Free Comic Book Day Superheros

DC announced their Free Comic Book Day releases yesterday, so today, here comes Marvel.

First, from DC, two titles:

The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1, DC’s gold-level title for this year, is an all-new, all-ages Johnny DC series spinning out of the smash-hit animated series on Kids WB on the CW! In this debut issue, the Legion travels back in time for reinforcement to stop the Fatal Five from destroying Metropolis because this looks like a job for – Clark Kent?! Can six teenagers from the future help a mild-mannered teenager become the Man of Steel, or will the Fatal Five determine his destiny before it’s even begun?

The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1 is a 32-page comic book written by J. Torres, with art by Chynna Clugston-Flores and a cover by Steve Uy.

DC’s silver-level title is Justice League of America #0. Best-selling author Brad Meltzer broke the JLA down in the top-selling, critically acclaimed Identity Crisis – and now he puts all the pieces back together again! The core heroes of the DC Universe, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, are back – but where do they stand with each other? Join us for this historic and unforgettable new beginning of the Justice League of America as we look at the past, present and future of the World’s Greatest Super Heroes!

Justice League of America #0 is written by Brad Meltzer, with art by Eric Wight, Dick Giordano, Tony Harris, George Pérez, J.H. Williams III, Luke McDonnell, Paul Neary, Gene Ha, Rags Morales, Ethan Van Sciver, Kevin Maguire, Adam Kubert, Dan Jurgens & Kevin Nowlan, Jim Lee, Howard Porter & Dexter Vines, Andy Kubert & Jesse Delperdang, Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning, and Ed Benes & Sandra Hope, and a cover by Michael Turner.

I’m very excited about the LSH book, not only because I love the characters, but because Torres and Clugston-Flores are incredibly talented creators with a terrific track record of wonderful and diverse works. I like that they’re starting with an origin story, and it also helps that it’s a mass media tie-in.

I believe JLA #0 is a reprint of the book of the same name from last year, which is DC’s pattern for FCBD. That’s a fine strategy, in my opinion, because the day should be about attracting new readers, and it’ll be new to them. I don’t like the writer or story, but it’s good that it provides a sales path — if readers try the new book and like it, they can buy the Identity Crisis collection or catch up on the series, which is only a few issues in.

I applaud DC leading with an all-ages book, too. I help my retailer out every year on FCBD, and it’s a pleasure to have titles that can be given out to everyone without worrying what the parents will think when they see, for instance, a half-naked woman on the cover. Even worse is a title that kids want but you have to tell them they can’t have because of inappropriate content.

Marvel also offers two titles. In a reverse of DC’s approach, they are also doing both a “regular” and an all-ages superhero book, but their emphasis is on the older-skewing audience and pandering to existing fans. In fact, their press release gives only one paragraph to the more accessible title. (I’ve omitted the solicitation information that was included at the bottom.)

For the sixth annual Free Comic Book Day, Marvel’s rolling out a brand new Spider-Man tale by the blockbuster creative team of Dan Slott (She-Hulk) and Phil Jimenez (New X-Men). Much like 2006’s Runaways/X-Men FCBD offering, the story in Amazing Spider-Man: Swing Shift is steeped in continuity, yet accessible and enjoyable by all Spider-Man fans.

Swing Shift cover
Amazing Spider-Man: Swing Shift

Slott, for one, is more than a bit excited about Swing Shift. “[It's] unbelievable,” says the elated writer. “And, seriously, how can anyone pass this up? It’s got three of the biggest draws that I can think of: ‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Free Comic Book’, and ‘Phil Jimenez’!”

Speaking of Jimenez, Slott leads the pack of fans who can’t wait to see Phil’s rendition of Spider-Man. “I am so psyched for this! I am a HUGE fan of Phil’s work! And the art that’s been coming in is AMAZING! I think this is going to be one of the sweetest things coming out on Free Comic Book Day– give-away or no.”

But Slott and Jimenez aren’t the only new faces joining Spidey with this year’s FCBD issue. Marvel Heroes editors Tom Brevoort and Steve Wacker are also onboard.

Is Wacker excited to be working on Spider-Man? “Absolutely. When the unholy Marvel trinity of Buckley, Gabriel and Quesada brought this idea up, I almost shoved Brevoort out the window out of sheer joy,” notes Wacker who’s been with Marvel since September. “FCBD has a great track record of tackling one of the most difficult challenges in comics: getting books into new readers’ hands. The whole team is working to make this an exciting taste of what’s to come.”

