Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
Cue the Welcome Back, Kotter theme music: At a live press conference from NYC’s Midtown Comics today, Marvel unveiled “Fear Itself,” a line-wide event beginning in March. Featuring a prologue one-shot by Ed Brubaker and Scot Eaton, tie-ins, spin-off stand-alone miniseries, and an April-launching seven-issue core limited series by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen, it’s very much in the vein of past mega-events like “Civil War,” a comparison company personnel made repeatedly at the presser. If anything, it sounds even bigger than “Civil War,” as the two core Marvel franchises who’ve traditionally been kept at arms’ length from the big events of late, the Hulk and the X-Men, look to be playing an integral role right along with the Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and so on.
It’s a classic case of “sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” Marvel made waves earlier this year with a swap offer in which they’d send retailers a rare Deadpool variant of Siege #3 for every 50 stripped covers of DC’s “ring books” — Blackest Night tie-ins retailers had to order in bulk to qualify for promotional plastic power rings for the various Lantern corps — they received in return.
Then earlier this month, Marvel flipped the script, offering a rare Deadpool variant of the upcoming Wolverine #1 relaunch in exchange for every 50 covers they receive from Marvel event tie-ins, specifically books from the X-Men: Second Coming and Siege events.
An update on our current Marvel book-swap. With one week to go till cut-off, we’ve gotten less than 15% as many books as we did ring-books. In other words, for every 3 Marvel books returned, we’d previously gotten 20 ring-books. Could be that people wanted the SIEGE variant more.
… or, as one could infer, it could be that the Siege and Second Coming tie-ins eligible for this trade genuinely sold through to readers better than the Blackest Night tie-in “ring books” did, so retailers have fewer unwanted leftovers to unload. But far be it for Tom Brevoort to tweak the competition!
Remember when Marvel offered to send retailers a rare Deadpool variant of Siege #3 in exchange for every 50 stripped covers from various Blackest Night “power ring promotion” titles they received? Remember how the comics Internet lost its collective marbles over this? Well, Marvel’s doing it again — but this time, they’re offering retailers the chance to unload unsold event-comic tie-ins published by Marvel themselves.
According to Marvel, the publisher will send retailers a Deadpool variant version of Wolverine #1 in exchange for every 50 stripped covers it receives of a slew of tie-ins to their X-Men: Second Coming and Siege events. The eligible issues include New Mutants 12, Uncanny X-Men 523, X-Force 26, X-Men Legacy 235, Avengers: The Initiative 34, Dark Avengers 15, Dark Wolverine 84, Mighty Avengers 36, New Avengers 64, Thor 609 and Thunderbolts 143.
Obviously, there are some big questions here: Why must Marvel continue to childishly taunt and tweak itself, even going so far as to encourage retailers to destroy their own comics? And how long will the likes of Brian Michael Bendis and Matt Fraction put up with this outrageous insult before taking their business elsewhere?
With the school year ending and summer arriving faster than you know it, now’s the time to update your summer reading list — and there’s no better place to find some good stuff to read than right here in our weekly What Are You Reading? column. This week our guests are Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, the creative team behind The Sixth Gun, published by Oni Press. You’ll be seeing a lot of Cullen and Brian over the next few weeks here at Robot 6, so here’s the perfect opportunity to find out what comics they’re into.
Let’s move on, shall we?
Just like we moved on right about this time last year. There came a time when the shock value of Norman Osborn becoming the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. wore off and we realized the Marvel Universe was in for a Twilight Zone of a year. Evil was media friendly, good was outlawed and there was no way this was going to last. The reader just had to sit tight through Dark Reign and wait for this whole nightmare to be over.
Well, Siege is now officially over, the last issue of the four-part story handed over to us this week. Unofficially, this Event book should have been over in January, when Marvel announced that the dawn of an exciting new era would occur by bringing back the old establishment. Civil War really did change the face of modern Marvel Comics for about three years now, the idea of vigilantism and government restrictions explored in a way that flies in the face of a lot of Silver Age convention. You can’t just put on a mask and run around, there are precautions to take, family to think of, morality to debate. There’s more than just the greater good to think about.
