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Should Marvel bring back the “split book”?

by  in Comic News Comment
Should Marvel bring back the “split book”?

Sure, Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort’s formspring account — on which anyone can ask him anything they want — is often little more than a Festivus-style airing of grievances for people outraged that a) Jean Grey is/isn’t dead/Hope; b) Spider-Man and Mary Jane are no longer married; c) Thor lost a battle to [insert name of any character Thor ever lost a battle to]; or d) the awesome Ronan the Accuser/Unus the Untouchable crossover idea you wrote down on the back of a box of Wheat Thins doesn’t count as being a “published writer” for the purposes of Marvel hiring you to write Uncanny X-Men. But every once in a while something really interesting will pop up. Case in point: the following exchange…

Since its so tough to sustain new titles (Atlas, Cap Britain etc) is there any chance we could see an ongoing split feature like the old Cap/Iron Man Tales of Suspense? Maybe fans of two low selling titles are enough to support one shared book.

I’ve been thinking about this very thing recently–just haven’t concluded which two features would have the greatest chance of success.

Well well well! I’m really interested to hear that Brevoort has already been mulling the idea over. Split books like Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense, and Astonishing Tales were long a mainstay of Marvel’s publishing program, starring big-name characters like the Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and Doctor Strange. Moreover, a split-book revival wouldn’t feel hugely out of step with the current backup-story trend. Marvel, meanwhile, has shown admirable willingness to maintain struggling but acclaimed and/or fan-favorite titles — witness all the relaunches, crossovers, minis, back-ups, and spin-offs utilized to try to keep the Agents of Atlas afloat.

But there are a lot of obstacles to overcome here. For one thing, you’d need to convince readers that what they’re getting is worth paying for even though each of the two stories in each issue would be half as long as a normal one. Anthology titles are usually sales death these days, so you’d need to ensure that the audience feels like they’re getting a real series, not a mix-and-match grab bag. You’d need to select characters or concepts the combination of which would have an additive effect — much as I love Captain Britain & MI-13 and Atlas, I’ve got the feeling that most of the people who bought the former also bought the latter, and combining them wouldn’t get you very far. It’s a lot to consider.

That’s where you come in. If you were Brevoort, what features would you think have the greatest chance of success?

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