SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
As Marvel prepares for the August premiere of its biggest movie gamble to date, Guardians of the Galaxy, we’ve seen its publishing division reposition what once was an oddball, third-tier concept as a first-rate, if still oddball, franchise, first with the flagship title written by Brian Michael Bendis and next with Rocket Raccoon by Skottie Young.
As interesting as that transformation may be, I’m utterly fascinated by how Marvel’s parent company Disney has gone all in on merchandising an adaptation of a comic that, this time last year, no one outside fan circles had ever heard of. Granted, with the production budget for Guardians of the Galaxy in the neighborhood of $150 million (and probably nearly that much for marketing), the studio can’t afford to be timid.
Still, Disney Consumer Products has lined up more than 50 licensees, from Hasbro and LEGO to Mad Engine and Freeze, for what it views as Marvel’s Next Big Thing, at least as far as merchandise is concerned.
“It is always exciting to launch something new in consumer products, as we did with Iron Man in 2008,” Paul Gitter, senior vice president of licensing for Marvel at Disney Consumer Products, said in a statement. “By showcasing what is unique about this amazing new film we are able to develop a third Marvel franchise that can be at retail alongside our powerhouse franchises of The Avengers and Spider-Man. Continuing to diversify the Marvel offerings for consumers is a key strategy of ours.”
King Features Syndicate apparently has decided the best way to reinvigorate the 83-year-0ld Betty Boop is to kill her, and then resurrect her as a zombie.
At the Licensing Expo, held this week in Las Vegas, the company signaled it would like a little of that Walking Dead/Warm Bodies money by announcing it willtake the iconic cartoon and comic-strip character into “unexplored territory” with Betty Boop Zombie Love – which, as Topless Robot notes, does bring to mind necrophilia, which doesn’t seem like a recipe for merchandising bonanza.
“With a new style guide and art treatments, the wide-eyed beauty is clearly a victim of the zombie craze currently infecting the world,” the King Features press release states. So, yeah, expect the undead flapper to appear on clothing soon.
Target’s new partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Entertainment received a promotional boost this week with the debut of an animated TV commercial for the retail chain featuring the Justice League. In their New 52 costumes, no less.
Announced last month, the agreement includes an exclusive summer collection of Justice League merchandise — there are more than 50 products, ranging from a Wonder Woman kids’ camp chair to Batman snack cups to inflatable pool toys — as well as other items, such as temporary tattoos and even rocking chairs. Target has a shop on its website devoted to the Justice League products.
In the 30-second TV spot, a woman suddenly realizes she’d forgotten her child’s birthday party, and calls in the Justice League for help with a last-minute shopping spree at Target. Hey, they didn’t have anything more pressing to do. Unfortunately, Batman’s utility belt aside, those costumes don’t leave much room for cash or credit cards …
Just as The Avengers arrives in U.S. theaters, a Los Angeles toy company has sued Marvel, accusing the company of committing fraud in a licensing agreement that went sour.
In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court and first reported by Deadline, Box-O-Mania claims owner Maxim Tselevich created a children’s playhouse in 2009 and approached Marvel about branding the product with its superheroes. Early the following year, the two parties allegedly worked out a deal for Box-O-Mania to manufacture Iron Man’s Lair Play Boxes, which would debut in stores in November 2010, coinciding with the release of Iron Man 2 on DVD.
In a clever bit of product placement and cross-promotion, DC Comics is offering “Evolve or Die” T-shirts featuring Travel Foreman’s cover for Animal Man #1 just ahead of the shirt’s debut in the seventh issue of the series. It certainly makes sense within the context of the relaunched title, which opened with a Believer interview in which Buddy Baker was asked how it felt “to have your face plastered on kids’ dorm rooms and T-shirts all over the country.”
The shirts will be available in direct market stores, and at GraffitiDesigns.com, at the end of the month (prices range from $18.95 to $24.95, depending on size). There’s no word yet as to when we should expect that “World’s Best Grandpa” design.