And I think we’ve all had enough time to think about it. Personally, I miss that all important line between good and evil. Spend enough time in the gray area between them and you lose your distinctiveness. Dwell on topics long enough and readers get bored, itchy and unhappy. So the long, drawn out blockade between realism and four-color storytelling is at least coming to an end, the long term battle still not won. Characters are going to be shuffled around, new teams made, some younger ones fostered in and we’re all in it to win it for this new Heroic Age.
Well, everyone but the villains.
(WARNING: No Spoilers. Because really, ‘the bad guys lose’ is a little like Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker’s father- Oop! Ruined that one!)
This means one of two things: Either this is the most amazingly rock-solid issue-to-issue performance of an event comic ever or, more likely, as chartwatcher Marc-Oliver Frisch points out, Diamond knocked 20 percent of Siege #1’s sales off its January chart to account for returnability. Either way, it seems the earlier hue and cry that Siege is some kind of flop need to be significantly dialed down.
Look, I have no idea what Marvel’s internal sales expectations for Siege were or are. I know that the “seven years in the making” hype creates the sense that this was supposed to be the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, and thus sales comfortably beneath those of a late-run Blackest Night issue give the impression of failure. But at the same time, Siege is way shorter than any of the other events Marvel has done in recent years, suggesting the company and creators had a different view of its structure and goal than, say, Secret Invasion. They also started promoting its follow-up, the line-wide “Heroic Age,” more or less concurrently with Siege itself, and in a way that pretty much assured readers of the outcome of the series — in other words, Siege has been treated as much as a means to the end of “The Heroic Age” as an end in itself. All in all, it comes across as a very different beast than Blackest Night does across town.
Meanwhile, Siege isn’t the only title with some mysterious sales-chart goings-on going on. Blackest Night #7’s 130,613 copies appears at first glance to represent an amazing 30-percent increase over Issue 6’s first-month sales of 100,651, and that’s pretty much how ICv2 reported it. But keep in mind Issue 6 was first sold during Diamond’s “skip week” between Christmas and New Year’s, meaning it actually shipped the week before it went on sale; retailers who failed to sign an embargo agreement received their copies the first week of January instead, and thus 35,344 copies’ worth of sales ended up showing up on the January charts rather than the December charts. Thus, Issue 7’s performance represents a drop of around 5,000 copies, not an increase of 30,000. Blackest Night is still the hottest thing in monthly comics these days by a long shot, but it’s not adding a third of its readership with its penultimate issue, any more than it lost a third of its readership in December.
Publishing | The penultimate issue of DC Comics’ Blackest Night miniseries led a weak February in the direct market, which saw comic-book sales slip 3 percent from the same month a year ago. Sales of graphic novels, on the other hand, actually rose 1 percent — the category’s first increase since March 2009 — which the retail news and analysis website ICv2.com notes is “somewhat remarkable given that over 12,000 copies of Watchmen were sold in February 2009, over 10 times the number sold in February of 2010.”
Blackest Night #7 sold more than 130,000 copies, followed at No. 2 by Marvel’s Siege #2, with about 108,400. They were the only titles to break 100,000 in February. ICv2 notes that sales of Blackest Night increased some 30 percent from the previous issue’s first month while those of Siege were virtually unchanged. That seems like an impressive performance for both titles.
Well, this oughta be to partisan DC and Marvel fans what a new Tim Burton movie is to people with Hot Topic gift cards. Outspoken Marvel Vice President-Executive Editor Tom Brevoort has asked fans to launch a write-in campaign to determine whether he’ll hand a copy of the infamous Deadpool variant for Siege #3 — the very book Marvel is offering to send retailers in exchange for copies of unsold Blackest Night “ring” tie-ins from DC — to DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio.
In a possible tip of the hat/tweak of the nose to the postcard-writing campaign DiDio launched to determine whether Wonder Woman would get a #600 anniversary issue, Brevoort says that if he gets 50 postcards telling him to give DiDio the variant, he will … but if he first receives 50 postcards telling him not to, he won’t. Brevoort later went even further, saying if he first gets 50 postcards telling him “to stop with all this stuff” — presumably the chops-busting of DC that’s become his trademark — then that’s what he’ll do.
So what’ll it be? To give, not to give, or to pipe down entirely? First to 50 wins!
Brevoort says the postcards (one per person, please) may be sent to his attention at Marvel, 417 Fifth Ave, New York, NY, 10016. Start licking those stamps!
