Marvel's Next Big Thing: "Point One"

Marvel Comics' latest "Next Big Thing" press conference call featured editors Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso and Senior Vice-President Sales & Circulation David Gabriel cluing fans in on the "Point One" initiative, in which "Amazing Spider-Man," "Invincible Iron Man," "Wolverine," and more ongoing series will be getting an additional .1 issue, beginning in February. Junior Sales Administrator James Viscardi moderated the discussion.

Issues marked ".1" will include full length stories that lay the groundwork for the next year's storylines, Viscardi began by way of recapping last week's "Marvel Point One" announcement.

"There's a lot of talk right now about the price of comics and the page count of comics and too many comics, but there's not been a lot of discussion about bringing new readers into comics," Gabriel said, noting that "Point One" would mark a strong story for new readers. He also noted that the idea of "jumping on points" is a bit cliche, but still necessary.

"We've done these kind of things in the past, but more on an individual note," Brevoort said, citing the 9-cent "Fantastic Four" issues and Marvel's Free Comic Book Day editions, "all telling self-contained stories by our best guys." "This is kind of not even a new thing we're doing, but just a new way." "Point One" will be a way to "check back in on a favorite character" for lapsed readers, he added. "Our hope and expectation is you'll want to come back less than a month later, when the next issue is in stores."

"I think that the key here is that the creators, especially the writers, here, understand the challenge: to hook readers in one issue," Alonso said. "They love the idea of the story as a told-in-one," he added.

Brevoort said that "these are not fill ins, they are not throwaways, they are not removable." In most cases--and in all for the writers--the "Point One" issues are by the regular creative teams and will be part of the ongoing story. "These are actual issues of these books that just happen to have a .1 at the end of their number."

"Amazing Spider-Man" #654.1 will be by Dan Slott and Paul Azaceta, which ties directly into the March storyline. "Invincible Iron Man" #500.1 will also be by the regular team of Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca.

Gabriel said that Marvel was not just going to "make these books and put them out into the direct market," but are working with a PR firm "to get our message into the mass market." "They are pretty positive that this is going to be a bigger story than the direct market itself."

Though the .1 titles will be $2.99, Gabriel said there are no current plans to drop regular prices on the ongoings, "but there may be an announcement on that in 10 days -- or tomorrow."

Asked how these books will compare to the "Saga" recap issues and "Marvel Handbook" editions, Brevoort said that "Point One" issues are not the same thing. "When I think of Saga, those are a recap of the last 3 years of storyline. ["Point One"] are balls-to-the-wall stories that take place in the here and now and set up the next year or so's worth of stories."

Alonso added, "purely from a production standpoint, the Sagas and Handbooks are all done by the production department, and these are done in the Editorial departments." "These are here to move things forward."

Asked whether there's a potential for confusion--readers inadvertantly missing an issue or thinking .1 issues are reprints, "There's a danger of anything," Brevoort said, "but we're taking every precaution." He added that they will not ship on the same weeks as whole-numbered issues.

"The other key is that the retailers will know," Gabriel added. "As long as those guys know, they're our best sales force.

Gabriel said that it should be clear simply from numbering progression -- 7, 7.1, 8 -- that each was a different issue that followed a linear storyline.

Brevoort said that there might be a collection of the "Point One" issues, but the issues will definitely be collected in the course of the each regular series.

Asked whether Marvel was planning its "Point One" around the movies, Brevoort said "this is when we're doing it because this is when we thought of it." He added that the roll-out is taking place over several months so that the .1 issues did not interrupt storylines. He did say, though, that the "Thor" issue would be "prime sample material."

Gabriel said that "it's no accident these are shipping the three months before Free Comic Book Day," so that retailers will be able to sell them to fans who come in for the freebies.

Depending on the initiative's success, "this could become a yearly thing," Brevoort said, adding that the next "Iron Man" edition could be #514.1, meaning that the device is easily repeatable (possibly unlike #0 or 1/2 issues).

Alonso noted that "Deadpool" and "Uncanny X-Force" are already accessible, "every story starts with [Deadpool] accepting a gig" and X-Force is similarly mission-based.

Brevoort compared the various comics series to "Lost," which had some episodes that might try to catch new viewers up to speed. "Now, we're doing 'a very special episode' of these series," he said. "We're giving people a nice, labelled, spotlighted, 'start here.'"

Brevoort said there may be some manner of guide to future issues or other .1 titles in the back of the issue, but "nothing sells you on the next issue better than making this issue really good."

Alonso compared potential backmatter to "next week on 'Mission Impossible'"-type teasers. "Nothing got me more excited," he said, "so we've talked about doing something like that."

Gabriel was asked whether there were digital plans, perhaps day-and-date delivery. "Right now the focus is getting these into stores," he said, but added if it looked like digital delivery would drive new readers into stores it's certainly on the table in future.

Asked what would make this a success, Gabriel said that "that would come from retailer reaction and fan reaction," adding that "it's not so much what they order in the first month, but in the second and third month."

Asked about the stories coming up, Brevoort said that the "Point One" issue of "Amazing Spider-Man" will introduce the new Venom. "I think that's the biggest key and the biggest hook," he said. "You will get to see who he is, what he's about, how he's different from the previous symbiote-wearing Venoms, how he's the same as the previous symbiote-wearing Venoms... this is the introduction of a major new character to Spider-Man."

Closing out with a discussion of titles chosen, Brevoort said that "Daredevil's in a point where he doesn't have a book--so it didn't make sense to do a .1 issue. Similarly, 'Fantastic Four' is in the midst of a catastrophic story arc, so we're not going to stop to do a .1 issue." He added that they might come back to these at a later point.

Gabriel also mentioned Marvel's efforts to curb title production, "so we're not going out and doing twenty of these," adding that "we certainly didn't want to do more than one a week" but "if we want to do FF, if we want to do Daredevil, we have the second half of the year and beyond to do that."

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