Marvel gets accessible with their "Point 1" initiative

wolvy 1.5 Marvel gets accessible with their "Point 1" initiative

Marvel held a press conference today with Senior Vice-President of Sales & Circulation David Gabriel, and VP-Executive Editors Axel Alonso and Tom Brevoort to talk about their newly announced “Point 1″ initiative. Starting in February, 11 titles will have special “.1″ issues that will serve as jumping on points for new readers. (See the end of the story for the complete list.)

CAP 615 1 Marvel gets accessible with their "Point 1" initiative
These issues will all feature standalone stories that will still lay the groundwork for the next year’s plotlines. The initiative is definitely aimed at getting new readers on board, with a $2.99 cover price -– but subsequent issues, which will all ship the same month, will go back to the $3.99 price point.

Gabriel stressed that this is a move aimed at readers and getting comics retailers on board, with a focus on driving readers into stores. To that end, there are no plans for digital day-and-date releases, although “if we see that selling them digitally will drive people into the stores, then yes. We haven’t set that in stone but we haven’t set anything for day and date right now.”

Gabriel acknowledges that the move, which is a joint editorial and marketing effort, was part of the recent conversation about pricing, page counts, and “too many comics. One of the things I had been thinking of is bringing readers into store and getting new readers into comics. Unless you’re giving them a story that they can jump into, if they haven’t been reading it or have never read it, all that other stuff isn’t going to do any good.” He noted that the $2.99 price point was a key to making the initiative work.

 Marvel gets accessible with their "Point 1" initiative
Editorial is working hard to create storylines that are strong enough to get new readers enticed. For instance, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #654.1 will feature the first appearance of a new Venom, who will become an important character in the ongoing Spider-Man book. Dan Slott and Paul Azaceta are the creative team. INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500.1 will be by the award winning team of Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca.

Brevoort compared the move to previous success stories like the 99-cent Fantastic Four issue from a few years ago, which retailers successfully sold for month afterward, and FCBD books. “All of them tell a complete story by our best guys in a solid 22 pages and hopefully springboard the readers into the stuff that comes next. This is actually not a new thing, it’s a concentrated focus group giving people who have wandered away a perfect place to check back in with a favorite character or series and see what the tone and direction is.” The stories are not throwaways or fill-ins, but natural jumping on points by regular creators for the most part and would definitely be part of future collected editions of the titles’ more normally numbered issues.

Alonso noted that creators like Rick Remender and Daniel Way were eager to try their hands at done-in-one stories that would draw in new readers. Both editors acknowledged that accessibility is a factor going forward on all the titles. Although some key Marvel titles are missing, such as FANTASTIC FOUR and DAREDEVIL, that is more because of where they are at in their storylines – Daredevil isn’t even starring in his own book at the moment. The door is open to future Point One books if this promotion is a success, as well.

“You’re always trying to make it accessible, although the larger the cast and the more complicated the back story the more difficult it is,” said Alonso. “One of the things that has benefited Deadpool is the high concept – he accepts a gig and the story starts. With X-Force they have a mission — you state that mission as you move forward. Certainly part of the discussion with all of my Point One writers is how do you really use this story as a launching pad for the next story.”

Brevoort compared this to the opportunity to do “a very special episode, specifically aimed at giving you 22 pages with a beginning, middle, and end experience and the taste and essence of what these are about. The week after, the month after we’ll continue to try to be accessible. One of our major focuses month in and month out is understanding does it relate to my Aunt Matilda.”

ASM 654 1 Marvel gets accessible with their "Point 1" initiative

Gabriel pointed out that these books will lead naturally to a promotion with Free Comic Book Day a few months later and stressed that there is a need to promote them outside the direct market if they are to fulfill their goal. “One of the things we talked about internally was that if we just put them into the direct market we are going to get the same guys who already go to the direct market. We’re working with our PR firm to get this message out to a mass audience.” Marvel has several big media placements planned which they hope will drive new and lapsed readers into the direct market.

The numbering caused some concern from writers who wondered if the .1 tag would confuse people coming into stores. “I suppose there’s a danger of that,” said Brevoort, “in that there’s a danger of almost anything. They are going to be clearly labeled.”

The Point One books are planned to ship one a week for three months and this is part of Marvel’s overall line cutting, said Gabriel. “We’ve been making a concerted effort to reduce our title count, much to retailers’ relief. We didn’t want to go out and do 20 of these books.” The initiative’s success will be judged by retailer and fan reaction, he continued. “The retailer reaction will be judged more by what they are ordering in the third –- or even second month — more than what they order in the first month,” referring to the hopes that these books can continue as a selling tool for several months. Point One will be judged on how it reaches new readers, not by what existing fans think. “We won’t be looking at message boards to see comments people are making about these.”

