Citing the excitement they all felt upon first discovering the Marvel Universe, Marvel’s top brass unveiled a new initiative aimed at providing free content to help hook younger readers. Marvel: Share Your Universe will offer a week of downloadable cartoons on PS2 and Windows 8; a free sampler comic available this week at comic shops; and future free digital comics and activity guides.
The material Marvel is offering is all aimed at the 6-10 age group; MarvelKids.com and a new Facebook page will form the hub for disseminating more material, with weekly downloadable activities and episode guides posted to MarvelKids.com/ShareYourUniverse.
During a press call, Marvel publisher Dan Buckley, chief creative officer Joe Quesada, vp of television and animation Jeph Loeb, and vp of animation development and production Cort Lane all recalled their own introduction to Marvel and the joy of sharing material they feel passionate about. The easily accessible and sharable material will help “make it easier for our core fans to help make other core fans,” said Buckley.
While the new program unites Marvel’s live action, animation and publishing ventures, it’s closely tied to the Marvel Universe block which is shown on Disney XD every Sunday morning. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble and Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man will be joined on August 11th by Marvel’s Hulk and The Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Sharable materials include episodes Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider-Man which will be available on Xbox 360 and Windows 8 until 7/15/13.
Free all-ages Marvel digital comics will be available via the Marvel Comics app and Marvel Unlimited app and on MarvelKids.com. New material for the program, will feature the animated look of the characters—the varied art styles that Marvel is famed for in the comic book world can be a hindrance with younger readers, Buckley said. “For 6-10 year olds their #1 question is ‘Which is the Real Spider-Man?’”
Some of the new comics will be in the digital Infinite format which includes various AR elements—these will later be printed in digest form, a proven popular format with kids.
Buckley acknowledged that with many different styles and content levels of Marvel characters available —from the kid-friendly Marvel Adventures line (available digitally) to the T-for-teen world of foul mouthed mercenary Deadpool—what content was for who wasn’t always clear. The new program will be very mindful of making the material all-ages. “We wanted to develop tools and content so everyone from kids, dad and uncles to retailers would be able to recommend material and be very comfortable doing it,” he said. Even as president of publishing he wasn’t always aware of the answer to “What should my kid read?” With this program, they’ll launch something “unique that plays into the network we have of comic book shops.” Marvel plans to work closely with comics specialty retailers to help them put on viewing parties, contests and so on.
Quesada mentioned a recent viral video of a four-year-old girl named Mia engaged in Marvel trivia with her dad as the poster child for the program. They were both “wide-eyed” when they came to visit the Marvel offices. According to Cort, Marvel animation has been very engaged in making strong female characters for their shows and focus groups loved The White Tiger, a female Hispanic hero who co-stars on Ultimate Spider-Man. The Black Widow and the newly returned female Captain Marvel are also being spotlighted. Loeb pointed out what with Joss Whedon producing the new Agents of Shield TV show for ABC, “there will be no shortage of strong female characters.”
The question was raised if these comics will “be in 7-11s”—a reference to a commonly expressed desire among those who wish to see comics returned to an easily accessible newsstand environment. Buckley pointed out that “we think about 7-11s because a lot of us started at 7-11s or a facsimile of 7-11s.” But, he noted, “It’s not about being in 7-11s per se, it’s about being where kids are now. The new five-and-dime shop is a kid grabbing your smart phone or tablet and finding the stuff that they like or you feel comfortable them looking at.”
In addition to the joys of sharing the Marvel Universe with your friends, there was much reference on the call to market research, some of it surprising: one of the strongest places for kids to get their first exposure to Marvel’s characters was as a Halloween costume at a costume party, said Buckley.