So Marvel's Executive Vice President of Sales and man who wants to be your sledge hammer, David Gabriel, gave an interview to his former colleague James Viscardi at ComicBook.com, and the interview has been making news around the blogosphere for a couple of different reasons. For one thing, it lists all the titles that will be ending going into Secret Wars. For another, it strongly hints that Marvel's not-a-reboot will more like a yeah-it's-kinda-a-reboot. Additionally, it suggests that Marvel will sell at least half a million copies of Secret Wars #1 to comics retailers, a huge boost over what past super-mega-crossover events have sold.
Here at The Outhouse, we've been pretty overwhelmed trying to keep up with the "comics community has sexist meltdown and implodes on itself story," so we've neglected giving this our usual snark. Well, that ends now. Let's see what David Gabriel (why don't you call his name) had to say.
First, when asked what the "Everything Ends" tagline for the super-mega-crossover event means, Gabriel said that creative teams were given a choice: end their book with a Last Days story, or tell a Secret Wars story ("just tell a good story that doesn't tie into a super-mega-crossover event every six months" is never an option at Marvel). The books that end will have "616" finales, and the 616 (the name for Marvel's universe) will reach its conclusion:
It means that there will be a “616 finale!” and that means exactly what many fans have suspected – everything ends. We’ve been saying it over and over again but at the core, Battleworld IS the Marvel Universe when Secret Wars #1 hits in May. But before that, there will be a number of titles reaching, what we’re calling, a “616 finale,” ending those stories and characters as you knew them – for now!
Here are the titles which will have "616 finales:"
- All-New Captain America
- All-New Ghost Rider
- All-New X-Men
- Amazing Spider-Man
- Amazing X-Men
- Angela: Asgard’s Assassin
- Avengers World
- Captain Marvel
- Fantastic Four
- Guardians 3000
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Iron Fist: The Living Weapon
- Legendary Star-Lord
- Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man
- New Avengers
- Rocket Raccoon
- Secret Avengers
- Spider-Man & The X-Men
- Spider-Man 2099
- Superior Iron Man
- Uncanny X-Men
Yes, that's 33 books which will be "ending" going into Secret Wars. Will they be coming back afterward? Almost certainly in some form, but maybe not the same as before, and maybe not with the same creative teams. Perhaps more importantly to readers fearing a DC style full reboot (you never go full reboot), will the characters in the new books be the same characters from the old books? Well, that depends on their cross-branded marketing synergy potential, of course. The whole point of Secret Wars, beyond the usual yearly event gimmick sales boost, is to shuffle the Marvel Universe around so that if, say, the regular Cyclops is not lucrative enough as an intellectual property, he could be replaced by a younger, less murdery Cyclops that will sell more lunchboxes.
The bottom line is that we'll have a Thor book, and we'll have several Avengers and X-Men books, and god help us, we'll have a Deadpool book. But we might not have the same Thor, Avengers, X-Men, and Deadpool books. Got it? Good. Gabriel went on:
The entire Marvel Universe will be affected in some really shocking, really surprising ways. And that’s just the beginning of the fun!
By fun, he means money.
Gabriel did address the question of how this end of everything affects books that just launched, if by addressed we mean "spouted some more marketing mumbo jumbo:"
Secret Wars will affect every title in some way shape or form so you can definitely expect Spider-Gwen, Howard the Duck, All-New Hawkeye and others to deal with it in their own ways. Like I mentioned before, none of our creators were blindsided by Secret Wars so they’ve all had plenty of time to work it to their advantage – catering to their own tastes and storytelling, using the event to add something new to the Marvel Universe that wasn’t there before.
Some may take a hiatus for a month or two (something the industry is accustomed to); some will reach their “616 finale;” some become Battleworld transformed; and still others…well we’ll get to those!
Gabriel then went into a long explanation of what each of the three Secret Wars sub-crossover labels means, just moments after claiming that Marvel set this up to be easy for readers and retailers to understand. We had a brain anyeurism trying to get through his hyperbole, so let's just cut to the chase:
LAST DAYS are the Past, BATTLEWORLD is the present, and WARZONES! are the future.
Gabriel then goes to great lengths to try to convince us that these tie-ins aren't really tie-ins:
To us, the term “tie-in” has such a narrow scope in terms of ONLY relating to one central story. That term doesn’t really describe these. Secret Wars series are the Marvel Universe series throughout the time it takes us to tell Secret Wars.
So basically, tie-ins?
For example, during Secret Wars Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is the “core” Spider-Man series. That should be pretty obvious considering Dan Slott is writing it. Dan’s current Amazing Spider-Man title isn’t a “Marvel Universe Tie-In”, just like Renew Your Vows isn’t a “Secret Wars tie-in”.
Yeah, but the "Marvel Universe" isn't a super-mega-crossover event.
Some folks have asked us to define a Secret Wars series, and that’s simple. A Secret Wars series exists while Battleworld exists. And every story told on Battleworld is going to provide clues to the future of the Marvel Universe.
Yeah, they're tie-ins.
But perhaps the most shocking revelation came when Gabriel was asked about the response to the event:
Great! We’re going to surpass a half a million units on the first issue which is amazing. And that’s just selling straight to our Direct Market core retailers. We’ve had an extremely successful year in bringing in new fans and retail partners but I’m extremely proud to bring such a big number to local comic shops. Our marketing team deserves a ton of credit, but it’s also a testament to the strong titles the editors and creators put together.
So, this number doesn't even include crate-themed subscription services? Local comic shops are going to take 500,000 copies of this comic? You know what that means, of course. Comic shops are going to have about 350,000 copies of it in stock after all the people who are actually planning on reading it buy the thing. That's gonna fill up a lot of dollar bins. I hope Marvel is providing plenty of incentive variants to sell on ebay to make that cash back.
In case you're unaware, the numbers we see for comics sales are never sales to readers. Nobody knows what those actually are. The numbers we see are the numbers publishers get retailers to buy in the direct market system they set up for the sole purpose of not having to take returns from regular book stores and news stands. Whatever the shops buy from Marvel, they're stuck with. If a series is a flop with fans, that's tough shit on them, because they've already placed their orders for the next couple of issues at least.
But the highest selling comics, usually super-mega-crossover event comics, when factoring out stuff like loot crate, sell 100,000 to maybe 150,000 copies, tops, to retailers. If we assume retailers aren't idiots who want to keep massive amounts of stock in their stores, then we can assume that means that is roughly the size of the entire comics reading audience, since that's how many copies the top books that most people probably buy sell. So how did Marvel convince retailers to buy more than three times that?
Well, if ol' Jude Terror were running that interview, we might have found out. But Marvel execs don't come around these parts, because they fear tough questions. They'd rather stick to what Rich Johnston calls their "media partners," where unabashed marketing hype can pass for an informative interview.
There's only one way we'll ever really know how many of these things sold, and that's to wait about ten years, and then go to the dollar bin and compare the number of Secret Wars #1's to the Jim Lee X-Men #1's and Rob Liefeld X-Force #1's that are also still in there. We can then compare the print runs and work backwards from there.