Here’s the whole list of books:

FEBRUARY 2011

* AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #654.1
* INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500.1
* WOLVERINE #5.1

MARCH 2011

* CAPTAIN AMERICA #615.1
* DEADPOOL #32.1
* HULK #30.1
* THOR #620.1
* UNCANNY X-FORCE #5.1

APRIL 2011

* AVENGERS #12.1
* SECRET AVENGERS #11.1
* UNCANNY X-MEN #534.1

Comments

  1. Good idea, but can/ will they apply this same thinking to their digital distribution, maybe offer these titles in digital format also, with the ongoing series. Begin to organize the existing titles and story lines in an accessible manner that is not intimidating to new readers, so people can jump in, either in paper or digital form and begin enjoying some of these great stories and art work? I’m not going back to the comic shop, but I will go digital if you make it convenient and affordable. Easy to search and easy for me to control what I spend my money on.

  2. JOE.DISTORT says:

    glad to see they addressed the fact that new/lapsed readers would have no idea when to randomly pop in to a shop to find these…i hope they finally start advertising in other places. i think i have seen ONE ad in other media about a new series, and that was when CIVIL WAR started. it would be cool to see this work!

  3. Saipaman says:

    Yet another numbering gimmick. This is doomed to failure.

  4. A one-time, one-shot initiative isn’t what’s needed. Line-wide streamlining with a focus on acquiring new readers is. No multiple books for the same character. No numbers. No crossovers. Just tell good stories with these characters. Don’t do anything that gets in the way of that.

  5. This is point-less.

  6. If I’m not happy with the $3.99 price point, I’m certainly not going to jump in for a one-month-only sale.

  7. And in addition to selling these issues to new readers, they’ve gotten their current readers to buy two issues that month. For example, readers of Iron Man for instance will buy…
    #500 for $4.99 in January
    #500.1 for $2.99 in February
    #501 for $3.99 in February

    I don’t have a problem with that per se, but I had to look at the January solicits to confirm it.

    However “Point One” has a much friendlier ring to it than “And a Half”, that’s sending the completely wrong point. To be even snarkier, most issues these days could be titled “A fourth/fifth/sixth of a story”.

  8. Moubius44 says:

    Too much to read but the comments say enough, cool Cap image do.

  9. Nope, won’t make me rush out to a comics shop near em ( which would be over a 1000 miles away anyway). As Evan said…point-less. They should have Matt M in editorial control, because _he’s_ got the right idea.

  10. That should read “…a comics shop near ME” damned dyslexic fingers!

  11. Aw, if I was in editorial, I’d have crashed the whole shebang long ago, probably not even deliberately…

  12. Nice idea. I hope they continue to use the “point one” designation for any issue which is either stand-alone or introductory. Marvel gets kudos for making the issue easy to enter, and for starting a new story arc with the issue. Fans will know the issue is something special.

    However, if Marvel really wanted this to work, they would have priced the issues at $1, just like Vertigo did. You want to get the greatest number of readers sampling the story, and a cheap price point is the bait on the hook.

    Pricing the issues at a dollar also encourages retailers to order in bulk, as they can be used as promotional issues and have a longer shelf-life (as mentioned with the nine-cent Fantastic Four issue).

    “Buy this issue. If you like it, I’ll give you a dollar off of the trade paperback collection it appears in.”

    or

    “Buy ten comics, and I’ll give you a point-one issue for free.”

    or

    “You want to reward your students? Here, I’ll donate these extra copies to your school.”

  13. Saipaman says:

    If Marvel isn’t going to slash their title count, they should at least be honest about it. Turn the four Avengers books into Avengers Weekly and run it in the same format as 2000 AD.

  14. CBrown says:

    One dollar off for one issue is not enough of a bargain to get me to try a series that I wouldn’t otherwise try. Sorry, Marvel. In fact, even a $1 price tag wouldn’t get me in, unless there was some additional incentive of a new creative team or a really interesting direction or something. DC/Vertigo does sometimes get me to sample new titles with a dollar-priced first issue.

  15. Damn, that’s a nice Captain America cover. Did The Black Frog do that?

  16. Serhend Sirkecioglu says:

    How bout making stories that kids could read and grow up with?

  17. CitizenCliff says:

    What part of raising prices to $3.99 during a recession doesn’t Marvel understand?

