A good question? There has been a fair bit of discussion raised by articles online at Bleeding Cool and Down The tubes over what the future may hold for Panini's licensing deal with Marvel Comics, in light of Disney's takeover last year.
For those in the USA who are not aware, Panini are an Italian based company who specialise in publishing comics and magazines in the UK and across Europe, as well as a line of collectible sticker albums a trading cards for all sorts of brands, from toy and cartoon lines to sports licenses.
When Marvel UK was wound up and broken down Panini acquired many of its parts. In particular the Doctor Who Magazine and reprint rights for Marvel's American titles in the UK. Since the mid 90s they have been reprinting Marvel books in monthly 'Collectors Editions' comprising three standard US issues for the price of roughly one US book, along with fortnightly licensed titles from the Ultimate Comics line and new material in the form a Sensational Spider-man - which began its life as a ttie in to the 90s Fox TV Spider-man cartoon but grew into new material later.
They also do their own trade collections of US story arcs, and anthologies of stories by specific writers and artists. Perhaps more importantly to this site they collect Marvel UK material in trade, in the form of the Captain Britain: Birth of a Legend series, as well as collections of Dragon's Claws, Death's Head and Knights of Pendragon. Each of which is something Marvel US have never been willing to do.
A couple of months back Panini acquired the international distribution rights to Italian company Bonelli Comics. Perhaps not that odd. But this got a few people wondering if this acquisition wasn't some kind of preparing for a coming storm, after the announcement that Disney had bought Marvel. Because there is a certain amount of competitive history between Disney and Panini in Europe. In Italy, in particular.
Bleeding Cool reported yesterday that Disney are now taking over Marvel's International Licensing. Now while Panini do still have a deal running with Marvel to reprint their material in the UK an Europe, there is speculation that in light of this things might change.
I personally praise Panini for the job they have done over the last 15 odd years. Were it not for them Marvel really wouldn't have a huge presence here in the UK. Sure, they would within specialist comic book stores. But here in the UK the majority of comic sales DO still come from the newsagents. Thanks to Panini there is a high number of Marvel reprint titles on the shelves of every WH Smith and smaller local newspaper shop across the UK. That IS significant. It's helped build recognition in a way that, say DC have not been able to.
I personally feel that if Disney chose to pull the licensing deal with Panini they'd be shooting themselves in the foot. Taking away that presence would almost certainly leave a big Marvel-shaped gap in the shelves. I'm not saying they haven't done their homework (Apparently they've even brought Ryman Boss and Dragon of BBC TV's Dragon's Den, Theo Paphitis to add to there International Advisory Board at Marvel) but the comics market in the UK is a very different animal to America.
There is of course the other possibility. Disney might try to distribute in Europe themselves. Maybe even open up a British Marvel office, again. That would open up all sorts of possibilities, for editorial staff and even possibly opportunities for British creators to do new work. But it would cost a lot. And I don't think that is necessarily likely.
I'm going to keep my ear to the ground about this one. I have a lot of respect for the people at Panini. They do good work. And I'd hate to see those Marvel UK collections stopped.
In other business, a big thanks to Staz Johnson, who popped by in the comments field of the last post and actually answered one of the ongoing questions we've had over Panini's Captain Britain trades. Staz has done the cover for the most recent volume. Which you can see here:
Which shows Captain Britain and Black Knight fighting in Otherworld, with Jaspers and The Fury in the background. So, yes. It looks like these collections will (Providing they continue) overlap into the material also collected in Marvel US's Captain Britain Omnibus.
Seriously, go and take a look at that page. Staz shows several steps taken to build up that cover, and his inspiration for it. Anybody who has an interest in the artistic process should check it out. Nice work.
And finally, for those who have been asking for a chance to read this stuff for years, this week sees the release of
Excalibur Visionaries: Warren Ellis Volume 1 .
For those who have ever wanted to see the first Marvel appearance Pete Wisdom, and the beginning of the Pete Wisdon/Kitty Pryde pairing, this is where you will find them. And trust me, they're good.
I don't know if that is actually the final cover. It's what Amazon currently have up, but they often have placeholder covers for pre-order books.
If it is, it seems a bit of an odd choice. That cover shows Pete Wisdom and Kitty Pryde from the Dream Nails storyline. Odd, because it's kind of an art error. You can see that on that cover Pete Wisdom appears to have some kind of electricity buzzing from his eyes.
Well, some of you probably might not know that Pete Wisdom was not originally intended to be a Marvel Comics character. He was created by Warren Ellis and Ben Dilworth as part of a pitch for a title called 'Electric Angel' for British based Trident Comics. Wisdom was still and angry young man from Essex, but a man who had command over electricity - not hot plasma knives.
Unfortunately Trident went out of business, and that never saw the light of day. Pete Wisdom was later reworked by Ellis, and introduced early into his run on Excalibur. This is the Pete Wisdom we know now. But so I am told, at some point before his powers were changed to the 'Hot-Knives' that cover was put together, featuring his originally intended power set.
Ellis did of course go back to part of the abandoned power set, later, with another British character, in the form of the brilliant Jenny Sparks from Stormwatch and later The Authority.
Weird how these things work out, eh? Or so the Urban Legend goes.
UPDATE: You know, I've heard that explanation given for the electric eyes of Wisdom several times, and from several different sources. But since posting this one up I've heard from Warren Ellis himself, via Twitter.
warrenellis: @theswordisdrawn You assume a little too much: Marvel never knew of the previous iteration of that character. That's just a crazy artist.
So there you have it. He should really know. Crazy artist indeed.
Anyway, Excalibur Visionaries: Warren Ellis Volume 1 should be out this week. Seriously, Ellis run on Excalibur was a real highlight amongst the stale tone of mid 90s comics. Keep an eye out for this in your store.
Okay, that's all for now. I'm currently having a kitchen fitted downstairs and they may need the power off in a minute.
So until next time...