Animal Man #7, by Jeff Lemire and Steve Pugh, arrives March 7.
As the licensing machine revs up for the May 4 premiere of The Avengers, fragrance company JADS International — the company behind such brands as Sulu Pour Homme, Slave Leia Perfume and Shirtless Kirk Cologne — has rolled out scents inspired by Captain America, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury and even Loki. Sorry, Hawkeye, you’re out of luck.
The Avengers Cologne Set boasts “four unique fragrances”: PATRIOT, Mark VII, SMASH! and Worthy; you can probably piece together which name goes with which hero. Loki, meanwhile, gets Mischief Cologne (“Made to Rule”), and Fury has Initiative Cologne (“Activate the Initiative”).
Check out the details below, or on the JADS website.
According to a recent Radiolab Podcast, in order to get a 5.2-percent tax cut on Marvel’s imported action figures, the company’s lawyers successfully argued the toys represent “animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters)” as defined by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, a tome that determines tariff classifications for all goods imported into the United States.
Confused? There’s a lot of legalese involved, so here’s the way it breaks down: There’s a distinction between two categories of products imported into the U.S. “Dolls” are toys representing humans, whereas “toys” represent non-humans. While dolls are taxed at 12.8 percent, toys are taxed at just 6.8 percent. Two shrewd trade attorneys noticed the distinction and successfully argued to U.S. Customs officials that Marvel’s licensed products don’t represent human beings.
Thor’s mythic warhammer Mjolnir can level mountains, emit blasts of mystical energy and even detect illusions. But for those swingin’ parties at Avengers mansion, only those who are thirsty shall possess its mighty power.
Early next year Diamond Select Toys will roll out a series of Marvel-based bottle openers, beginning with — you guessed it! — Thor’s hammer, complete with its legendary inscription: “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”
With it, you’ll be the hit of every party. Well, at least those that don’t feature twist-off caps — or Loki.
If the rapid approach of the holidays has pushed you into panic mode, just relax, because you’ve already found the perfect gift for the superhero-comics fan in your life (or, y’know, yourself): a superhero Snuggie, or as the trademark sticklers prefer to call it, a “Comfy Throw Blanket With Sleeves”!
If you can’t fight crime like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Spider-Man, you can at least look like them — well, kind of? — while remaining toasty in the comfort of your own beige living room, while sitting on your own beige sofa and watching your own (probably) beige television. Hey, I’m only going by the product photos, which do a better job of advertising furniture than selling one-size-fits-all Snuggies Comfy Throw Blankets With Sleeves using two models and Photoshop.
Batman is out of stock, but you can still get Superman ($30.97), Wonder Woman ($25.99) and Spider-Man ($24.95) while supplies last! Act now and you’ll get … I don’t know, peace of mind? The satisfaction of seeing your loved one smile uncomfortably while modeling, and pretending to appreciate, a garish, yet comfy, fleece shroud? Yeah, probably that.
The Courier Mail reports the Australian Trade Marks Office has rejected an application by Brisbane clothing-store owner Gary Charles to register the words “Ghost Rider” following opposition by Marvel.
Charles had first applied to register the trademark in 2009 and, following a threat of legal action by the company, decided to pursue his case. “I thought why should I let them push me around,” he told the newspaper. “But if I’d known the trouble it would be I would have dropped the trademark.”
Solicitor Fiona Brittain, who represented Marvel Characters Inc., argued Charles’ application was made in bad faith, and that he’d previously attempted to register such marks as Red Bull and Army of One. An investigation by her firm allegedly uncovered counterfeit clothing in his store, “including Spider-Man and Marvel Superheroes branded garments.”
The hearing officer was persuaded by the evidence, ruling: “The evidence which the Opponent has provided in respect of the Applicant’s other trade mark applications and registrations, in conjunction with the evidence of the clothing brands available for sale in the Applicant’s shop, is sufficient for me to be satisfied that this application is an example of the Applicant’s standard pattern of behaviour, a pattern which leaves much to be desired as far as commercial fair dealing is concerned.”
