TALK TO THE HAT: Variant Deaths & Pricing Pages

When it's time to make the big decisions on the nuts and bolts creation of Marvel Comics, people have to Talk to the Hat.

An outstanding industry vet and fashion forward editor, Marvel SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort is back on CBR News for Marvel's TALK TO THE HAT. Our latest weekly look inside the minds at Marvel spotlights Tom along with his signature pork pie and loads of comics news, views and discussion. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Message Boards, each week Brevoort will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and new interactive features.

This week, Brevoort digs into the SPOILER-FILLED details surrounding the recent "Ultimate Spider-Man" #160 including who came up with the pivotal idea for the Universe-changing story and how Marvel views the public reaction to it, explores the history or specialty variant covers, why they died off and what could bring them back AND answers fan queries on everything from pricing on Marvel books due to page counts, the future of the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited reader and the fate of "Astonishing Captain America." Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Well Tom, this week Marvel released "Ultimate Spider-Man" #160. It was the end of the story called "Death of Spider-Man" and it included the death of Spider-Man. Who would have guessed that?

Tom Brevoort: It's astonishing. We've had that banner on the title and on "Ultimate Comics Avengers vs New Ultimates" for months, and yet nobody really took it seriously. [Laughs] And that was perhaps a mistake. We have killed Ultimate Spider-Man. It took us eleven years, but he's in the ground.

Every time one of these deaths comes out, the immediate reaction from fans is "How could this get out early?" which I think we've covered pretty well in past columns. But what interests me here is whether or not you felt like you had any more trouble communicating what happens in this issue to the mainstream press because you had to say "We've killed A VERSION of Spider-Man." Did you have to figure out whether you thought the idea would take?

Brevoort: We've spoken with the mainstream press on this thing, and we were fairly straight up about turning over our cards. If you saw the stories in the AP or the USA Today or the New York Post, they all specify that this was the Ultimate Universe Spider-Man created in 2000 and not the same Spider-Man Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created in the '60s. But in the same way that most casual readers or moviegoers don't really differentiate between the Spider-Man they see in the movies or on the cartoons or in the comics or in the Macy's Day parade, it's all the same thing to most people. So in that sense, we are killing Spider-Man. That makes it a story that resonates. It's important enough that these media outlets are picking up on it, and there was news coverage on Tuesday.

In the grand sense, while we've been very clear to be specific with everybody, the reality is that the details get lost in "Oh my God! Marvel is killing Spider-Man!" and then three or four paragraphs in, it says "It's not as bad as you think, folks...it's only this Spider-Man that they're killing." But whether that's a news story on video or in print, the most exciting thing is "Spider-Man is dying" and the media get that. So it wasn't really a difficult sell. We had to explain it to every outlet we went to. But in the grander scheme of things, it's ALL Spider-Man to these folks.

We've spoken a bit before on how Marvel is presenting some of these big issues as something a little more special. This issue is bagged and so was the Death of Johnny Storm one, and while part of that fun is the idea that the surprises within will be held back just a bit longer, there have been more general gimmicks on the print side of things over the past two years or so than we've seen in a while. Variant covers are bigger now than they've been in a long time, and all of this scratches the itch of "collectibility" which the general public grasps immediately. At the same time, bringing these ideas back comes after a long absence because so many people connected those kinds of gimmicks with the big crash in the Direct Market in the '90s. Do you feel like that stink is finally off formats like special covers and bags in the era where the DM is looking for ways to remain enticing to fans?

Brevoort: I think a couple of things. Definitely, there's always a certain amount of trepidation with anything that can be perceived as "gimmickry." You can call it gimmickry or added-value depending on how positively or negatively people react to it. But the thing about it is that saying that specialty covers or variant covers are what killed the Direct Market in the '90s is a ridiculous oversimplification and is in fact somewhat off base. It was always the easiest trope to hang that period on, because it was the flashiest thing happening in that era, and there were a lot of them.

And any gimmick can be overdone. Things that are special at one point aren't special if you do a lot of them. If we bagged 20 books a month, it would no longer mean anything. If bagged comics suddenly start to sell better, you're likely to see us bag more and DC bag more because we're all after the same thing. We want to get eyeballs on the books and money into our pockets and into the retailers pockets. It absolutely is a slippery slope, particularly if you depend on it too much.

