Stare at this picture a long time, my children. It represents the strangest crossover yet, the team–up you ever DREAMED you’d see: Marvel and Guiding Light, a day time soap.

Now you may be like The Beat, and somewhat blissfully unaware that they even HAD daily soap operas any more; we thought Fox News, Jerry and Oprah supplied all the drama and hysterics daytime viewers need. Evidently not.

The New York Times has a report:

“Guiding Lightâ€? and Marvel Comics have teamed up for an episode of this long-running series, to be shown at 10 a.m. tomorrow on CBS. In the episode, “She’s a Marvel,â€? Beth Ehlers, as Harley Davidson Cooper, one of the show’s main characters, has an accident that gives her superpowers. To commemorate the occasion, Marvel has produced an eight-page comic.

Ellen Wheeler, the executive producer of “Guiding Light,â€? said the idea for a collaboration came from another Marvel comic book milestone: the July wedding of the Black Panther and Storm, an X-Men character, whose dress was conceived by Shawn Dudley, the costume designer for “Guiding Light.â€? After that, it was simple: “Let’s call them to see if there’s anything to talk about,â€? Ms. Wheeler said.

The producers deny any cross marketing appeal, and say it was all for “fun.”

“We didn’t think of it as a way to get a bunch of Marvel fans to watch the show,â€? Ms. Wheeler said. The super-power aspect of the story was also not a big stretch for the show. Mr. Kreizman and Ms. Wheeler said past plot developments had included a character’s being cloned and a painting that transported Springfield residents back in time.

The blogosphere has also been dubious on the cross-promotional potential for the stunt: Johanna, and this LJ

Did no one at Guiding Light take aside the studio exec from Proctor and Gamble and try to explain to them just what Marvel would have to do to ever make soap fans who don’t already like and follow comics, spend money on them? Or did someone try but they just weren’t heeded? Because it’s not difficult to think that someone said ‘Oh, those women will buy anything that promises them some romance, as long as we stick in characters they already like….’

Marvel, however, is more hopeful about the venture as this article in BRANDWEEK shows:

“We were really attracted to this as a way to get access to a new audience,â€? said David Gabriel, Marvel Publishing’s vp-sales and marketing. “The soaps’ audience is all women and ours is all men.â€?…Although the collaboration between the two genres has gotten a lot of press, Gabriel said that he’s being realistic about what it might accomplish “The best case for us is a woman who’s a typical soap watcher goes into a store and buys a book,â€? he said. “Even if she doesn’t like it maybe she’ll give it to her kids or her husband.â€?

Adult women are seemingly the last frontier for the comics renaissance…or are they? We know that in Japan josei manga is for the ladies…but who cares about Japan, really, their market is completely different from ours.

The idea that grown women won’t read comics seems to us to be fairly spurious. (Note that we said grown women as a group, NOT the average grown woman.) The ladies like their escapist entertainment, just like everyone else. The average Video Gamer is 41 and Half Are Female. A well-written BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or DOCTOR WHO comic would surely appeal to the women who watch these kind of shows; women like vampires, and comics folks are trying that kind of thing, too. FUN HOME, CANCER VIXEN and the works of Marjane Satrapi have definitely made some inroads on this group as well.

The problem isn’t so much getting women to enjoy genre fiction as getting them into some place where they might sample the comics. If adult women aren’t exactly the frontier then marketing to them is, at least for most comics retailers. But that is a whole ‘nother tome that we’ll save for another day.

The Guiding Light stunt is just that, and we sincerely doubt that it’s going to get too many crossover viewers/readers. (It may cross over to people like Jim McCann, Marvel’s marketing guy and a soap fan who once wrote for the show.) But if nothing else, it’s gotten Marvel a lot of press, and got people thinking. From that standpoint, it’s already a success.


  1. Soaps have done things like this before. Many soap operas are known for having “fantasy moments” where they stick their characters in a completely different setting with new stories. They’ve had characters travel back in time to the Old West and visit futuristic underground cities. This is the first time I’ve heard of a superhero story though.

    I think it’s a great way to reach a new audience. Unfortunately, companies need to have something to sell to that audience once they have their attention or else this was pretty much a waste of time. What does Marvel have right now to offer the stay-at-home mother who wants to forget about the pile of laundry and her screaming kid, or the homesick college student who wants something comforting and familiar, or the tired working woman who wants to zone out with a romantic fantasy before the night shift starts? How about the female viewer who wants a damn good romantic story and a heroine to root for? Marvel has some amazing books, but for the most part, those amazing books feature power fantasies for men and boys. And the books that don’t are for a much younger audience than the one watching soap operas. Does Marvel even have a romance comic geared towards grown women? Why not? What about an action comic that stars a woman and features a heavy dose of romance? If I worked at Marvel, I would have had something lined up to sell to these women. Maybe a Dakota North series or something with Friday Foster. Hell, even Daughters of the Dragon or She-Hulk could have been slightly retooled to fit.

    But something tells me the women who watch soap operas will be reading manga romances and books like 12 Reasons Why I Love Her long before women interested in soaps will ever really be courted by Marvel and DC (not counting CMX/Vertigo/Milestone). Manga and independent comic companies already have the daughters and little sisters hooked, and they don’t have to change their product all that much to snag the mothers and older sisters too. Nor do they even have to change the place where they’ve set up shop. After all, women are in the manga/graphic novel section all the time. Someone has to go in and drag those kids/teens out of Borders.

    Still, I think it was a good idea that will get the women watching soaps to think about superheroes. And once they do a little research, they’ll see that Marvel has some fabulous superhero books that are geared towards their husbands, boyfriends, younger siblings and kids. And while they’re buying comics for all those other people, maybe they’ll drift a step or two over and buy some indie/manga books for themselves.

    Sorry for writing a book here. I’m a crossover geek and this interests me.

    PS: Many of the old cast members from b and c-level nerdbait shows like Mutant X often go on to star as heartthrobs in soaps. Those actors can be wonderful marketing tools if used correctly. Someone should look into that.

  2. this is so funny. I think it’s great.
    it would be way, way better, though, if a superhero made a cameo.

    What if one of the characters had a dinner with Sue Richards, who for some reason decided to turn Invisible.

    Funny, funny stuff.

  3. Wouldn’t alternative comics from Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Onipress, etc have a better chance of “making” it into mainstream culture – more so than superhero comics? Real people in tights just look plain ridiculous.

  4. This has been an eye opener for me. I now feel I’ve been hiding in my cave all these years so far removed from pop culture. I just stumbled inot this new world. I’ll be stumbling for a lonf time.