    What other industry has raised their prices 25% during a recession? This will alienate any chance of new readers and lose many loyal longtime ones.

  18. Synsidar says:

    Making their series more accessible to new readers is a good idea, but this effort seems to be aimed more at profiting from the introductory issues than at actually attracting new readers. Look at issues of Previews published years ago; you’ll find issues of various series touted as perfect jumping-on points for new readers. Decades ago. when Marvel Editorial commissioned inventory stories as insurance against the Dreaded Deadline Doom, those were invariably done-in-one issues.

    The “Point One” issues might be analogous to a new TV series airing an introductory episode to get viewers oriented and make the characters interesting. But — a good episode should hook a viewer anyway.

    SRS

  19. This is good thinking but they’re only implementing “new reader” initiatives in a half-hearted manner.

    “Gabriel stressed that this is a move aimed at readers and getting comics retailers on board, with a focus on driving readers into stores. To that end, there are no plans for digital day-and-date releases, although ‘if we see that selling them digitally will drive people into the stores, then yes. We haven’t set that in stone but we haven’t set anything for day and date right now.'”

    This attitude is damaging comics as an industry. Every publisher is always trying to come up with ways to rope people into specialty stores but people either can’t or don’t want to go. So instead of going full-stop into a new medium that might actually yield new results, they kind of try to use digital comics as a way of baiting people into comics shops.

    The buying public tells you what they want and how they want it and if you don’t give it to them and give it to them in the way they want it, you go out of business. More people are more likely to read comics on a digital medium nowadays. Period. If your idea of getting new readers is making people do it YOUR way, you’re doing it wrong. The buying public gets to decide how Marvel comics are published, not the Marvel executives. Your job isn’t to “drive readers into stores” your job is to give readers what they can and want to pay for. 3.99 monthly-published, eternally serialized, continuity-laden superhero comics available only through specialty shops ISN’T it.

  20. I’m out on a limb here, but I gotta say.

    Publish FANTASTIC FOUR #1. New numbering, self-contained stories, no crossovers.

    Then start ‘em all over … Hulk #1 , Spidey #1 … do it in the order they originally appeared, just for fun. New direction for the characters, and the polciies. Make the stories good and contained. Let’s lighten up on the grim and gritty b.s., and get back to telling stories where the drama arises from the situations and characters, and not because the illustrator likes to draw people frowning.

  21. John G says:

    @rich: Have there been any grim’n’gritty lately? I haven’t seen anything in the titles I read at least.

    And the current Avengers titles does not seem to follow that style either as far as I’ve gathered.

  22. “If you believe,” he shouted to them, “clap your hands; don’t let the direct market die.”

  23. Meanwhile, the people managing their price guides wonder how they will signify these issues in their listings…

  24. Al™ says:

    I like what Gabriel is doing here. He is on the right track when he says: “One of the things I had been thinking of is bringing readers into store and getting new readers into comics.”

    I also liked: Point One will be judged on how it reaches new readers, not by what existing fans think. “We won’t be looking at message boards to see comments people are making about these.”

    I agree with other posters here, who say that the $3 price is too high to attract new readers. There should be a mini series of $1 issues available for FCBD, so new readers can get the flavour of a comic title over several issues, with minimal cost investment.
    That, or an intro GN/TPB collection for FCBD, priced at $4, with no ads.

  25. Wesley Craig Green says:

    You would think by now they would realize the way to draw in new customers is by cutting out all of these crossovers which requires the customer to buy 10+ titles to get the full story, and the multiple titles featuring one character or group of characters.

    Here’s a scene I imagine happens a lot: someone new to comics walks into a comic shop to try a comic, let’s say Spider-man. They look at the comics displayed to find four or more different Spider-man titles. On top of that, one or more or them are part X of some multi-title crossover? Confused, the same person shakes their head and mutters “Screw this” and walks out empty handed.

    Yeah… I see this Point One gimmick working.

  26. What Marvel should do for FCBD:
    Take all of these Point One books, collect them into a trade, and sell that trade for $4.99.

    Vertigo has done this three times already (Vertigo First Taste, etc.), collecting first issues into a cheap trade paperback. It stays in print, and serves as a cheap intro to some cool series.

    Top Cow recently did the same thing, except the six stories presented are part of new series.

    If Marvel is savvy, this “Marvel Point One” collection would feature ads to the trade collections the issues appear in. Ship it (and the related trades) out the week before FCBD. Feature it in bookstores, showcasing all of the featured titles.