What happened in the '90s - and I was around during all of this - was that as fortunes in the Direct Market shifted - having a lot to do with everything from speculators who'd been speculating on sports cards moving their money during the sports strikes of the era to comic books, to the explosion of new publishers and particularly new super hero universes (you couldn't turn around without seeing a new one launch on the backs of Image's and Valiant's very different styles of success, all wanting to be perceived as "the new Marvel Universe") - one thing that absolutely happened was that as you increased the number of titles at each company and with so many publishers - Marvel was up to maybe 150 or 160 releases a month, which is an insane number for any one outfit, multiplied by all the titles from DC, Image, Valiant, Malibu, what have you - the quality of the books had to go down. You don't suddenly have more creators operating at the level who can do this much work. Consequently, it's easier to break in and get work. And there were guys working at Marvel in the '90s who really didn't have any business at that stage of their development working on a mainstream, A-list, big two publisher's release. [Laughs] But you got the best guys you could get, and everybody was vying for the same talent pool. I think that more than anything else, the fact that quality tends to suffer across the board when you have that many releases and you're diluting the talent pool that far had much more of an impact than just specialty covers.

Now, it all goes hand-in-hand, because a lot of those releases were behind specialty covers of one sort or another. And they came to be seen as indicative. People connected the two: here's a shiny foil cover wrapping a turd of a release. People associated the turd with the cover rather than the turd with the actual turd. So it's all of a piece. Because specialty covers were selling and there was a huge demand for them, everybody wrapped their books in them. Our owners of the day used Marvel stock to finance their other purchasing sprees, and there was a constant need to generate bigger and bigger profits in order to keep the stock price up for these other speculations they were doing that had NOTHING to do with comics. There was just pressure from the owners to do more. "We need you to do one foil cover a month. We need two foil covers a month. We need three..." And eventually that greed - not just on Marvel's part, but right on down the line because every company did this - all of it from shitty product to a lack of specialness, collapsed in the marketplace. In a sense, it was an artificially inflated market to begin with. Day traders who came in to make money on sports cards and then comics migrated out as they cashed out. It was a Ponzi scheme where eventually you take the bottom brick out and it all falls apart.

So there were myriad reasons for what happened in the '90s, but they're all interconnected. You can't disassociate enhanced covers from that. I don't think they're intrinsically bad, though. Certainly when they were introduced...well, the first one I remember as such - though there were things like multiple cardstock covers on "Legends of the Dark Knight" #1 - the first real enhanced cover I remember was the Dale Keown issue of "Hulk" that they printed with a fluorescent fifth color ink. It was a very simple cover, and for whatever reason, Bobbie Chase who was the editor and the folks in production in trying to spotlight the issue as a big thing with the reunified Hulk got the financing cleared to do a fifth color ink - fluorescent ink. And that thing flew off the stands, not just in comic shops but in the newsstand distribution that you still had then. Tthey went back for two or three printings. Once you hit on that once and it works, you go, "Okay, is there somewhere else we can do this?" We did a bunch of them and rolled them out slowly. The "Ghost Rider" cover with a glow-in-the-dark skull head or the foil "Silver Surfer" covers which made perfect sense for the character.

Eventually though, this stuff all went insane. [Laughs] We were doing insane pop-up variants that didn't really work, like the cover to "Force Works" #1. We were doing little hologram covers for which the technology wasn't that good, but we were doing them on Spider-Man books and X-Men books. In the race to mine gold, everybody went to excess, not just us. And not to point a bunch of fingers, but you could look at the companies who were doing this at the time and are now no longer in business. But I think the uniqueness of those cover treatments aren't bad intrinsically. The reason they worked is that people liked them. You saw them on the stands, and they popped. People gravitated towards them and wanted them. For ten years after that, going to comic shops and talking to retailers, one thing I would hear consistently is that they'd pull those things out of back stock and display them on a rack up front, and those things would still tend to turn. They wouldn't turn at a big marked-up price, but if a guy was sitting on 50 copies of that foil "Silver Surfer" book, he could put five or ten of them on a rack, and they'd still move.

So as long as you do these things within reason and don't go to the well too much - and that's the trick! [Laughter] We'll see if we're any better about it now than we were ten or 15 years ago - they have an appeal that's cool and brings attention. The death of the Torch issue probably wouldn't have been quite as big a deal if it wasn't bagged. Being bagged sent a message: "Wow! I have to open this bag to find what happens!" It added a mystery or an ambiance, whatever you want to call it. We had the added wrinkle of the small run of variant covers that Hickman signed in the bag, which added a fun lottery aspect that was a reward for some folks who may live somewhere in the world where they can't make it to a convention to get a book signed by Jonathan. To me, that's all added value. I wouldn't want to do it every month with every release or even with a lot of releases. But doing something like that from time to time is not the end of the world.

