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.)
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.
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.”
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:
* AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #654.1
* INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500.1
* WOLVERINE #5.1
* CAPTAIN AMERICA #615.1
* DEADPOOL #32.1
* HULK #30.1
* THOR #620.1
* UNCANNY X-FORCE #5.1
* AVENGERS #12.1
* SECRET AVENGERS #11.1
* UNCANNY X-MEN #534.1