped.

    I honestly can’t imagine anyone not reading Marvel comics or buying Marvel products anymore because (presumably they’d think), ew, icky girls may get to wear them as jewelry or bags. But I’m not in product development or marketing.

    I do get the “relevance” aspect, though. Just any old necklace probably wouldn’t sell that well because as an accessory, I think most women like to wear things they feel express who they are and whatever “style” they have. Same thing with shirts or bags. How it’s designed will matter.

  2. Wow, who came up with this licensing deal. Congratulations, what a fantastic sales job. I say, take the money and run. This stuff will not sell at ALL. I saw some of the other apparel items and these are horribly designed. It just comes across as cheesy and cheap. I think it reenforces the idea that comics are aimed at illiterates and people with no sophistication.

  3. Clearly the Spider-Man/Green Goblin pendant is for all Spidey/Green Goblin slashers out there. It’s nice of Marvel to think of the shippers!

  4. Blackeye,

    Having just seen the pendants, I can’t comment on the other stuff, I would say they’re definitely not my thing…but most companies like Marvel don’t spend money to either make or market products they haven’t done substantial research and focus group testing on that indicates that it will sell to their market. A lot of it will depend on pricing and where this stuff is sold. I have no idea if it will actually sell, you can focus test forever but you can’t guarantee success.

    I’m not sure it reinforces the idea of either illiteracy or that comics are unsophisticated, either. It might say something about the pop culture idea of superheroes and branding, though. Comics imagery has been on t-shirts and other merchandise for a long time. This isn’t new. It just hasn’t been geared so specifically to women in quite this way…though I’ve seen WW t-shirts and Batgirl ones before.

    And if the core audience they believe the main properties are for is male, then aiming at a female demographic for these products has little to no reflection on the readership at all. They don’t think they’re reading the comics anyway. They’re banking on them knowing them from the films or just the general pop culture awareness.

  5. Lynxara,

    That’s fair. I honestly have no idea. Those pendants certainly don’t appeal to me at all…although I may not be the audience as I’m not a teenager.

    All I meant is that they clearly did research and focus groups and whatever to come to whatever decision on products they did. They didn’t just throw some stuff out wily nily (I’m assuming). It definitely doesn’t mean that they’ll be right, or that the market outside whatever focus groups will actually want any of it. I mean, most of the Sandman stuff did only okay in Hot Topic, for instance, when one could reasonably assume that market would be into it. I’d say the quality had a lot to do with it.

  6. A lot of the Marvel womens’ t-shirts have things on them like, “My boyfriend is a superhero” or similar.

    They completely focus on the idea that the girl/woman can’t be a superhero, but she can admire or be in love with one.

    There are precious few shirts I’ve seen which feature any of the heroines, of which there are so many it boggles the mind they’d be overlooked.

    I do like those necklaces, though.

  7. When dealing with licensed properties, why is market research necessary? Why would Marvel be spending money on that, it doesn’t make sense. They aren’t the manufacturer are they? The manufacturers are the ones approaching the license holder and suggesting that they sell product based on the license holders images. The manufacturers are the ones taking the risk not the license holders. Why would the license holders object to up front fees plus a royalty payment, they have nothing to lose, plus there is no research involved. In this case, Marvel gets paid regardless of whether their junky product sells or not. It’s win/win for Marvel.

  8. The “My Love” pendants will probably sell better than the Spidey ones, at least, if only because of some latent Lichtenstein in the collective unconscious.

  9. I saw some pictures of the Marvel Romance merchandise a couple of days ago when a gift market rep brought them by to show me. They were sandwiched between normal marvel stuff like Punisher bookmarks, and X-Men journals. “What the heck is this?”, I asked. The rep had no idea either, but told me that NO ONE was buying them.