When we relaunched the Ultimate books after "Ultimatum," we made that launch special with some foil covers...and the sky did not fall. And we haven't done any foil covers since then, so it's not like once we roll these things out again they'll be omnipresent all of the sudden. They'll lose their heat if you do them too much, but I think they're a completely valid marketing tool to use on your book if you're using the right technology that matches whatever the story and content you have is.

In an ideal world, how successful do you think bagged issues like this one will be? Is your goal here to draw in new readers full time, or is there a level at which you're perfectly happy if stores can move a ton of collectibles in one fell swoop?

Brevoort: I don't know that there's one specific goal or benchmark. I think obviously, anything we can do that gets people into the stores and puts them in a place where potentially we can attract them into buying something else is good. That is a place where we rely on our frontline troops, the retailers themselves. If someone comes into your shop looking for the bagged issue of "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man," you probably want to try and hand sell them on the rest of the run - four or five issues of "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" - and maybe also the " Ultimate Comics Avengers vs New Ultimates " run which is part of "Death of Spider-Man" --and anything else that might happen to be going on. Maybe you want to sell them a "Green Lantern" book because "Green Lantern" is in theaters right now, and that's a good opportunity. I don't even mind that, because it's more dollars in a retailer's cash register and more money he has to order Marvel books next month.

Certainly we hope that the actual guts of what we do - the storytelling Brian and Bagley bring to this story - is good enough that it brings people back to see what happens next in "Ultimate Comics Fallout" and the new "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" debuting down the road. It's a big win if this release can bring even 1% of people who came in for the bag back into shops the month following. But honestly, even in the short term, being able to sell a lot of copies of this single book and put that money back into our marketplace is a win. How much we're able to leverage that into other things going on, whether we get spillover into "Amazing Spider-Man" or "Captain America" or "Thor" because of the movies or "Avengers" or whatever, it's good all around. It's all a win, but it starts with that initial release. And I'm pretty confident in it. I can't share any numbers or anything, but I'm told that it looks like this book will be the best-selling comic we've published this year so far, beating out the "Fantastic Four" death issue. That's an initial print run, so there's a chance we may do a second print. I haven't discussed this with Mark Paniccia and his guys, and it may be difficult since the book is bagged. Though I guess we did a second run of the "FF" issue without the bag. If there's enough demand, we'll keep going. But at the outset, we're looking at moving an enormous number of copies of "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #160 and we've made sure that there are plenty of copies of the issues leading up available in case all the news does drive people into stores. I can't quite measure the bar, but I do know that from the orders we've seen already, this is successful.

The last thing I'd ask on this front is a bit of the chicken/egg question we covered with the recent "Fear Itself" death. I know the legendary story around "The Death of Superman" was that it started as a joke of "Oh, let's kill him ha ha" until they decided to find a way to actually do it. I know "Death of Spider-Man" was born in an Ultimate summit around New York Comic Con last year, but it feels from the outset that the origin here was "We need to find something to make the Ultimate Universe different from the 616...how about killing off Spidey?" What's you recollection of how those pieces came together and justifying the choice?

Brevoort: It's difficult to say in that I wasn't involved in every conversation, so my memory is spotty at best. The Ultimate line is not a line I'm always involved with, so it's tough to recap in total. But it was at the Ultimate retreat when everybody was in town. Mark Millar had come in with a notion for a "Death of Spider-Man" story. As it tends to be with Mark, he pitches the wild and crazy stuff because so often he sits at a remove from what we do month in, month out, and then he steps back in. So he walked in that day with a notion for the story, and as we were talking about it in the room, the thing that was exciting to us is exactly what you were saying. We've been taking pains of late to distinguish the Ultimate Universe from the regular Marvel Universe, and you can't really kill Spider-Man in the mainstream Marvel Universe. Certainly nobody would believe it if we did. But in the Ultimate Universe, maybe you can. Part of the reason the Ultimate U exists is to be able to tell stories and play out their consequences in a way that's not as easily done in the other books.

