We've got five books on the docket to spotlight this week so I've got to keep my ramblings brief. This summer is going to prove to be a very exciting time for Marvel in general and my mainstream super hero line in specific. July is the month where Marvel makes the big switcheroo to its new exclusive direct sales distributor, Heroes World. Having an exclusive distributor will enable Marvel to service its many fine retailers better, and that will benefit you, the customer, in terms of better advance information about what we're doing and greater availability of our books, among various other things.

July is also when we begin our revitalization of the AVENGERS-FORCE WORKS family of titles, starting with a special edition called AVENGERS: THE CROSSING, on sale the last week in July. We had a conference last February where eleven of the most creative minds in comics brainstormed about how to make the Avengers family more of a must-read experience for every comics fan, and we think we've come up with something good. You'll be able to see for yourself shortly.

Got to run. See you next week.

-- Mark Gruenwald

As I noted in this space last week, it is particularly challenging being the editor in chief of long-running titles you wish to goose in sales like the AVENGERS. You need to do something attention-getting to get those readers who have been passing it up to take a peek, but you also need to respect your contented core of regular readers who don't want you to do away with elements that kept them reading month after month. You do something too timid and no new readers catch on. You do something too radical and the old readers desert in droves.

Well, the creative crew in the AVENGERS and FORCE WORKS family of titles have brainstormed and come up with what for me is the most exciting direction the entire line has embarked upon in recent memory. We started by questioning every element of the status quo with the intent of shaking things up. We continued by imagining how far we could go without violating the essences of our characters. We ended up incorporating long-neglected characters, relationships, and subplots whose reappearance should have long-time readers doing cartwheels.

The result begins in the special AVENGERS: THE CROSSING edition, now on sale, and continues in IRON MAN, AVENGERS, FORCE WORKS, WAR MACHINE, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and THOR. No, it's not another 89-parter with events creeping at a snail's pace. You can still read any of the book individually and still get a good idea of what's going on. But if you read them all, you'll find the tapestry to this section of the comics universe is getting a whole lot more colorful.

-- Mark Gruenwald

If you cast your glance to the middle cover on this page, you will see a new titles coming out of my department, FANTASTIC FOUR UNPLUGGED. This book, and next month's AVENGERS UNPLUGGED, are experiments. We are trying to determine two important things.

First, we want to know if a title set in current continuity but not carrying a lot of long-running subplots has any appeal to our audience. We think it will be a perfect way for new readers to get into the FF and a great way for regular readers to get further insights into our fabulous foursome.

Second, we want to know if a regular 32-page comic book priced at a mere 99 cents will fly off the shelves or be viewed as an idle curiosity. Yes, you read that right-- 99 cents, the lowest price of any regular comic book on the market. We've actually been listening to those of you who tell us comics cost too much and you can't afford as many comics as you used to. That's why Marvel's the only company still offering the bulk of its line at $1.50. Now we want to bring some bargain-basement priced comcis out to see if the price point really does make a significant difference to which titles you support.

So please check out FF UNPLUGGED next week. It will have the pulse-pounding excitement you always expect from a Marvel mag, and it will cost less than anything else around. Hey, --since I just plugged UNPLUGGED in this space, does that mean I have to come up with a new name for it? Yikes.

-- Mark Gruenwald

So how do you like our new corner symbol? You know, that insignia that appears in the upper left hand corner of the page to let you know what line of books you're looking at. (Pssst- glance up- there's one atop this column of type.)

We think that it's as awesome as all get-out, incorporating a bit of the old Marvel logo as well as integrating our Avengers, Fantastic Four, and cosmic motifs. The symbol is the handiwork of the ever-talented Richard Starkings of Comicraft, who's not only one of the busiest fellows in the business, he's also one of the nicest. (That is, unless you tell him he resembles yours truly.)

On the convention circuit this summer past, we got a lot of positive feedback about the look of our books-- from artwork to color separations to design elements (Some of you even liked the stories, for crying out loud.) The one thing that griped a goodly number of you, however, was our new policy to put the issue number in the UPC box. Our motive was to declutter the cover by comibining as many elements as possible so as to be unobtrusive. But many of you felt it wasn't prominent enough to let you know what issue you were buying so...

...effective in just a few weeks, we're going to put the issue number back on the upper part of the cover. Hey, are we the most responsive comics team or what?

That's all I have to say this week. Be here next week for the results of the 1995 Avengers Poll!

-- Mark Gruenwald


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