It’s probably unnecessary to say this, now that my readership has dropped back into the threes of sixteenths (Hi Mom), but at face value, the title ‘Siege’ has nothing to do with the Siege Perilous. Sure, it’s the pun I’d put as the front runner for Overused Title by Bloggers (I had to stop from using it myself, so catchy!) Talking about Marvel’s Latest Event Book, but in that context, it doesn’t even mean the big swinging alpha hero fight we’re coming to love and enjoy. Siege has its roots as the word through Old French and Latin as the word ‘to sit’ or ‘seat’. It’s obsolete in use as a ‘seat of distinction’, but once was the most famous seat in all of chivalric tales. The chair was given to Arthur by Merlin for his round table and ruthlessly reserved for the ‘perfect knight’, the one who would eventually go get the Holy Grail. Anyone else who sat in it would erupt into flames, so this both acted as an indicator for the quest and as a sign to the Knights of the Round Table that they, despite their accomplishments and great deeds, were not perfect and greater men were still to come. A nice little talking point for humility and humanity for what is man, if not imperfect?
But, like I said, the use of the word Siege as a seat is long out of use. Nowadays, it summons up great armies clashing and some walls to embattle, siege weapons and general’s tactics. A siege is essentially a waiting game: if you cannot take a location by force, you surround it, isolate it and then wait them out for weakness or surrender. This waiting game could last moths, or even years so it all comes down to planning and timing.
If you look at it from an angle, one could even say that the heroes of the Marvel Universe have had villainy sieged for about, oh say seven years. Villains had already moved into positions of trust or complacency with the new millennium of storytelling, so the heroes could have just backed off, waiting for the villains to grab all this power and enact all their plans at once so that the center could not hold and eventually the heroes would win out. In New Avengers, Spider-Man has said this expressly about Norman Osborn, you can’t fight him head on. You wait until he makes his mistake (and he will) and then take him down.
If the current and final chapter in Bendis’ story arc is more a metaphorical Siege than just the taking of Asgard, I think it’s the most poorly planned and timed siege since the Turks at Vienna.
Wiki the historical reference above or just roll your eyes and click below to hear some thoughts on what Brian Michael Bendis tells us about writing and ourselves.
Siege #1 was January’s bestselling comic. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Olivier Coipel, it’s the capstone to years’ worth of event-driven Marvel Universe storylines, and the launchpad for a linewide rebranding called “The Heroic Age.” Anecdotally, it’s generated a lot of happy chatter from readers, especially following its gut-wrenching (heh heh) second issue. It’s a major milestone in the Marvel metastory by two of the company’s most popular creators, and it’s literally a chart-topper.
So why, as Marvel Vice President-Executive Editor Tom Brevoort points out, are people saying it’s a flop?
According to ICv2’s sales estimates, Siege #1 sold 108,484 copies. That’s just a hair above the 106,444 copies purchased of the month’s No. 2 comic, DC’s Green Lantern #50, which is the eighth issue of a Blackest Night tie-in arc. Blackest Night proper’s sixth issue sold 135,695, well above the figures for the launch of Marvel’s much-hyped event.
A longer-range comparison makes for grim reading, too. Veteran number-cruncher Marc-Oliver Frisch of The Beat ran down some stats at his blog:
I guess I missed the fact that Tony Stark’s former assistant Pepper Potts, who put on her own set of armor recently in the pages of Invincible Iron Man, actually has a codename now. She’s aptly called Rescue, and she’s getting a one-shot in May courtesy of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.
The comic will tie into Marvel’s Siege event, as the character moves from being a superhero’s assistant to being a full-fledged superhero herself.
“But now she’s given the opportunity to don the mantle herself,” DeConnick told Marvel.com. “She doesn’t have to be support staff anymore, not a plot device, not tied to the train tracks, not doing her part to make exposition less obvious. She’s stepping into position not only as a heroine, but as a protagonist. That’s really interesting to me because it’s completely foreign territory for Pepper; it’s way out of her comfort zone. Doubt and fear are not emotions with which Pepper’s accustomed. Having the opportunity to be with her and sort of metaphorically hold her hand as she makes her way through this particular minefield, creatively, it’s a great place to be.”