    Marvel and Romance, yeah, those are two things that go together. How many people out there know of, yet alone OWN a Marvel Romance comic? The last ones came out around 1970, and they are so obscure that I’m lucky to see one every five years or so. It took me 10 years to find a copy of “Our Love Story” #5 (My Heart Broke in Hollywood.) to round out my complete collection of Jim Steranko comics. These Marvel Romance titles are an incredibly obscure footnote to their publishing legacy, even for insiders.

    Marvel has concentrated on the adult male market, and they’ve done a good job capturing it. They can’t lay claim to the female romance market without doing a thing to win it over the last 30 years.

    Yes, I know it’s just a licensing deal. A really boneheaded one for the folks that bought into it.

  10. Lee Hester. You asked how many people know of or OWN a Marvel Romance comic. I know about them, and I bought the Marvel Romance TPB that came out a few years back. Totally digging the art style, and was amazed at how many big names had worked on these stories. They were light and fluffy, but that was just what I was looking for.

    If anyone is interested, you can buy the trade on Amazon

  11. I would love to see a t-shirt version of the Marvel superhero stickers of the 70s… iconic pose with humorous wordballoon. The Marvel Romance images, while not popular per se, are iconic, representing the typical romance comic style with which the public is familiar. If maketted as images on a tee, with a good design, yeah, it could work.
    Marvel’s bigger problem? They do not have a Wonder Woman, Supergirl, or Catwoman. There are no Marvel female superheroes (except Elektra?) that the general public recognizes. Yes, Medusa or Madame Hydra would look cool and sexy and empowered on a shirt, (a superhero who uses her hairdo to fight evil? wow…) but how many people would recognize them?
    Graphically, I prefer the Romita Sr./Buscema style of the late60s. Clean style, easy to reproduce, iconic, and retro. Early 1970s style is okay, too.

  12. There’s also a pendant for the direct market: A “One More Day” broken heart with Spidey on one side and an open space on the other where longtime fans can put their own picture.

  13. or,

    there’s one with MJ on one side and the other never existed.


    there’s one with Peter on one side and an Aunt May medical alert transmitter for the other.

  14. “When dealing with licensed properties, why is market research necessary? Why would Marvel be spending money on that, it doesn’t make sense.”

    It’s possible, though not a given, that Marvel may have expended money or effort in some general measure of research that would be used to convince a licensee to do a deal (“Marvel Characters are recognized by X% of U.S. citizens of such-and-such age.” etc.) But, yes, certainly the licensee should have the expertise to determine how licensed products in its own category would fare in its own market.

    “In this case, Marvel gets paid regardless of whether their junky product sells or not. It’s win/win for Marvel.”

    Very true. But it’s worth noting that some licensors undertake these sorts of licensing deals not just as an opportunity for other revenue, but also as a way to extend one’s brand into other markets, other categories, other audiences. That’s a somewhat less quantifiable goal, and it rarely tumps the financial realities of profits and loss, but it would be cynical to think there’s no measure of hopes for market expansion happening in these Marvel deals.

    Question: the article says Marvel has tested apparel and jewelry at the Gap and Hot Topic for a few years. Anyone seen any of those?

  15. Wow. Marvel. Just make the stuff you make for guys in girl sizes. That’s it. That’s all we want. Not Spidey and Green on hearts together. This stuff is ridiculous. I’m sick of all my dude friends having all this cool apparel but I can only wear it if I’m down for XXL tee-shirt dress time. And WHY would making girl products offend dudes?! That’s insane. I forgot girls have so many freaking cooties and destroy everything they touch with their want for purses and babies. And WHY is there some gross chibi japanese wannabe version of them on a nonsense rockband shirt!? Does that make sense to anyone!? Because I’m pretty sure I like the super hero dudes I like just for being super heroes dudes I like, and they don’t need to be weird babies in a rockband for me to think it’s ok to wear them. That shirt might have even worked without the ridiculous ‘I heart boys’ thing. I like super heroes for being super heroes, not because I wanna get on them, or because I can only like something via how much I have a crush on it. Marvel, seriously, stop using 55+ year old white men to make the marketing decisions on what young girls want. They don’t know and they never will.

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