So, if we killed Peter Parker, what happens? What happens to the world when Spider-Man actually dies? How does it change people's reaction to super heroes, and how do the super heroes go about their lives? The manner in which his death unfolds...how does it affect the people close to him like Aunt May and Mary Jane and Gwen and the kids at the school? It seemed like there was a lot of story material there. In short order, people got on board, and everything proceeded ahead. Out of this grew the new Ultimate Universe relaunch or repositioning, which we knew we were going to get to. This allowed there to be a catalyst for that restructuring, particularly since it was an event that could cross through both "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Ultimates Vs. Ultimate Avengers." It could have a wide impact on a variety of characters.

Overall, that seemed like a good confluence of elements. We had as story we believed in and Bendis went off and hammered out an outline that we probably workshopped a little bit more than we would have with any other "Ultimate Spider-Man" story. And away we went. Again, there could have been turns and wrinkles I've missed or pieces someone added because I wasn't involved with every single one of those conversations.

Tom, your tale of creative discussions where people see eye-to-eye and work together to create a good story is all fine and good, but I'd rather this be a case where Millar jumped on top of Bendis and while slapping him in the face screamed "I'm taking Spider-Man, and I'm coming for your children next!"

Brevoort: [Laughs] Again, I can't say that these ideas are never contentious because we fight things out often in the room. The way it works philosophically at Marvel - and I've been on both ends of this - is that the better story or the guy with the better argument wins. It's easy to be intractable. To turn this around to a place where I was on the receiving end, the notion came up during "Civil War" that we should kill Captain America, and that was something that I didn't need to be convinced of per se, but in the moment it was brought up, the only thing running through my mind was "Ed has all these stories going on! We have all these things planned. Oh God, what are we going to do? I need to talk to Ed!" But eventually, everybody talks, and we figure these things out and realize the strength of the idea, and the notions and story elements that hold water rise to the surface. A good idea is a good idea. People find their hook into stories, and the way Ed did it wouldn't have been the same way someone else would have done it. He wrote the Ed Brubaker version, the version that works for the larger story he was telling to propel things in an exciting direction. Looking back, was it the right thing to do? I think absolutely it was. Ed hasn't had another comic on the cover of the New York Daily News since then. Maybe he will next month, but nothing since then.

Can it be a painful process? Sure. When you've been generating ideas for a series--Brian had come into that Ultimate retreat with a roadmap of ideas for a Peter Parker book for the next year or two years--to see then get knocked askew because Mark had an idea for "Death of Spider-Man," it can be hard. But talking about it, staring at it, studying it and putting it on a scale, "Death of Spider-Man" was a better idea than the other stuff that he had. So he went with it. Everybody takes a blow to the gut at some point where a story they thought was going left suddenly is going right because someone had a better take on it. But those turns don't happen against the will of the creators involved. If Brian was absolutely dead set on not killing Ultimate Spider-Man, it wouldn't have happened, or he wouldn't have written it. If we were convinced that Ultimate Spider-Man must die and he didn't want to do it, it would have been Jeph Loeb or Jonathan Hickman or Nick Spencer. But the fact that Brian wrote it should tell you that he got on board with the idea. He came to embrace it. The first moment it came up I'm sure it sent a chill down his spine, but it's a story. He's a storyteller sitting there, thinking about it, tossing the ideas around and seeing if it works. And he found a way it worked for him. That's why our creative environment is better than anybody else's in the business at this point. We have fans that poo-poo us without really understanding how this all goes down. They think that either every creator just does what they want or that everything is mandated from above or that everything is decided by a star chamber of five guys in a secret location. Maybe that's how other people do it. I don't know and can't speak to that, but we chose to be collaborative, and the best argument wins.

Speaking of arguments, I wanted to ask you this week about a topic that's been hot on the boards of late: the idea of price versus page count. We've had readers wondering why some books seem to be at $3.99 for less that 22 pages and others asking why some books seem to be headed in DC's direction of 20 pages for $2.99. Overall, is there anything you perceive as a decision made in terms of overall pages to price point, or is there something people aren't seeing about how this all comes together?

Brevoort: First off, our page counts tend to fluctuate depending upon story more than anything else, and that was true before the current price wars. The reality is that like everybody else, we're tightening our belts some. We're looking at a down economy and a down marketplace. It's not an absolute thing where we're cutting page counts down to the bone, but we are looking at our spend versus the revenue we're generating and making decision based on that. I'm sort of the wrong guy to talk to about this in a sense because I grew up in the '70s, and in the '70s comics were 17 pages. Going back to the '60s, for a great deal of what we think of as the classic Marvel Age, Marvel books were 20 pages. 22 pages is where things shook out after a bunch of expansions and deflations. Prices in those days tended to go up a nickel, and occasionally people would try to up their page counts to increase by more than a nickel, whether it be DC going to $0.25 for 52 pages or $0.50 with eight-page backups.

