Marvel Promotes STEAM – Does It Matter?

Marvel has announced yet another cover theme for November, this time promoting “Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM)”. (Is there something in the water on this subject lately?) The following books will feature special variants, as follows and shown below:

  • S (science) – MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR #13 by Joyce Chin
  • T (technology) – SPIDER-MAN #10 by Pasqual Ferry
  • E (engineering) — INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1 by Mike McKone
  • A (art) — CHAMPIONS #2 by Pascal Campion
  • M (math) – GWENPOOL #8 by Will Slinky

I notice that these are all books starring young, diverse characters, which is great. As David Gabriel, SVP Sales & Marketing, is quoted, “With our new STEAM Variants, we plan to continue to motivate our fans to explore their passions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math and present these disciplines through some of our favorite young heroes who are doing just that — following their dreams and preparing for the challenges that await them ahead.”

Except — will anyone who didn’t see this press release realize that’s the theme? There’s that bullet in the lower left corner of the covers, but there’s no call to action or expansion of awareness connected with this effort. What good is this actually doing? Although the company has high-minded motivations, apparently. From the press release:

Through Marvel’s STEAM Variants, this campaign plans to ignite the spark of creativity and innovation that fuels and empowers the very heroes that have helped inspire generations around the world. This November, join Marvel at your local comic shop as we continue to inspire champions of education, seekers of enlightenment, and the next generation of visionaries with Marvel’s STEAM Variants.

The Champions cover is my favorite, the Art one, because it ties nicely into the characters and comic history. The Iron Man and Moon Girl covers seem like just another shot of the character, without strong theming.

Also, there’s no information yet on how hard it’s going to be to get these covers. Many Marvel variants require a lot of hoop-jumping, as retailers have to increase orders on other comics just to get the ability to order one, as retailer Calum Johnston complains at ICv2. Will your local retailer even be able to carry these books economically?

Johnston carries on from a reaction to another effort Marvel announced earlier, a month of covers to promote prostate cancer awareness. Retailer Robert Scott called the effort “revolting” because limited variants are, in his opinion (and mine), the wrong method to truly get a message out. As he says,

Retailers cannot simply order these variants and support Prostate Cancer Awareness, they must order the equivalent of a previous month’s issue to qualify to buy these variants! This means most retailers will have to order far more copies of the book than they actually need or want or risk looking like jerks by not supporting the effort.

More importantly, there is no commitment from Marvel to put any increased profits into supporting the cause. They’re just keeping the additional income. So while these covers may be a “feel-good” way to feel like someone’s doing something charitable, it really seems more like bandwagon-jumping. Joe Ferrara, who suggested the prostate cancer effort to Marvel (and is a survivor of the condition), responded and says he “was told that Marvel didn’t want to hurt the sales of the regular covers,” which is why they imposed order restrictions. He also says, “Marvel cannot donate the proceeds of these covers for many legal reasons,” which doesn’t make sense to me, but hey, I’m not part of a super-huge multinational corporation.

Anyway, my point is — if you like the art, and if you see it at a reasonable price, sure, buy it, but if you really want to support any of these causes, you’re not really making a difference by choosing a Marvel cover variant.

S (science) – MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR #13 by Joyce Chin

S (science) – MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR #13 by Joyce Chin

T (technology) – SPIDER-MAN #10 by Pasqual Ferry

T (technology) – SPIDER-MAN #10 by Pasqual Ferry

E (engineering)— INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1 by Mike McKone

E (engineering)— INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1 by Mike McKone

A (art) — CHAMPIONS #2 by Pascal Campion

A (art) — CHAMPIONS #2 by Pascal Campion

M (math) – GWENPOOL #8 by Will Slinky

M (math) – GWENPOOL #8 by Will Slinky



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