    And, yeah, I love the idea of a “Marvel 616.1″ universe, no continuity, just stand-alone stories, all inventory. Collect the best stories into a British-style annual for Christmas, a cheap $10 pasteboard cover, newsprint book. Use the series to develop new talent (since the deadlines are more flexible). New talent = cheaper talent. Basically, make it like 2000AD, where you can exploit the backlist after people become famous.

  27. Torsten, you and I seem to see the value of FCBD as the jumping in point for new comic readers. We have similar suggestions for the FCBD trade.

    Seems pretty sensible and straightforward to capitalize on the media hype around FCBD to get the products out into the hands of new readers.

    A further point would be for Marvel to heavily subsidize these trades, so retailers are not paying $2 or $3 each to bring them in for FCBD.

  28. DC has done consignment programs built around the last two Batman movies, where retailers were able to market Batman backlist to tie-in with the movies.

    Marvel could easily do something similar… order all six trades which feature the Point One arcs, and the “Point One” anthology ships free. Reorder any of those volumes in sixes, and get a free Point One trade. Or for every tie-in volume ordered, Marvel prorates the anthology discount by 16%.

    Marvel would already be subsidizing the trades with the $4.99 price point. The retailers are still making their margin, and the price would not be much different than a regular comic book (if they are paying for the book, and not using the incentive mentioned above).

    The next evolution of FCBD is to “seduce the innocent” civilian who wanders into the store during FCBD. They come for the free comics, then end up spending $20 on books which then encourage them to return to get more. The Point One books would allow retailers to offer something familiar yet free of backstory, at an attractive price. Maybe the store even puts a coupon in the back of the book for $1 off any related trade.

  29. So Marvel is looking for new readers again?

    Which new readers are they looking for?

    – The ones they hoped to gain by killing Cap? Cause that only brought them into the store for an issue.

    – Are they looking for the kids, the ones they hoped to gain when they made Spidey single? Cause that didn’t bring them into the store at all. And you told current readers to piss off, this isn’t for them, its for new, kid readers.

    Are they looking to gain back the general readers they piss off when they say, if you don’t like it, vote with your wallets?

    Are they looking to gain back the readers they lost when they upped the price to $3.99? Cause starting a series @ $2.99 then jacking the price back to $3.99 isn’t going to impress them much.

    Seriously Marvel, what IS your message?

    Because you’ve tossed away so many readers throughout the past ten years, no one knows who you’re talking to anymore.

  30. I would like to see DC and Marvel do a year of “done-in-one” stories across all their titles. Every single one. Let every issue be accessible, like how it used to be…

  31. Al™ says:

    I like that one iSnod, it would give us all a year of “One Issue Big Events”. But think of all the work involved in creating new self contained stories each month!

  32. After reading this comment thread, I can see why David Gabriel said “We won’t be looking at message boards to see comments people are making about these.”

  33. Snikt Snakt says:

    This is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic…

  34. That Cap cover looks like Daniel Acuna.

  35. Synsidar says:

    One problem with the “Point One” idea is that a lot of comics shops order only what is needed to fill pull lists. Unless a customer specifically excludes a “Point One” issue from his order for the month, the retailer will order that issue of the series for him. Many comics shops aren’t nearly like newsstands, with issues sitting on shelves ready for purchase. Many of the “Point One” issues won’t be bought by new readers, regardless of what Marvel intends.

    SRS

  36. Chris Hero says:

    @Brett – Good idea.

    I don’t see how half-heartedly bringing back a sales approach will result in new readers when the original sales approach didn’t bring in new readers. Or am I to believe the sales numbers are showing some sort of growth?

  37. [headdesk]

    I started reading comics before they had weird numbers like 0 and -1 and 500.1, and I never had any problem “jumping on” at any issue, whether it was #12 or #337. Writers back then knew how to tell a self-contained story in one issue that was also part of a broader continuity, and they knew how to set a series in a shared universe without needing a crossover.

    Plus, editors did nice footnote captions explaining references.

    The only part of this marketing ploy that I can relate to is that when I was young, sometimes I would consider reading a new title because it started at #1 and I liked the idea of following the entire story from the beginning. But even then, that comic still had to have a good artist, and getting in on the ground floor of a new series wasn’t mutually exclusive with wandering in late to an old series.

    If they want to welcome new readers by making them feel that they’re starting at “point one,” they should put out a one-shot special #1. It can be a retelling of the origin, or just a self-contained adventure with enough exposition to explain the character.

    “#500.1″ is likely to be more confusing to an outsider than just “#500.” If it requires a press conference to explain it, the word is not going to get to everyone.

    I don’t care about digital comics. I still want my comics on paper.