A few days ago, I noticed something…odd going on in both Captain America: Reborn and Invincible Iron Man: The giant flying robots with long tentacles presiding over the apocalyptic future glimpsed by Cap sure looked an awful lot like the possibly Starktech-derived “sentries” that have been bedeviling Tony Stark in the hallucinatory dreamworld he’s been stuck in throughout his recent coma. My suspicions deepened when I saw The Beat’s DC month-to-month sales analysis number-cruncher Marc-Oliver Frisch point the same thing out on Twitter — the first time I saw anyone talking about it online. Then io9’s Graeme McMillan took the ball, and the scanner, and ran with it.
Okay, say you have a collection of Megos (not to far a stretch for a lot of you). You’ve had them since you were young and they now decorate your bookshelf or your computer desk, basically in a display of fond memories. Sure, you’ll pose them from time to time, dust off their cloth costumes with care, maybe even do some repair work, but they sit in a place to remind you of your childhood and the wonders of your imagination. Perhaps even some spare cash on eBay, but let’s go with the more touching idea about childhood and memories.
Now, add to this, say you have a younger brother. Or a little sister, or a son or daughter. Someone of the next generation set who is totally enthralled by your collection of figures. In great childlike wonder they ask you about each and every one, amazed by all the stories they represent. It’s great to see someone love something dear to you and it’s a great bond that helps me sell comics and connects us all through our fandoms. If you’ve never explained a comic book plotline that you love (no complaints now) to someone younger than you, please do so at your earliest convience. They’ll think you’re a genius for knowing the tale and you’ll be reminded of your own viceral reactions to the story at hand.
Anyhow, you have your Megos and your sister/brother/son/daughter/etc. seems to love them as much as you do, so you eventually relent and let them play with your figures. They very gently take each one from you, go off to the living room and then suddenly POW! BANG! BOOM! CRASH! They’re smacking them together as part of some terrible fight. Plastic clicks against plastic, some are catapulted off the couch, others are mauled by childlike enthusiasm and small, but dangerously strong hands. They’re having a ball, you’re cringing in the corner. Or ready to run and yell because those are YOUR toys! Play nice! Those are collector’s items! You’ll RUIN them!
But at the same time… you used to play like that with them.
(eventual SPOLIERS: for Siege #2 ahead, but really I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard by now. Bendis likes a good death in his event books!)
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“Turns out nobody has any extra copies of those ring books…” Thus tweeted newly minted Marvel Vice President, Executive Editor Tom Brevoort this morning. And based on the accompanying picture, which showed a stack of covers for Blackest Night tie-ins that were part of DC’s recent power ring promotion, your sarcasm detectors were right to go off there.
It’s anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but the photo, and a subsequent pic documenting some 300 mailed-in covers from a single store, show that some retailers at least are both willing and able to take Marvel up on its controversial offer to retailers to exchange one Deadpool variant of Siege #3 for every 50 copies or covers of DC’s “ring books” they receive.
But will the initiative be a success overall, for either Marvel or the participating retailers? Does all the publicity for it factor in positively or negatively? Those probably aren’t the kind of questions you can answer with an iPhone photo, but we’ll see.
April will see both the conclusion of Marvel’s Siege four-issue miniseries and the apparent end — certainly only temporarily — of the Avengers franchise.
That’s right, the publisher’s solicitations preview lists the series finales of The New Avengers, Dark Avengers, The Mighty Avengers and Avengers: The Initiative. It also solves the mystery of what comic writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Bryan Hitch have been collaborating on: It’s a 64-page one-shot called New Avengers: Finale.
“Siege ends the Avengers … and this is how I find out?” Bendis joked late this afternoon on Twitter.
References to “the Age of Heroes” and “the Heroic Age” are sprinkled throughout the solicitation text, making it a safe bet that at least some of those titles will quickly return as part of a new status quo teased back in November: “Witness the Marvel Universe triumph over its greatest challenges ever as the Heroic Age ignites! Still lurking in the shadows are forces of evil and cosmic-level threats, but a new spirit of hope, courage, and the selflessness at the heart of heroism will rise up. The most extraordinary tales ever will be told in this Heroic Age of the Marvel Universe. The Age of Heroes is upon us!”
The New Avengers debuted in late 2004 in the aftermath of the “Avengers Disassembled,” followed in 2007 by The Mighty Avengers and Avengers: The Initiative, and in early 2009 by Dark Avengers.