• Loved Iron Man: Now What?

Okay, maybe you’re like me. I’ve seen Iron Man and I want more. Iron Man’s based on a comic book, so there’s bound to be tons of stories I can pick up. I’ve never read any Iron Man comics before, but if it’s anything like the movie, I think I’d like it.

First stop: Marvel.com

Marvel.com seems to have prepared for this scenario, as there are no less than 16 ads for Iron Man related products on their front page.

Let’s start with the first thing that caught my eye: Iron Man Eras , an article detailing the goings-on of Tony Stark just over the past 10 years (not counting the 40 before it). And to be honest, it’s overwhelming. All this talk of Skrulls and Registration Acts and Illuminati… why can’t I just find a story that’s just like the movie?

The answer: You can’t.

A great help is a bio of Iron Man & a list of “Required Reading: 10 Iron Man Collections” is a fantastic reference for newcomers. If you are ready to jump into the world of Tony Stark as he currently stands in comics (which is a very different place than he was in the movie) Marvel has the resources to prepare you.

After you make it through those 10 collections, you might be ready to take on the new series “Invincible Iron Man” (from writer, Matt Fraction), releasing this week with a first issue, or even the ongoing “Iron Man” series (currently at #18). Or you could check out a few new limited series coming soon: “Iron Man: Legacy of Doom” where apparently Iron Man fights Dr. Doom (?) or “Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas”, written by Jon Favreau and drawn by Avi Granov who helped design the Iron Man movie armor. There’s also Marvel Adventures: Iron Man (currently at #4) for younger readers and Ultimate Iron Man, which I think was a limited series and is now over (?).

(I will probably pick up the Favreau mini-series and the first issue of Invincible just to give them a chance as I’m a fan of both the authors.  Maybe they’ll surprise me with their accessibility… but I’m not holding my breath.)

The point being, there is no one easy place to start. It’s a mess.

If I were Marvel, I would produce an original graphic novel to act as a “sequel” to the movie. I’d release it the same day the movie comes out. It would pick right up where the movie left off (while leaving room for the movie’s actual sequel, sure to come.) When I left the Iron Man movie, I wanted to know what was going to happen to THAT character, not a character with 40 years of history. And then, I’d follow up these OGN’s about once a quarter. Make them readily available in bookstores and market the hell out of them.

At the very least, there should be a very clear cut place to start for fans of the movie. Release a free (or very cheap) comic to comic book stores that fills you in on the history of Iron Man and tells you where to start (hopefully with a new #1.) Hell, even pass these free books out at movie theaters when people walk out, with a website to visit to find their local comic book store.

They need to create one very large button on their web page which reads “Liked the Iron Man movie, wanna read more? Start HERE.” Provide a link to where they should start with reading more Iron Man and where they can find that book.

There is so much potential to these comic book movies, but they are so bogged down by continuity that a new reader cannot easily jump on. Even if you could jump on easily, would you want to? The comic book Iron Man looks so different from the movie version.

With movies like 300 or Sin City, you see huge jumps in sales of the respective comics. With X-Men, Spiderman, Batman, not so much. And it’s because there is no one story you can pick up.

These comic book publishers need to WAKE UP and realize that there is a huge massive audience out there a hundred times the size of who they are spending all their time and effort catering to right now. The millions of people who saw and loved Iron Man this weekend is who they need to be aiming their marketing at. Those people need to realize that comics are as cool and smart and funny and entertaining as the movies. But it will never happen if they keep being so inaccessible.

  1. I would also add that Marvel should break the Diamond Distribution (even though I think they own it) and start putting the Iron Man that you talked about on news stands. They don’t have to put the regular titles out on the news stand like the regular Iron man. I think a problem with the selling of comics is the comic shops themselves. There is a stigma that comes with shopping at a Comic Shop that there shouldn’t be. People still think comics are for kids, so a more direct news stand campaign would be a good idea. A guy buys a Iron man comic from a news stand he can always go “Yea it’s for my kid”.

  2. I always have a bit of an issue with these, what would a person who never read comics would do situation.

    I don’t necessarily disagree that Marvel could streamline their system to be more prepared for movies, especially since they now have control over the way the system occurs. But no one ever proves that the audience that enjoys superhero movies wants to read a comic book. It’s a nearly completely different medium. Sometimes people just want to enjoy the spectacle of a super hero movie. You can’t get half the things you get in a movie that you can in a comic and just because they share the same basic idea doesn’t mean that any other medium is gonna have a great crossover.

    (You may argue that the games may do well, but Games are bigger than movies)

    Your street team idea is an interesting one, but you fail to consider how small Marvel is. They just can’t send a stream of guys out there to hand out free comic books. You can make it part of the publicity blitz for the movie, but in the end the publishing arm is healthy but a small part of the company and one side eating the other’s budget to support it is bad business.

    You could put the onus on retailers, but not every retailer wants to do that. My shop last year strove really hard to work with Spider-Man. They are located right next to the theatre. They handed out free comics. They had selected Spidey trades on sale and other trades on more sale. This year they didn’t do a huge blitz because they saw no increase in profits. Another friend who works in the business told me their issue doing the free comics day blitz in movie theatres. Several wanted them to pay large amounts of money doing so. They found ones that were okay with them doing it there and got local news coverage and hopefully will turn it to their advantage.

    I don’t think there is an easy answer to this. The last suggestion of selling comics at a news stand is amazing. Do people still go to the news stand? I live in NYC and the only place I see those are underground and on my way to John Jay.

    Comics are a freaking hard sell.

  3. Valoharth – I’m not so sure that would help as I don’t think anyone buys monthly comics from newsstands… whether that be at your local grocery store or Borders. I do think they’ll buy graphic novels, however.

    Pedro – You may be right. Maybe the audience just doesn’t cross over.

    I believe that the audience most likely to cross over to comics are those that would read Vertigo books before they would read a superhero book.

    So, let’s forget about the MASS movie audience and just focus on the kids. I think all the above suggestions could help kids access comics as well. And they are VERY interested in superhero books.

    As far as the street team, this doesn’t even have to be Marvel. Movie theaters give out “freebies” all the time. All Marvel has to do is send them.

    And ultimately, I’m not Marvel. I’m sure they’ve thought of all of this before and are doing their best. But I do think this kind of thing can be a wake up call to comics publishers and creators to really chase after a new market. It’s safe and easy to keep marketing to the same small, very loyal market but it’s not growing, at least not at a healthy rate. These companies need to think of new ways to reach new audiences.

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