Women And Kids Are Key To Marvel’s Success, Says Senior Sales Exec David Gabriel
The past few years have seen both Marvel and DC paying far more attention to female audiences, and making an explicit and concerted effort to appeal to different demographics with titles such as Batgirl, Ms. Marvel and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
In a new interview with Marvel's senior vice president of print, sales and marketing, David Gabriel, the executive talked about the company's shift towards women readers, as well as the importance of original graphic novels and Deadpool, as contributing factors towards Marvel's success.
In a three part interview with ICv2, Gabriel discussed Marvel's sales strategy and the publisher's expanding female readership.
From things that we gather from some analysis that Disney does on who is buying Marvel as a brand, and from talking to retailers and looking at our titles, we’re probably up to at least 40% female, which eight years ago might have been 10%. And 15 years ago might have been nothing, while they were all buying manga. So there’s really been a shift, which is great, and it even could be even higher than 40%. I’m sure if you go into some retail shops in different parts of the country, that’ll be 50-60% female, and some lower. But that’s about what we’re seeing now. We also get some stats from digital; they’re a little better at knowing who the customer is.
Gabriel talked about how Marvel is working alongside Scholastic, which is keen to get its hands on female-fronted comics like Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, and mentions that when Scholastic places an order, it's always a significant quantity.
Gabriel also mentioned the importance of the original graphic novel market, and the high hopes he has for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe and its possible success in bookstores.
It seems simple, but marketing comics to an audience that hasn't been properly represented in decades has paid off significantly for the entire comic book industry, and because Marvel sees money there, it's going to follow the trend. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze's Black Panther is already a huge success, which is leading to more comics with black leads featuring largely black creative teams, such as Mosaic and World of Wakanda.
It may seem cynical, but it's important to remember that Marvel Comics is a business first and foremost, and it is going to follow the money. When it finally figures out that LGBTQ people have money to spend too, Axel Alonso may finally greenlight that America Chavez ongoing series that Marvel should have launched three years ago.
David Gabriel also talked about the rise of Deadpool over the past decade, and noted that "Deadpool is our Batman." Every few months there seems to be a new issue of the ongoing Deadpool series that is oversized and retails for $9.99, and this interview reveals this tactic comes specifically from Gabriel's office.
Editors will come in say so-in-so wants to make an issue triple-sized one month because his story is so big. And we say, that’s not a good idea, because when you look at the curve of sales, then we won’t do it. But if there’s something that we can get behind and market and promote, it does very well. For whatever reason, Deadpool at $9.99 sells phenomenally well. And the editor groans when we say we should do another one in a couple of months, because they do very well. They almost double in sales from the regular $3.99 issue.
While this approach is profitable now, it arguably punishes regular readers of the Deadpool ongoing comic book. In the past, oversized issues have been fairly self contained, but an upcoming issue features the first part of the payoff to the big Madcap storyline that has been building for over a year, so regular readers may begin to resent the strategy. Marvel will no doubt continue with the oversized books until it sees sales falter.
The full three part interview is very much worth reading for an insight into how a comic book publisher makes decisions outside of the editorial realm, and for an understanding of the roles played by book stores and international retailers in those decisions.