ESPN + Superheroes ... How will Marvel marketing screw this up?

If you haven't seen or heard about the NBA preview in ESPN The Magazine (the world's most idiotically-named magazine!), it features various Marvel artists blending various Marvel characters with various NBA players. It's, frankly, pretty goddamned cool. And I'm sure Marvel will see absolutely no bump in comics sales from it, because they're, well, a comic book company. Oh well. Let's check out some of the images, saving the absolute meanest for last!

First, Joey Q provides a sweet cover. I'm not sure why LeBron James is holding Captain America's shield, but there's a reason for both Kobe-as-Iron Man and Kevin Durant-as-Thor. And I always enjoy seeing the tattoo that Noted Philanderer Kobe has on his arm - his wife's name. I hope he wore a long-sleeved shirt when he was cheating on her.

On the first page of the preview, we get this painting of Kobe as Thanos (a pretty keen touch) reaching for another ring. I couldn't get the whole thing because my scanner isn't big enough, but you can see most of it. I have to say, this might be the best Greg Horn artwork I've ever seen.

Each team preview is accompanied by a drawing. This is Salvador Larocca showing Kobe as Tony Stark, because both of them are the "man everyone wants to be -- and beat." Yeah, I guess. They're both smug, womanizing, arrogant assholes, but I suppose ESPN can't put that in their magazine.

Olivier Coipel provides the Oklahoma City Thunder drawing. That's pretty clever, as Thor now lives in the state.

Mark Cuban as Hank Pym is awesome. This is, of course, Kyle Baker art.

Simone Bianchi's "Weapon Y" drawing is pretty keen. That's Yao Ming, who has had more surgeries, if possible, than Wolverine.

The Kings drawing might be my favorite, because Skottie Young is awesome. The Kings are a really young team, so they're the X-Babies. It's funny!

Terry Dodson homages Frank Miller in this drawing. The idea is that Dwight Howard better get tougher if he wants to lead the Magic to the Finals.

Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut as Luke Cage and Danny Rand. I just really like Kalman Andrasofszky's drawing.

I can totally buy Michael Jordan as some sinister puppeteer, like in this Alex Maleev drawing.

Finally, John Romita twists the knife, and I LOVE it.

There are ones for every team, of course, and the talent is pretty good: Mike Perkins, Doug Braithwaite, Brian Stelfreeze, Dave Johnson, Gabrielle Dell'otto, Mike Deodato, Kaare Andrews, Leinil Francis Yu, Tom Raney, Jason Pearson, and Phil Noto are all in there, among others. It's not quite worth $4.99 (the magazine's cover price), but it's a pretty cool issue, even if you're not a big NBA fan (which I am not).

The title of the post is a bit joking, but I did wonder, when Disney bought Marvel, if we'd see more of this cross-promotion among the Disney Hydra (ESPN/ABC included) and I wonder if Marvel marketing has prepared for this. It seems like superheroes in general have never had a higher profile in the bigger world, and Marvel ought to be taking more advantage of it. Nowhere in the magazine is there even a small note about the actual comics - not even something about Marvel's web site. I mentioned that the Avengers now have a show on Disney Channel, and Marvel didn't advertise at all during the show. The show was very loosely based on Bendis's first New Avengers arc - the breakout at the Raft - but Marvel didn't tell parents that they could buy that trade if they wanted to read a more grown-up version of the story. Maybe Marvel has no power in this new arrangement, and maybe they're going to try things down the road and the ESPN thing is just an initial blast, but I really have no confidence that superheroes showing up in ESPN The Magazine will lead anyone to read more comics. I'm sure Marvel, at this point, cares more about people going to see their movies, so maybe they don't care at all about raising anyone's awareness about the printed stuff. Could be!

Anyway, I thought this was a pretty cool idea, even if it has no effect on sales. Good move, Joey Q!

Bloodborne #15

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