By Kevin Mahadeo
Although the new Point One initiative might seem quite literally like a fractionally small change, it's actually very much Marvel's Next Big Thing.
Speaking with a number of entertainment news outlets from across the industry, Marvel Executive Editors and Vice Presidents Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso along with Senior Vice President – Sales & Circulation David Gabriel discussed Point One in a conference call Tuesday afternoon. Beginning in February, a select number of Marvel titles—including AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA and INVINCIBLE IRON MAN—gain an extra .1 issue. These full-length issues, while featuring a self-contained story, both lay the groundwork for each title's future and signal the perfect jumping on point for new readers.
"There's [been] a lot of talk for months about the price of comics and the page count of comics and too many comics,” said Gabriel. “One of the things I've been thinking of is that there's not been a lot of discussion about bringing readers into stores and getting new readers back into comics. Unless you're giving them a story that they can really jump into where they haven't been reading or maybe they've never read, then all that other stuff wasn't really going to do any good."
The Senior VP added that everybody in almost every aspect of publication and sales really got behind the Point One push, but he also stressed that they wanted to get the retailers and readers behind it as well. For this reason, Gabriel said that the current "magic price point" of $2.99 seemed ideal, so they plan on having each of the .1 titles at that price for purchase.
"I think that as a tool, we've done some of these kinds of things in the past on a more individual note," said Brevoort. "We did the nine cent FANTASTIC FOUR issue a bunch of years ago and that's exactly the model we're following here. Single issue. Self-contained. Beginning, middle and end. Everything you need to know about the characters. It's a great story and it primes the pump on what's going to come next. It's the same thing with the Free Comic Book Day releases we've done over the last couple of years, all of which tell a complete story by our best guys in 22 pages and hopefully springboard the new reader into what comes next."
Brevoort referred to the program as a "concentrated focus" that gives readers who may have wandered away or whose attention has wavered over the years a "perfect and labeled place to check back in on their favorite title or favorite character." He added that the hope of course stands that these new readers will then want to come back the following month after the .1 issue and continue their stay within the Marvel Universe.
"One of the inspirations for this really was the Free Comic Book Day [titles] that we started a few years ago where we put out a new story that launched something big that was going on in the rest of the Marvel U," concurred Gabriel. "If you think about these 11 releases as those Free Comic Book Day issues that launched something big that was going on, I think that could answer a lot of questions people are having. That's really the best way to look at these."
Alonso chimed in and said that the challenge comes in hooking new readers with one story that leaves them feeling as if they not necessarily need to come back and see more, but want to. As the editor put it: "We want to get you hooked on one taste."
Brevoort also highlighted that the upcoming .1 stories play a vital role in future stories of their respective titles and will not be solely for newcomers, but also important for current readers to check out as well.
"They're not fill-ins,” he insisted. “They're not throwaways. They're not removable. We're going to use this as an opportunity to plant a few seeds and to foreshadow a few things that are coming up along with giving people a taste of each of these individual titles and what specific flavor they have to offer. These are actual issues of these books that happen to have a .1 in their number."
The trio cited the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN .1 issue as the perfect example. They revealed that the issue introduces the new Venom, a character that plays a major role in the series moving forward. Brevoort called it an "introduction of a massively important character to the Spidey world."
During the question and answer session, the group argued the differences between the Point One push and the Saga collections currently published, which also look to bring in new readers.
"This is a completely different thing from a 'Saga,'" emphasized Brevoort. "When I think of a Saga, that's a recap of everything that's come before. It's a summation of the last few years of storytelling. That is not what these are about. These are about telling you a balls-to-the-wall, 22-page adventure of these characters set in the now that impacts their ongoing stories."
Gabriel also called to attention the fact that the Sagas and handbooks start through the sales and marketing department, while the Point One books stem from the editorial department.
In regards to collected editions, while the editors toyed with the idea of releasing a trade collection of all the .1 issues, Brevoort insisted that the .1 issues themselves also have to be collected with the regular run of their titles.
Although the current Point One line up only comprises 11 of the current Marvel titles, the editors confirmed this might be something they continue in the future and that might spread out into more series.
"If these go over well and the retailers are happy with them and certainly the fans and if it works, we might do another wave of these," said Gabriel.
"Point One, point five," laughed Brevoort. "It could even become a yearly thing where once a year, every few months we cycle these into titles. Just because we happen to be doing one now for INVINCIBLE IRON MAN doesn't mean a year from now we can't do another .1."
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