Eventually everything stabilized at 22 pages an issue. That's as arbitrary a number as anything else. I certainly can understand that people are trying to get value for money, but I don't think a story's quality can be counted simply in terms of the number of pages it has. An excellent 20-page story can be just as or more satisfying than a mediocre to okay 22-page story. If you're just counting widgets, then yes a 22-page story is a better buy for your money. But you're not. You're paying for a reading experience. The reader as a consumer gets to decide what to do with their disposable cash, just as a $2.99 book is more affordable than a $3.99 book. I'm not saying our $3.99 books aren't as good as a non-$3.99 book. I'm just saying that's what it costs. If "Avengers" is worth $3.99 to you, then you can buy it at that price point. If not, maybe you wait for the trade or get it digitally through the Marvel App or on the MDCU eventually. Maybe you wait until a local comic shop is closing down and get it out of their quarter bins. Whatever the case may be, each individual reader is the master of their own destiny in terms of what they believe these comics are worth to them. We make our decisions based on our own fiscal needs.

And honestly, some of this too is scheduling. As we're ramping up and trying to produce more of our core titles over the course of a year, it's a lot easier to get particularly our better and slower artists through 21 pages than it is through 22. That's common sense. It's one less page than they have to do. We make the decision to scale back here or there in order to get more releases more often onto the racks. It's not an overall policy I'd say. It's just a shift we have to go through to accommodate all these various elements. Does that make sense?

Sure, but one thing that stands out to me when you bring comparisons to the '70s and page counts, I know there's a major difference in how comics are made today in terms of pacing and how much actual content fits in an issue. We don't get stand alone issues nearly as much anymore, and really, longer and longer arcs feel as the norm. Do you ever while talking to creators say "I think we can squeeze this story down from six to four issues" or generally "Are we putting as much entertainment value as we can into this single issue?"

Brevoort: I think we always have. But again, I don't think it's as simple as trying to cram stuff in. As you say, there's a different standard now in terms of what comic book readers want and like in their entertainment. It's funny. I just put out a Marvel Vault "Human Torch and Hulk" book which started life as an inventory issue of "Marvel Team-Up" in 1984 that Steve Ditko penciled and now Karl Kesel has come in to script and to ink. It was amazing to look at, because so many of those pages were nine-panel pages. It's astonishing the amount of stuff that's on every page just in terms of the number of panels. It's not as though there was even more incident in them in any given scene. It's just that the way that story was broken down is far different from how we do it now, almost 30 years later. It's an absolute shift. And what that book is is not better or worse. It's different. I think we try to approach every book that we do to make it the best story it can be.

If someone's pitching a six-issue story, and we feel there's an issue or two's worth of dead air there, then we go back to them and tell them that they can do it in five or four. The reverse is also true as well. Even right up to the last minute - and I'm saying this given that only half the series is out - as recently as when we were starting work on the final "Fear Itself" scripts, I was weighing the notion that we might need to go to eight issues. Despite the fact that it's solicited as seven issues and we've been planning it all along as seven issues, as tends to happen on big event books there was a little bit of drift. Matt [Fraction] had written it as a seven-issue outline that we'd hammered out and gone over many times, but as he wrote the actual scripts, the amount of incident that could actually fit stated to expand until the point where I had to start talking to people here going "Look, what it we had to go an extra month? What impact would that have on the rest of the line?" And as it turns out, that wasn't necessary. Our issue #7 is big - I think it's 35 of 36 pages, so we needed some extra pages at the end but not an entire issue. And that's an extreme case that's not as likely to happen on an "Iron Man" arc Matt writes or even an "Avengers" arc Brian writes But we need to be prepared because sometimes these things to balloon. And the opposite is true as well where occasionally we need to scale back. It's really individually the editors working with the creators that come to that determination, along with the oversight of the executive editors and the Editor-in-Chief where it's warranted.