Now Charles is left with Ghost Rider-branded denim shorts that, according to the newspaper, he was still trying to “offload” last week. If that’s the case, he should probably expect another letter from Marvel …
“I can tell you for a matter of fact that when I draw work-for-hire stuff, I get into the idea that I’m drawing Wolverine, the guy from the stories I love. I’m continuing his tale. I don’t think that I’m drawing the dude on the underwear. I legitimately love Wolverine as a character. […] I heard Ed Brubaker say that he treats all of his stuff like it’s creator owned stuff. That’s the only way I can do it. I feel like I’m wasting my life otherwise. Listen, I have seen Wolverine juice boxes. I know that ridiculous thing exists. But the fact that it does, in some way, makes me feel like I’m getting away with something. Like knowing the depraved person I am and that I put all of my energy into drawing this Wolverine story, and then I turn around and see some kid with a Wolverine toy, and that seems subversive to me. I slipped some possibly bad, possibly raunchy art, into that kid’s life. You just get caught up in it while you’re working on it. If you care, it’s really hard to think of it as underwear. And sure, it’s overwhelming and sickening to walk into a Walmart and see nothing but Spider-Man bed sheets. Sometimes, under the right light, that’s kinda cool, though.”
Fresh from its clothing deal with the Dallas Cowboys, Marvel announced this morning that it’s licensing such characters as Spider-Man, The Hulk, Wolverine and Captain America for a line of co-branded apparel for the University of Southern California.
The agreement was made through the Dallas Cowboys subsidiary Silver Star Merchandising, which in May signed a 10-year contract with USC for the exclusive rights to manufacture, license and distribute its sports apparel on campus and at its athletic venues. The Marvel Super Heroes collection will include clothing and hats for infants, children and adults featuring USC colors of cardinal and gold, as well as the school’s logos and Trojan mascot. The line will be available beginning later this month online and at mass and sporting good retailers, and USC bookstores.
You can see two more T-shirt designs at Marvel.com.
It seems like Marvel may have missed an opportunity not releasing Captain America: The First Avenger this weekend, what with the big American-sized holiday coming up on Monday. But then again, the pre-movie merchandising/promotional machine is in full gear just in time for the Fourth of July, so maybe there’s a method to the madness. We’re celebrating the holiday weekend with my three nephews, all under the age of 10, who made their first trip to California yesterday … and what better way to start their weekend off than to get them a Captain America ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins?
The cake is part of a bigger menu that includes a Super-Soldier Sundae, a Hydra Force Sundae and Super-Soldier Swirl ice cream (the flavor of the month). It includes a plastic Captain America that no doubt they’ll be fighting over before the day is over (like I’m gonna let them take it home) and, as you can see above, red, white and blue icing. The thing in the back is a stand-up you can put Cap on after the cake is gone.
Retailing | DC Comics has advised retailers to immediately unplug the $150 Green Lantern Animated Light Up Display after one of the signs caused a small electrical fire Saturday at Rick’s Comic City in Nashville. Other retailers have reported the smell of burning plastic coming from the displays. The publisher will notify stores in the next few days how it will rectify the problem.[ICv2.com]
Retailing | Borders Group lost more than $50 million in February and March as it sought bankruptcy protection and began liquidating 226 stores, a new court filing shows. [The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | Mike Searle, former editor of Wizard Entertainment’s defunct InQuest Gamer magazine, reportedly will replace Mike Cotton at Wizard World Digital. Cotton, who had been co-chief pop culture editor, left the company on Friday. [Bleeding Cool]
Conventions | Forces of Geek rounds up news from last weekend’s Boston Comic Con. [Forces of Geek]
Last month we mentioned MAC Cosmetics’ Wonder Woman collection — Themyscira mascara! Obey Me nail polish! — which is being marketed with stunning art by Michael Allred. Now, just in time for today’s line launch, MAC has debuted a trailer/motion comic — featuring even more Michael Allred art.