  38. I’ll buy some of them. And then, whenever they do it again, I’ll buy some more.

  39. Sim Jhooter says:

    “After reading this comment thread, I can see why David Gabriel said “We won’t be looking at message boards to see comments people are making about these.”

    They already don’t listen to their readers, their retailers, nor the people they’re trying to reach, so what’s the difference?

  40. “So Marvel is looking for new readers again?

    Which new readers are they looking for?”

    The ones who’d rather get their comics online than visit a specialty shop that probably isn’t anywhere near them.

  41. Brett says:

    William,

    The problem with that what’s offered online is the same content as the print version. If readers are resisting the print versions due to poor quality, what makes Marvel believe the digital will fare better?

    And, when I said ‘Which new readers were they looking for?’ I basically meant is Marvel looking for new readers who have never read comics before or are they looking for old readers who stopped because Marvel they told to piss off for one reason or another.

    Because non-comic readers aren’t interested in current Marvel. It’s hard for Marvel to accept and you have to be impressed by their tenacity but Marvel just can’t seem to get the message.

    Marvel has pulled lots of stunts over the years and failed to capture their target. And its not because those people aren’t interested in comics, they’re just not interested in what Marvel was promoting.

    Or if they were, they came in for an issue or two then never came back.

    If this is geared towards getting old readers back, good luck. Usually when you throw a customer the middle finger, chances are that a sane person who has any sense of self respect will not go back to the toxic, abusive enviornment.

    But like Mr Jhooter said current Marvel doesn’t listen to their customers or the people they’re trying to reach anyway so, what really is The Point?

    PS. At some Point — Marvel, DC and everyone else is going to have to stop blaming the complaining customers and look at themselves and say, ‘Maybe, if we start putting out quality work that is not insulting to the intelligence of our audience, on schedule, the complaining will subside.’

  42. “‘After reading this comment thread, I can see why David Gabriel said ‘We won’t be looking at message boards to see comments people are making about these.’

    “They already don’t listen to their readers, their retailers, nor the people they’re trying to reach, so what’s the difference?”

    Ha ha ha. This is the truth. Contempt and deliberate disregard for the readers and consumers on the parts of both publishers and comics “journalists” is par for the course, unfortunately. What would this industry be without self-loathing and open animosity? Profitable, possibly?

  43. I am seriously beginning to think about ending comments on The Beat after reading these comments!

  44. It strikes me that when Marvel pulled boneheaded stunts like the Clone Saga, comics Blade becoming movie Blade, and making Tony Stark and Reed Richards tyrants, they were at a point they’d never been at before, where they’d been in business so long that people had certain expectations about their long-running characters. Marvel obviously didn’t realize this, and maybe they still don’t, even with the benefit of hindsight. They do seem to reboot their characters every few years, after all.

    DC, whose flagship characters were a few decades older, had already passed through this stage in the 1980s, and emerged relatively unscathed after John Byrne’s Superman reboot, Frank Miller’s Batman redefinition, and Crisis on Infinite Earths. There were people back then who hated all this, but it didn’t seem like DC had told their audience to piss off. It wouldn’t have bothered us if Ronald Reagan had turned out to be a Manhunter.

    Hmm. So in the 2020s, it’ll be Dark Horse’s turn. Maybe Hellboy will turn out to be a Nazi or something. Hopefully this will be post-Singularity, I’ll be comfortably immortal, and I can take it all in stride.

  45. Mike Hansen says:

    If the issues are “clearly labeled” as great jumping-on points or new-reader-friendly issues, great. But based on Marvel’s info in this article, it’s not clear how “clear” they’re going to be.

    The $2.99 price point and done-in-one stories are excellent, of course. I hope Marvel does something special to make customers aware of these books, especially since the content and price are exactly what many have demanded.

    If the only difference is that the issue number ends in “.1″, I don’t think it would make a bit of difference to the casual browser; I certainly wouldn’t be any more likely to even pick it up and flip through it to see if it’s worth buying. But if there’s a (correctly spelled) cover blurb that screams “Jump On Here! This One’s for You!” or whatever, now you’re talking.

    I suppose it depends on whether Marvel focuses on sell-through or just getting pre-orders, and whether they promote to retailers or readers – through Marvel Previews and/or house ads (which would be more of the same) or special cover designs and marketing (as with the $1.00 Marvel’s Greatest Comics one-shots).

  46. Mike Hansen says:

    I should add that having the creators behind this idea should help tremendously. The 9-cent Fantastic Four issue by Waid/Weiringo got me reading the series regularly for the first time in years.

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