Yes, we want to make sure every release is as chock full of entertainment as we can. Readers will tend to argue this, and it's all a very subjective thing because no comic you point to is universally loved or universally reviled. You try to do the most good for the maximum number of people, but I can't service every single reader and guarantee that every last one of them will like "Fear Itself" #7. What I hope to do is build an issue that as many of them will like as possible. That's the best I can do. And sometimes, we produce a clunker. Sometimes we don't hit it right and put out an issue that doesn't work as well. There are bad comics. It happens. But it's never because someone sat down and said, "Let's make a bad comic." Sometimes creatively, things don't go according to plan. This isn't science, it's alchemy. For whatever reason, writers and artists aren't in synch or the writer can't find the right words that day, or there's a scheduling jam up or a death in the family that makes us bring someone else on halfway through a job. There's a million things that can make the elements just not coalesce and go awry. But every effort is put in to get comics out that are as good as we can make them AND make them worth the money we charge for them.

This has particularly become Brian Bendis' rallying cry, and I think he was Tweeting about this over the last couple of days, but he says "Creators, think about the work you're doing. Are you doing a book that you'd personally want to buy? That you'd pay money for?" That's the barometer he uses personally and that we try to use across the line. Opinions differ, and I'm not going to love absolutely - to use an abstract example - every book that Steve Wacker puts out, and he's not going to love every book that I put out. But hopefully we individually will love what we ourselves put out, or at least the majority of it. There's always taste involved, and not every reader or every consumer will want the same thing.

My last question for the day has similarly been burning up Twitter of late, and it's simply this: what in the high holy hell is this photo of you with a semi-automatic weapon? Did you start working for Fantagraphics at some point when I wasn't looking?

Brevoort: [Laughs] I didn't realize that that was a hot button topic all of the sudden!

Some of the message boarders are getting nervous!

Brevoort: As well they should be! [Laughter] That was my Father's Day, oddly enough. For Father's Day I went out with my son to a gun range and fired off guns. My son, who is 20 so it's not like we're talking about a nine-year-old here, is a licensed firearm owner, and I am not. What this proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that paper targets have nothing to fear from me. Nothing whatsoever. I am a terrible shot it turns out, but it sure looks impressive. It's all for bravado and appearance but not for effect. So if I ever happen to be coming at you with a semi-automatic weapon in my hands, the smartest thing for you to do is stand still because I can not hit you. [Laughter]

As for fan questions this week, let's start topically with Ravin' Ray who asks, "Tom, I just read Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160 and it's the third death issue I've gotten since the start of the year (Johnny Storm and Bucky being the other two). After Johnny's death you showed him alongside Spider-Man's Uncle Ben in that tried-and-tested faces in the clouds background behind Spidey and Franklin. Then for Ultimate Spider-Man, you previewed a picture of Uncle Ben and Peter, backs turned toward the viewer, with a hazy viewpoint. Are these artistic devices to drive home the message that the recently deceased truly are (especially since Uncle Ben who remains dead appears in both) and that their passing shouldn't ever be tampered with by future writers?"

Brevoort: I don't know if it's quite so profound an intention as that, Ray. It's more just an artistic device to indicate these characters' passing, and to maybe tug on the heartstrings a little bit.

Checking in on one of comics not quite yet lost projects, rogerio wondered, "What happened to Andy Diggle/Adi Granov's Astonishing Captain America?"

Brevoort: It's still coming, Rogerio, it's just taking us a bit longer than we'd anticipated, so we pulled it off the schedule until we can be certain we'll have it all done and ready to release. Adi got suddenly busy with some work related to the Avengers film at one point, and that knocked our schedule out of whack.

Tim Hammack wanted to check in on a Marvel program you mentioned this week but which may be under the radar for some folks. He asked: "How will digital day-and-date via Comixology affect Marvel Digital, in which an annual fee gives us access to an entire library? Will new titles go to Comixology and slowly migrate to Marvel Digital? I hope Marvel Digital is not going to be discontinued. I really enjoy the service, and could not otherwise afford to read the comics in the quantity that I do ($1.99 price point is too high for digital comics a la carte)."

Brevoort: Hey Tim, right now we don't have any plans to discontinue Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. We're of course working hard to grow our single issue digital comic sales and watch to see how moves in the digital space-inside and outside of comics-reflect customer preferences. So, at the end of the day we trust our fans to vote with their wallets-and we'll get them comics where they want to buy them.

Have some questions for Marvel's Talk To The Hat? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It's now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

Tags: marvel comics, variant covers, tom brevoort, ultimate spider-man, ultimate fallout, talk to the hat, death of spider-man, astonishing captain america

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