Thursday, May 17, 2007

When Big Money Attacks

I know we've been focused quite a bit so far on story arcs, on creator shuffles, on crossover potentials, but I want to make sure we don't forget about the gorilla in the room, the new fledgling company on the block who is likely going to cause us some problems in the days ahead.

What do folks think are the biggest threats on the horizon from Wacker and his Big Money books? We've all seen start up companies popping up here and there for 15 years now. Who's really given Mighty Marvel a run for any money, and why?

Really, is it the fear of exclusives that has us wary here? We've been able to fend off our Distinguished Competition for nigh unto four score and seven years now. Why fear the new kid on the block?

Obviously, it's because Wackers got some momentum on his side. That plus the competition we're already facing from the other publishers is going to make for some seriously crowded shelf space at the comic store.

What if Wacker's looking at a new reach into the market? E-comics? Here's a panic - what about television??? Think this guy's got the deep pockets to finance commercials during primo TV time? Imagine sitting there watching Heroes or Lost and seeing a commercial pop up for Big Money comics. Ugh.

What do you guys think? What should we be looking for?


Philip Schaeffer said...

Here's what I think about the Big Money comics presence in the sim.

This wouldn't happen in the current comics landscape for a variety of reasons. Tom really wants it to, I really want it to, but nobody's going to spend the money trying to crack this kind of market.

So I feel like we need to view this as another set of challenges. The game is just on a harder level.

We have to sell more copies than we would've since Big Money will cut into our sales. We now have to stomp on Bowser's head five times instead of three.

We have to lock in our top talent because Big Money's going to steal them. Some of the monsters we're fighting have an attack with a 20% chance of stealing an item.

I'm not viewing this element of the sim in as realistic terms as the other elements because it's a more fantastical pitch. Sure, we can push online distribution and try to find more mainstream advertising avenues, but those are measures that I really don't think Tom will say we've got the budget or infrastructure for. Let's look at the things that will affect our end goal, total sales, the most and try and counter them.

Michael Heide said...

Big Money is a combination of Image and Crossgen.

Image, because our talent will wander away. Possible solutions: Exclusive deals and backup writers and artists.

Crossgen, because they've got money to burn. They could buy tv spots, yeah, but they can also sell 22 page comics for 99 cents. They can put out hardcovers, paperbacks and digests of their storylines at prices that will have us in tears.
Possible solutions: Give readers the best product available for their money (I like the idea of DVD style commentaries on Get the best writers. The most fitting artists. And use the strengths of Marvel's longstanding stable of characters. We have one big advantage. Brand recognition. We are the guys with the Spider-Man films. The X-Men films. The Fantastic Four films. The upcoming Iron Man film. And so on. We are the one with decades of cartoons. Video games. Action figures.

So let's use all that stuff wisely. Launch a new Spider-Man action figure line and include previews for the Fraction/Romita run. Notice that I don't want Spectacular, because action figures are three years and up. Venom is not.

There's a Hulk game in development at Sega. It won't come out during our tenure as editors, but let's pimp the heck out of that game anyway. Because it raises the awareness of the character. Sean, be sure to mention the upcoming Hulk film (with Ed Norton, Liv Tyler and Tim Roth) and Iron Man film (with Robert Downey jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard). The books under our jurisdiction don't profit directly from it, but awareness of Marvel characters gets raised. Which could lead to people trying out Marvel books. Which could be ours.
If Big Money wants to spend money on TV adverts, let them. Let them lure new readers into the comic shops. Where they will buy our books.
One other thing: We must get back to the Newsstands. If Big Money does it first, we are f***ed.

Patrick Cook said...

Michael, big time agreeance on the newsstand warning. Hell, I'D buy comics off a spinner rack these days, just for the sheer nostalgia of it. I was up at a beach in New Hampshire over the weekend, and they had one of the old racks, circa early 1970s still in the back of the store. Admittedly, it now held travel games, but it still had the hey kids! comics! sign across the top. Sigh....

This brand recognition thing is what has kept this company afloat through the worst of times.

People know these characters. They love these characters. Big named creators working on throwaway titles does not a company save. Anyone remember Gorilla?

For me, this upstart company provides us the opportunity to focus and do what we do right: tell good stories.

debbie said...

You four are the most prolific writers I have ever encountered. Don't overdo or overthink this stuff. I think Sean should put a word cap on all of you even on this board! You might be able to say more if you say a little less...

Save some for next week!

Sean Kleefeld said...

Last year, tom threw a bunch of scenarios at the guys and he later said that pretty much everything was pulled from real life. So I figure BigMoney is Crossgen for all intents and purposes. Problem is that the sim's so short that BigMoney won't have gone belly up before we're done.

The biggest problem Crossgen threw at Marvel was nabbing creators and providing good incentive packages. That's why I started throwing out exclusives quickly -- they get more money and security. We'll still probably lose a creator or two anyway, but that's why I've been harping on you guys to be ready with backups.

I'm betting that bigMoney's books won't be in direct competition with ours from the standpoint of genres. We do superheroes. They're going to do sword-n-sorcery, or pirates, or whatever. Not a whole lot of crossover buyers.

The issue is keeping the creators we have. Give them good incentive packages, and let them tell good stories. So if Tom throws you guys stuff about creators wanting to take books in a different direction, I'd suggest NOT dismissing them out of hand. Unless you want someone jumping ship, keep your creators happy.

And naturally, I'm here to help with that too. I pushed for Byrne on Spectacular for example, but if he's not excited to work for Marvel, he's a potential liability. He's gonna be the guy who gets pissed off at Pat or David or me or the colorist and head to BigMoney at the first opportunity. Let's avoid that by bringing on board folks who WANT to work for us and, once they are working for us, are happy working for us.

Josh said...

You may lose some talent who want to go elsewhere to work on their own creations. I'd suggest looking at what's been pitched for Icon and make sure you're using any pitches that make sense and could keep talent with Marvel.

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