Looking to lure a new generation of six- to 12-year-olds into Spidey’s comic book web, Marvel Publishing has created an imprint that retells the 40-year-old franchise’s stories using modern-day narrative imperatives – namely manga-inspired art, self-contained story arcs and updated kid lingo.
The first print run of Marvel Age’s Spider Man #1 (between 40,000 and 50,000 copies) will hit Borders and Barnes & Noble for US$2.25 in March, with a new issue to follow each month after that. Marvel is going after the big-box book chains rather than comic shops because kids already visit the chains quite regularly with their parents.
A quarterly digest (US$7.99) containing five to six stories will follow in April. And interestingly, it’s with this format that Marvel plans to turn young girls, a traditionally comic-shy group, onto the art form. Marvel Publishing’s manager of sales and marketing David Gabriel says research conducted by Marvel with manga publishers reveals that ‘girls are eating up’ digest manga about subjects ranging from superheroes to love stories. Looking to capitalize on that untapped readership, Marvel is launching a Spider-Girl digest collection in April.
To keep appealing to older kids, Gabriel says the company will put out two serialized digests for readers in the 12 to 14 range. ‘Sentinel’ is about the adventures of a giant robot and should appeal pretty exclusively to teen boys. But Gabriel believes ‘Runaways’ – about a group of teenagers who band together to stop their über-villain parents from wreaking evil havoc – should pick up fans on both sides of the gender fence.
Gabriel expects to add more Marvel Age series to the publishing schedule by the start of the summer. No complementary merch programs are planned, but he notes that given Marvel’s success with Spider-Man & Friends preschool toys, those avenues are being explored.