Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Tom Brevoort on the possibility of another Marvel UK?

A little bit of a midweek update for you.

Firstly, you may have noticed a few costmetic changes on site, in the last few days. There's been a couple of logo changes, for a start, and a bit of a resort of tags. You can now also search the blog via a keyword search, at the top of the right hand site of the page. But probably the new function I am most pleased with is the Recent Comments field I've added to the right hand panel. This little widget allows blog visitors to see what's being most recently discussed. We've a lot of stuff on here now, and I'd hate to think that people wouldn't want to comment on an older entry, purely because they don't think anybody will see their comments. Now they will. Right onthe front page too.

Make use of these new functions, and let me know what you think.

So, oto the main focus of today's blog. In the last couple of years things have started to look a good deal rosier for British Characters in the Marvel Universe. We’ve had Wisdom, Union Jack and Spitfire turning up in the pages of Captain America, Union Jack's own limited series, and more recently a return for Clan Destine and New Excalibur giving way to Captain Britain & MI:13. It’s actually looking pretty good. Room for improvement, of course, but looking good nonetheless. If you’re like me, though, you’ll actually be wondering what the official word on the British characters might be, at Marvel. What do the people who call the shots think about those properties, or the concept of some more British produced Marvel material? Well, recently Tom Brevoort, Executive Editor at Marvel Comics, was asked a similar question over at his blog. For those of you unaware of who tom is, he’s a long standing editor, who’s been with Marvel since the late 80s, and regularly takes readers’ questions on his based blog.

(He has previously spoken out against at the adoption of the term ‘Earth 616’ at Marvel during the 1980s – and how he wishes people would stop that – but I won’t hold it against him).

Last month, a poster going by the name of ukdavew, asked Tom the following:

Posted by ukdavew on 2008-03-28 07:47:46: What's the current
thought within Marvel to the possibilities of expanding into new markets by
publishing more comics about non-American heroes? I grew up reading Marvel UK
titles such as Motormouth and Killpower, Captain Britain, Knights of Pendragon
and I see it as a real shame that kids today don't have the same choice. There's
the Panini comics (aimed at younger kids) or the more "typical" American faire.

So, in essence ukdavew is one of us – a Marvel UK fanatic of the early 90s. More power to him.

For those of you outside of the UK the Panini Comics he is referring to are primarily reprints of US titles, from both Marvel and from DC comics. They mostly reprint three US books per issue, monthly. It’s the format that seems to sell best in the UK, and indeed sells incredibly well. But the only real new material they put out is the Spectacular Spider-man comic, which certainly aims itself at the younger reader in presentational style.

But what of Tom’s view on it?

Tom Brevoort: I think these are two different questions. In the past, Marvel has been in the forefront of creating characters of different nationalities and different
backgrounds and making them important in the Marvel Universe. They haven't all
become major players, but a number of them have. However, I don't think this
does all that much to expand the market in other countries--while everybody
likes to have heroes they can directly relate to, I think that, in general, the
publishers in, say, India are more interested in publishing SPIDER-MAN than
MARVEL-HERO-FROM-INDIA. Marvel UK was a valiant attempt, but a relatively
short-lived one that came about in a marketplace that was very flush, and that
died out when that same marketplace began to contract. But we're now doing some
cross-publishing with Soleil, so you never know what might grow out of that if
things go well.

By ‘relatively short-lived’ I’m assuming he’s only referring to the imprint years…

Admittedly, he’s probably right. The reprint market is bustling right now, and by and large I don’t think any of us would be under the illusion that say a new line of Marvel UK titles would outsell the X-Men books, even here in the UK. But it certainly sounds to me that Brevoort, at least, is not totally against the idea. Even if he does appear to making that rather annoying assumption, which many Americans seem to have, that Britain is really that close to mainland Europe. Culturally we don’t seem to interact as closely I think some people stateside seem to believe we do.

The Soleil deal referred to here was announced back in January. Soleil are a French comics publisher, responsible for titles such as Sky Doll and Universal War One. The deal itself will allow both parties to reprint parts of each other’s material in their respective countries, which is simple enough. But more interestingly it appears to have started a bit of an artist and writer exchange between the two companies. A number of Marvel creators will be going over to France to create some new material for Soleil. We’re not quite talking about the creation of a Marvel Francais, here, but this could actually prove quite interesting.

For more info on Marvel’s deal with Soleil, go here:

Thanks to Steven Carr for mailing me about that one. It’s actually got me thinking a bit about Marvel UK, as it was, and wondering what people might think about the concept of a British imprint in the current comic book climate. Would it succeed? What kind of conditions would have to be in place in order for it to do so? Is there even a need for it, or is a few British properties turning up in mainstream Marvel enough?

I’ll turn that one over to you…

Tom Brevoort’s blog “Blah Blah Blog” can be found at:


  1. The biggest drawback in terms of the imprint is visibility. Arguably they would need to try and target both the specialist market but also the newsagents. Their biggest outlet would be WH Smiths and anyone who has been in one would see the way they treated their comics sections within their stores. Shuffled around and the comics themselves are often in a bad way. They'd all need those stiff card covers the Titan and Panini reprints have. I've lost count of the amount of times I've had to settle for a 2000ad that's been damaged.

    It'd be interesting to see what approach they went with and with the creative teams. Admittedly they've gotten better over the years of their depiction of the UK but there are still a few artists I'd rather not be asked to draw places like Edinburgh anytime soon.

    It'd be the ideal plaything for Warren Ellis I feel. Let him oversee it like he did with the Counter X books.

    Warren Ellis and Liam Sharp on a new Death's Head book. I'd buy that!

  2. Who WOULDN'T buy that? Seriously.

    I know what you mean about Smith, Andy. Back when I was still buying those Panini reprints in the late 90s it was the key factor in my subscribing directly from Panini. Smiths do not give their comic range good shelf space, and it's a crying shame. Especially as they are the largest UK retailer of their kind.

    I dunno. Right now I'm really happy with Clan Destine and Captain Britain & MI:13 as two outlets for British characters or stories. Spin of minis from those two books from time to time would probably be a more financially sturdy way of getting more books out there and raising profile. But somehow it's just not quite the same...

  3. One thing that might help swing things for Marvel re: another UK imprint: their deal with Panini was struck when they were bankrupt, and isn't particularly rewarding for Marvel (or any of their employees - no reprint royalties).

    One thing preventing the need to set up any offices outside New York: any Brits worth hiring as freelancers are already working for US publishers, or trying to. The exchange rate means its currently financially more viable to let these guys come to you, than set up in the UK and hire them/pay them over here.