Phil Jimenez has been notably absent from Marvel since his work on NEW X-MEN. So what brings the superstar artist back to the House of Ideas? “Phil and I go back a few years, so we have a solid relationship,” adds Wacker, “but the heavy lifting was done by Lee, Ditko and Romita. They gave us one of the greatest characters ever in Spider-Man and if you approach just about any artist about working on the character, most jump at the chance.”

So what’s the Swing Shift all about? “It’s a fun, all-new, done-in-one adventure,” exclaims Slott. “I like to think of it as the perfect ‘chaser’ to your SPIDER-MAN 3 weekend.” Wacker divulges a bit more about the book’s plot: “It’s the birthday of someone very close to Peter, but the special day is ruined by the appearance of a new villain that will haunt Pete for months to come,” says Wacker.

Executive Editor Tom Brevoort adds one last hint about what to expect from Swing Shift. “Very simply, [it's] a quintessential fun, action-packed Spider-Man adventure–with some hints and foreshadowing of many of the elements that’ll be coming into play in the Spidey titles in the future, including three new characters you’ll be seeing a lot more from.”

But, wait! There’s more! Riding shotgun on Free Comic Book Day 2007 is a brand new Marvel Adventures book, Marvel Adventures Three-In-One! Featuring the triple threat of Iron Man, Hulk and Franklin Richards, the book promises to be a romp for fans of all ages!

Let’s see why I think this is an inferior approach:

  • This PR has a ton of information irrelevant to the event. If I’m figuring out what to purchase to give to new readers visiting my store, it doesn’t matter that there’s a new editor (who seems to me to be mentioned mostly because he’s a new hire from the competitor).
  • I know Marvel’s PR department loves to try and live up to Stan’s wacky bullpen bulletins, but this seems like overkill in tone and voice. “It’ll be fun! Fun! FUN! FUNNNN!” becomes a turn-off.
  • Let me quote: “steeped in continuity, yet accessible and enjoyable by all Spider-Man fans”. That’s an oxymoron. More to the point, it’s rare for anything “steeped in continuity” to make a good first taste for new readers.
  • Moving to the sadly neglected kids’ title, I suspect it’s a reprint of existing stories taken from the other Marvel Adventures books, but that’s not mentioned. Update: Marvel has since clarified that it is also all new content.
  • Is Three-in-One a new ongoing approach to repackaging? Or is it a rebranded one-shot just for this day? Maybe they should have taken out some of the “it’ll be GREAT!” quotes in favor of specific, factual information.

Or maybe I’m just a curmudgeon. The creative team sounds great, though, and I’m sure it will be a good read.


20 Responses to “Free Comic Book Day Superheros”

  1. Jer Says:

    Eh. I’m more excited about both LOSH and Marvel Three-In-One that I really should be. I’m hoping that 3-in-1 is a new ongoing title kicking off with FCBD and not just a one shot – it sounds like fun (though Hulk+Iron Man is admittedly a bit weird). The PR blurb quoted above doesn’t say it, but at the Beat it says that one of the writers on 3-in-1 will be Fred van Lente, who’s work on the MA:Spider-man title I’ve been enjoying.

    If Swing Shift ends up being accessible (and Dan Slott might pull it off) then Marvel will get more kudos for me than DC this year. JLA #0 wasn’t very accessible to ME, and I’ve been reading Justice League for over two decades now. I understand what you’re saying about having a reprint of a book that can be quickly jumped on by folks who might get interested, but you need to actually have material that will get folks interested in the book.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Jer: Totally agree. The single most important thing is entertaining readers to bring them back for more, whatever more turns out to be. And Marvel has the advantage of putting out a Spider-Man comic when a Spider-Man movie is launching, so there should be LOTS of interest in that comic. I hope that my concerns turn out to be a misinterpretation of the PR instead of a problem with the comic.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Didn’t Dan Slott write a miniseries with Spider-Man and the Human Torch previously? Oh, right, here it is. That bodes well.

    Re the new audience issue: comic companies are notoriously bad at reaching outside of their comfort zone. That’s why so many of their sales increases are made by cannibalizing the existing direct market audience, switching them from one book to another.

  4. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    There never was a Marvel Adventures Iron Man or Hulk – so I’m thinking they HAVE to be new.

    Personally, I don’t like the JLA #0 as being on there. We have a TON of them left over and were going to give those away anyway. I don’t really like DC’s reprinting for FCBD thing myself.

  5. Justin Says:

    I am excited for both offerings. That PR is tired and darn near sickening, but I have thought Spider-Man and Dan Slott since I first read one of his books. The other stuff said in the PR is like annoying buzzing. I hope the Spidey book is a sign that there might be an ongoing in Slott’s future.

