There’s an absolutely fascinating interview with Marvel’s SVP of Sales David Gabriel up at CBR, in which he talks about Marvel’s year ahead, the value of the digital audience, and the size of Marvel’s PR plan for Avengers vs. X-Men:
This isn’t just one of the biggest — it is the biggest promotional plan and marketing investment we’ve ever made in our comics, which is something we can do because “Avengers Vs. X-Men” is just that big — and good — of a story. We’re very much focusing on bringing lapsed readers back to comics and also appealing to those out there who love Marvel but maybe haven’t found that perfect entry point into comics. We can show them “Avengers Vs. X-Men” and say “these are your favorite super heroes, in the biggest story we’ve ever told and you can start reading comics right now.” You’ve seen our advertising in places we’ve never been in before; our PR efforts have taken us to places like Game Informer, ABC, EW and more that get us a very wide demographic of fans; we went to SXSW with huge publishing announcements activated by “AvX”; we’re creating a documentary series with MTV; and there’s even more we haven’t announced.
This is about taking our biggest story ever and bringing in more new fans than ever before to read comics. When our readership grows the entire industry wins.
Gabriel confirms rumors that the initial print run for AvX #1 is above a quarter of a million, which is stunning (Sadly, he doesn’t comment on the comic stores that are giving the comic away for free), and explains why this is the year to get (back) into Marvel Comics:
I see Marvel having the most exciting editorial content since “Avengers Disassembled” and “Astonishing X-Men” debuted so many years ago. I predict the rebirth as a result of the Phoenix story this summer in the pages of “Avengers Vs. X-Men” to have some of the strongest reverberations across the Marvel Universe that will continue to drive new and current fans into the Marvel Universe! Game changers for 2012: A Wedding, A First Meeting and Rebirth. It’s time for a ReEvolution of comics as we know it, and we’re hoping every fan reading this joins us for the biggest year in our history.
…However. He also says this, when asked about the scale of Marvel’s output:
If you count the number of books solicited by Marvel in February throughout all our lines and compare this with the number of books solicited by DC through their lines, you’ll find we actually solicited the same number of books. Despite comments to the contrary by various folks online, there isn’t a huge disparity in the numbers of comics Marvel and DC put out each month.
Here’s the great thing about that. We can check. Look! Here’re DC’s February solicitations, in which 82 single issues are solicited. And here’s Marvel’s February solicitations, in which 85 single issues are solicited. That’s pretty damn near, right?
But, wait: market share and unit share isn’t just calculated using single issues, right? And Gabriel did say “the number of books,” not just “the number of single issues,” as well as “all our lines,” so let’s look at the number of collected editions solicited for February, shall we…? That gets particularly weird because DC advance solicits their collected editions, so let’s go back to the January solicits for those: I make that 18 books. What about Marvel? A genuinely stunning 73. Yes, not all of those books might have been aimed at a February release – there are certainly some that haven’t come out yet – but, lacking any release dates being mentioned a la DC’s list, I can’t be sure. Let’s be really, really generous though, and say that a full half of that number is actually meant for release past February – That still means that Marvel was soliciting 37.5 collected editions for February, which is still twice as many as DC. Suddenly claiming that there isn’t a huge disparity in Marvel and DC’s output looks a little less… realistic.
It’s a really good swerve, because it turns the entire question of output comparison into Schrodinger’s Cat. If you want to parse “number of books” as single issues only, Gabriel is right on the money, but if you parse it as “entire output,” then he’s being more than a little disingenuous. Everyone wins!
Let’s focus, instead, on this line from the same response:
We have never managed our business to “win” market share. Our goal is to create quality stories that draw in old and new fans to their comic stores week after week.
So now we have Marvel’s SVP of Sales saying that Marvel doesn’t have a business model based on winning market share, just the same as DC’s Bob Wayne and John Rood have been saying for a few months now. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone else – myself included – can manage to get to that point as well sometime soon. After all, math is hard.