When did Marvel Comics stop being just a comicbook company?
Recently, I found myself musing on this subject as well as the whole idea of how Marvel Entertainment became a merchandising juggernaut in the first place. I’m no expert on the money and numbers behind all of this but I thought that I could still offer up some of my own thoughts on the subject.
As a comicbook publisher, Marvel has always been good at offering and marketing a sideline of comicbook-related merchandise to tie-in with their mainstay of comic book sales. However, when Marvel went from just being a private company that had to make enough money so that it could continue to print comics, pay its staff and make some money for its owners, to being a company that went public selling stock and thereby became answerable to it’s shareholders, it became something more. Marvel Comics became Marvel Enterprises, a much larger corporate entity with much larger ups and downs. After Marvel successfully initiated, nurtured and developed its own recent line of in-house produced movies it reached a whole new level of success, a level which arguable repositioned its whole comics publishing division as just another sideline, on par with its animation and gaming and other merchandising efforts: for Marvel as a corporate entity the new Marvel movies had now become the meat and potatoes for its future. After Marvel’s recent cinematic successes, the subsequent buy out by Disney was really no big surprise – at the time it was something of a shocker coming out of the blue as it did, but really, with hindsight, it makes a lot of sense. For Disney, the buyout represented a major push to fill a void in its portfolio: Disney had a lack of properties that could be considered marketable to the older male teen and younger adult male markets and the acquisition of Marvel with all of its planned upcoming Marvel comics movies filled that hole nicely. Something key to remember here however is that this change of ownership effectively turned Marvel into a R&D division of Disney, spinning off future live action and animated movie properties for the Big Mouse company. An interesting aspect of this is that Disney found a way to get itself an R&D division that is pretty much self-reliant and in the black financially, seeing as how Marvel Entertainment earns quite a bit from its various publishing and other merchandising efforts (such as Marvel clothing, posters, lunch boxes, video games, etc.).
So it is one thing to claim that Marvel has somehow evolved as a company over the years, but I also described them as being a ‘marketing juggernaut’. How is Marvel now a marketing juggernaut or powerhouse?
MARVEL OWNS A CATALOGUE OF MANY PROPERTIES
From years and years of publishing comic books, Marvel has developed and holds the copyright on a vast stable of hundreds if not thousands of characters, with many of them being quite popular and many more being at least usable and worth further future development.
MARVEL’S CATALOGUE IS EASILY EXPANDED
It is just the nature of the beast that as Marvel continues to publish its line of books
it will continue to create new characters while doing so which cannot help but to replenish somewhat the company’s merchandising line anytime one of these newly created character catches on with its target audiences.
MARVEL’S PROPERTIES ARE EASY TO MARKET
Beyond just marketing various lines of comic books and graphic novel collections, Marvel properties have a natural built in appeal that can be exploited to their various target audiences with spin-off marketing: new Marvel movies(the real big gold mine here), cartoons, toys, video games, clothing, snack foods and candies are all successful offshoots of Marvel’s core publishing division.
MARVEL’S MOVIES OFFER EASILY EXPANDABLE MERCHANDISING
I mean this in the sense that each time we see another Marvel movie released we also see a tidal wave of movie character-related merchandising follow with it; Each new movie is an opportunity to sell lots of new movie-based merchandise with obvious tie-ins, like the expected action figure lines or Iron Man power gauntlets for kids or plastic Captain America shields or even toy Thor hammers, but we also get an avalanche of the less obvious things, like stuff based on items that don’t appear in the movies (such as the Iron Man race cars, aircraft or spacecraft) and characters that do not appear in the movies but that exist in the comic books of the movie characters (such as the Iron Man enemy, Red Dynamo, or the Captain Britain super hero figure released as a Captain America movie tie-in). And the key here is that it all still sells!
Please understand that none of this is in any way a complaint on my part, these are instead just observations that I felt like sharing with you, the reader, here. Marvel’s merchandising efforts of late have been a smashing success and because of the factors outlined above, I see no reason to expect that trend to end for them any time soon.