    And I really think the three in one is aiming in two very strange spots. Franklin Richards is right on the money, my boy loves that title. And I suppose Iron Man and Hulk could be hitting the Marvel Adventures Avengers crowd, but why not put out an issue of that?

    I keep hoping for FCBD to move out of the already reading audience, but there just has to be more. I can remember my first comic coming from my grandmother, she picked it up at the grocery store with my brother…. wouldn’t it be nice to think someone’s grandmother could do that now, or even feel safe doing that?

  6. Johanna Says:

    To be fair, if I’m going to yell at them, I should probably also mention the FCBD visitors who come in, grab as many free comics for their kids as you’ll let them take, and then disappear, only to be seen again at next year’s FCBD. I emphasize the all-ages thing because it’s much harder to interest non-reading adults in stapled comics.

  7. David Welsh Says:

    It would have been neat if DC had put together some sample pages from their Minx books for FCBD.

  8. ~chris Says:

    If J. Torres and Chynna Clugston-Flores did a Lady Death vs. Razor comic, I would still want it. :)

  9. Chris Galdieri Says:

    Does the cover of the Spider-Man giveaway book remind anyone else of the first All-Star Superman cover?

  10. caleb Says:

    JLA#0 seems weird to me because it’s not terribly accessible (it splits it’s time between referencing 40 years of continuity, remixed especially for the occasion AND flashing forward to scenes that we’ll probably never see anyway, like the aftermath of Batman’s death of Wonder Woman’s wedding), JLoA is probably the only title they’re currently publishing that DC doesn’t need to interest more readers in and, finally, if it grabs you and you want to read more of Meltzer’s comics work, it won’t take you long before you find the most controversial story DC’s published since, I don’t know, ever? Given how many kids love the FCBD, I don’t think any road that could lead to IDENTITY CRISIS is a wise one.

  11. Randy Lander Says:

    I dunno, Johanna, I thought both DC and Marvel (and everyone, really) had some good offerings this year.

    Looking at the solicits, the Marvel Three-in-One is in fact new stories, one of them written by my good friend Paul Benjamin, and the Marvel Adventures line is (in my opinion) generally stronger than DC’s Kids’ imprint in terms of appealing to both adults who want all-ages friendly comics *and* actually kids.

    Plus the Marvel books are new, the DC books are reprints, and I have more faith in a Slott/Jimenez Spider-Man book being accessible than the damn near impenetrable Justice League #0. I’m no Marvel fan these days in general, but I think Marvel has the edge on Free Comic Book Day offerings.

    Although I do think the all-ages Legion is a *great* offering, to be fair.

  12. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Phrases like “steeped in continuity” remind me why I’m sticking with Owly and Amelia Rules! for FCBD.

  13. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

    On Marvel vs. DC, I think Marvel erred by making the Spider-Man title the Gold offering and Adventures the Silver, though kudos to them for both being new content. Participating retailers have to order the Gold level books, not the Silver, and way more of them would have gone the extra mile for Spider-Man, what with the movie opening that weekend, than will for Adventures. So, lost opportunity there, I’d say.

    And yeah, instead of a Justice League reprint, DC would have been smarter to put a Vertigo, Wildstorm or Minx preview in the mix instead.

  14. Alan Coil Says:

    Guy LeCharles Gonzalez posted:
    “Participating retailers have to order the Gold level books,…”

    I didn’t know this. Do they have to order the same number of each? It seems that this might lead some dealers to just ignore FCBD. My LCS did the last couple years.

  15. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

    There’s a minimum buy-in on the Gold level titles in order to participate, but I’m not sure what that exact number is. The Silver titles are optional, though, and as such, some retailers don’t bother with them, or only get certain ones.

  16. Johanna Says:

    I know people keep asking for DC to demonstrate the variety of their line by doing a Vertigo FCBD book, but I’d rather see the focus on their superheroes.

    Last I heard, the minimum buy-in was only $50 worth of comics.

  17. James Schee Says:

    Some of those sound fun, I wish the shops in my area did the FCBD stuff. I’d love to get the Love and Capes one especially.

  18. Thomas Zahler Says:

    If you can’t find the FCBD version of Love and Capes #4, there will the a cover-price one with a variant cover a month or two afterwards. But, if you’re such a fan, drop me an e-mail closer to May and I’ll make sure you get one.

  19. James Schee Says:

    Thanks, I’ll make sure to do that as I’ve loved the books.

  20. ashutosh Says:

    please make available free comics online for viewing

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