With Marvel's Civil War II just a few months away, Marvel is looking to continue it's streak as the #1 publisher in the industry. The launch of All-New, All-Different Marvel combined with the strength of it's new Star Wars titles has allowed the publisher to do what it can to help grow the industry month over month.
We had the opportunity to chat with Marvel's SVP of Sales & Marketing, David Gabriel, about what Marvel has planned leading into Civil War II, his ComicPro award and more. This is just the first of a few stories you'll see us publish over the course of the week and each one is filled to the gills with information.
Marvel is in the middle of a great run when you take a look at the industry sales data provided by Diamond. It looks like the All-New, All Different Marvel is paying off for you guys. Looking ahead to Civil War II, will ongoing titles keep the path that they're on, or will we start to see titles begin to sow the seeds of an eventual tie in to the event?
David Gabriel: Absolutely, to kick things off, we have Avengers: Standoff which just started. Which I think everybody knows by now,we're bringing back the return of Steve Rogers as Captain America. So you will start to see that story unfold over the next couple of weeks. That will be followed by not only the return of the Thunderbolts but the start of the Road To Civil War tie ins. There's just a handful of them like Ultimates & Iron Man. We really limited them and kept it tight this year on what's going on with Civil War II. Really before and during most of the ongoing books.
A portion of the ongoing books will be tying in. We won't be doing what we did last year. Storywise last year, with Secret Wars, we were able to end ongoing titles because the story demanded it. That's not happening this year. The tie ins went back in the main books. People can enjoy them, just as part of the regular series. There will be a few Civil War II series that are launched in June. I think we will be announcing those over the next couple of weeks.
For fans who have maybe missed their favorite series, Front Line, are you guys planning on doing something like that during the event or maybe a Battlefront type book?
Gabriel: Not really, we have a few limited series, but Front Line was always meant to be sort of the regular persons idea of what was going on during Civil War. We will be really focused on the superhero aspect of Civil War II and how it is affecting different superheroes and their dealing with the events of Civil War II.
I can only imagine the excitement around Civil War II is burning red hot right now with retailers. Is there anything you guys are looking to pull out from your bag of tricks that is a bit different this time around given the scope and this being the first All-New All Different Marvel Event?
Gabriel: We're doing a really unique set of lithographs by Michael Cho that will be available to retailers. They will be seen as variant covers on all issues of Civil War II.
The variants that he did for us a few months back were pretty spectacular. So he is doing a new set with some new design aesthetics on the Civil War II variant.
Speaking of the retailers, Marvel was just at ComicsPro a few weeks ago and you were awarded Industry Person of the Year. What was it like when you found out?
Gabriel: It was a little bittersweet this year because we have been active participants in Comics Pros even before they formed. We supported them, we worked with them on pretty much everything they have time. They helped us out as well along the way. Since the very first awards I have always been there in the audience listening for my name to be called out. I think it was 4 times that I was nominated, but who's counting.
This was your year and Leonardo Dicaprio's year?
Gabriel: (laughs) Yeah, exactly. That's how I look it.
I wasn't able to go this year but I left them know almost last year that February is a very difficult time for me to get to Portland. Depending on the weekend that they chose I wouldn't be able to attend. Jim Nausedas went who is our Director or Sales. So he went out and he was there for that. I was a little sad that I wasn't able to see everybody at the time that was actually happening. Certainly a great honor and in the past. I'm going to say we had a run of 2 solidly performing years since the Mighty Thor came out and it was a female Thor a few years ago. Sales have just been climbing month after month after month.
It was good to have the retailers turn around and grant some recognition. I don't take it as a personal sign of them thanking me for anything, but as a sign of everything that we have been doing for them is recognized, which is great because you certainly know we bend over backwards for these guys. While they might not always like the answers that we have for them pretty much every single day we are always checking on the strength of the retail community, the strength of the direct market, and always checking with Diamond on a weekly basis to make sure that store count is always always on the positive side.
I get monthly reports from Diamond on how solid everybody is. Pretty much every promotional item we send to retailers has to answer two questions. First is always how well the direct market and the retailer's respond to this? We want to figure out how they will use it. And second, what problems could this cause? We try to fix all those before anything goes out to the direct market. That is also not just promotional items that are freebies. We still consider the variants part of promotional material and we are always checking and rechecking. If we make a mistake on something that we do with variants we are always open to fixing that and making it better.
There is one good thing that Jim Nausedas walked away from ComicsPro with and that was that a lot of retailers went up to him to talk to him about how they have noticed that the variants programs have gotten a lot simpler for them to hit the thresholds.
This is also the impetus that led to Diamond rolling out a program to actually tell a retailer how much they have to order of something to qualify. We wanted to take the guesswork away from ordering variants variants.
So is that something you spearheaded and wanted to make sure that was available to retailers?
Gabriel: Yeah I have been, I think screaming is a light way of putting it. I've been urging Diamond to upgrade their technology systems. It was a little strange that they were not able to help the retailers out by giving them that threshold number that they needed to order. I think we just discovered in the past couple of weeks, that the retailers that were part of the test program to get that incentives number sent to them from Diamond…orders have been going up, which is great. Could be other factors for that but at least it shows as a step in the right direction.
So what do you think ComicBook.com readers? Are you excited for what Marvel has planned for Civil War 2 and beyond? Check back tomorrow for more with Gabriel as we chat more about variant covers, the health of the industry and more. In the meantime, check out the jaw-dropping Michael Cho variant's below.