Thursday, 15 April 2010

What's the deal between Marvel and Panini, now?

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...



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  2. If you're not already aware of it, I'd like to highlight the Marvel UK panel at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival on Saturday May 1st. I'm going and am very much looking forward to it:

  3. Hi Daryl. I don't think I'm going to be available to go that weekend, but that really is a truly awesome list of ex-Marvel UK staff. If anybody going please let me know how it goes. Sounds very promising indeed.

  4. Woah woah, Panini does trades?

    I did not know that. Useful!

  5. Hi Hasoon. Yes, they do.

    If you ever spot a trade from the UK or Europe labelled up as a 'Marvel Graphic novel,' with a little logo to support it, then the chances are you're looking at a Panini collection. These often contain a few bits of different material, such as different concept sketches or cover art in the back, and often a foreword from the writer or an associated creator.

    Perhaps most interestingly the Panini collections of Captain Britain and MI13 were released several months before Marvel's collections, with far more material in them. As a result i would suspect (Given that Panini had to go back a reprint) these sold far better in the UK than Marvel's OWN trade collections did. A shame, because Marvel see a lot less profit from them...

    But it's the collections of Marvel UK material which perhaps interest me the most. They're on their fourth Captain Britain collection, they've done two Death's Head collections, the entire of Dragon's Claws, and a first collection of Knights of Pendragon.

    All good stuff. And, of course, not the kind of material which Marvel US is likely to ever get around to reprinting.

  6. An interesting new twist in this Saga. A Spanish site now appears to be suggesting that Panini in Italy have acquired the rights to some of DC's Vertigo imprint...|en&hl=es&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

  7. Hmmm. That linking didn't quite work.

    Here's some crude Google Translation instead:

    " Panini published in Spain Vertigo Crime line
    on April 15, 2010 =

    It is not the first time something happens like that. In 2003, Norma Editorial already signed an agreement with Alecta / Recerca so that the second line Vertigo material that interested him the first ... and so we got things like Eternal Hell and The Extremist . What had never happened before, that I recall, is the publisher of our country in the Marvel comics to get into a field so genuinely DCER line as Vertigo, the adult imprint par excellence of the competition. But sometimes freezes hell, and sometimes these things happen ... Last night I read the comment of MMR in my text on I, Zombie : "The Vertigo Crime Panini is going to publish." I took it a joke until I found that days before had made the same comment in another text of a partner. In addition, MMR has proved to be a reader always discreet. So I started researching ...

    And I learned that, in Mantua Italian Convention this year, Panini Comics Italia announced that it had the rights of the line Vertigo Crime in the country of the boot, some rights left out the graphic novel only dedicated to Hellblazer -here already announced by Metro-and begin to play in the second half of 2010 posting attached to seal material itself (A History of Violence, Road to Perdition) and then bring the Filthy Rich by Azzarello and Santos and The Chill by Jason Starr.

    The big question last night was, therefore, logic ... It's going to happen here in Spain? And the answer, authoritative sources confirmed today by the publisher concerned, is that ... YES. The contract for the Vertigo Crime is separate and Panini is left with the cake.

    Well ... it's no secret that ambition Panini rights Metro DC-as well as to covet the Marvel-and what we get into technical design and sales with its recent acquisition (modest, in the end after all) will be observed with a magnifying glass across the pond.

    If we add more news appeared this week could be looking at strategic moves, chess, to reshape the landscape of comic book rights in Spain.

    But these are all speculating.

    The news today is that Panini is publishing in Spain Vertigo Crime line under the heading Panini Noir.

    Does this mean more competition for amateur benefit?

    We'll see ... "

    Courtesy of

  8. Hey guys have any of you got a copy of the 4th volume of Captain Britain?

    It doesn't seem like it was actually published. Can't find it anywhere...
    Have 1,2,3 + The Omnibus etc...



  9. sorry to add, the publish date kept changing on both amazon and the forbidden planet site... Want the second part of the black knight story.

  10. Hi Krisb.

    No date for Vol.4, yet. But the link to Staz's blog above shows you the cover to look out for. Given that the previous volume ran very late from its original estimate it's hard to say quite when we'll see it. But it SHOULD be coming out eventually.

    You can register interest on Amazon, which might be a better way to keep track of it.

  11. UPDATE: It;'s actually been rushed out for this week according to Bleeding Cool:

    Which given we aren't getting any new comics in the UK this week due to the volcanic ash fiasco is a good thing!

  12. Although I'm not aware of the global picture, I think Panini ended up with the UK Marvel license because Panini was, for a while, a Marvel-owned company.

    If I recall correctly, Marvel purchased Panini alongside US card manufacturers like Skybox during their ultimately ill-fated 1990s expansion.

    The existing Marvel UK operation then seemed to come under the Panini umbrella, I assume to put all Marvel's European operations together.

    When Marvel's fortunes took a turn for the worse and parts of the business were either sold or closed, the whole Panini operation was let go including the Marvel UK imprint. Panini probably went with a favourable reprint contract to make it more attractive to the new owners.

    The memory is a little fuzzy and I'm sure those directly involved would recall the chain of events far better.