Ron Rant: Spider-Man Marketing Synergy

So you’ve seen the trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man 3 movie. You’ve read Spider-Man reveal his identity in Civil War. You’ve been reliving the Clone Saga in Ultimate Spider-Man. It sure seems like 2007 is going to be a big Spidey year, no? That’s a good thing, if you ask me.

But I’m starting to see things and hear things which, while aren’t bad for the industry and for Marvel as a whole, kinda annoy me. What pray tell is it? Why none other than the return of the BLACK SPIDER-MAN COSTUME! *gasp* Read on to find out why…

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the black costume. Seriously, like many other Marvel Zombies, I adore it. I thought it was one of the most innovative and cool costume changes ever and then spinning it into Venom and making it an icon of history with in the Spider-Man canon was genius. I’m also psyched to see it back in the comics and to understand why and how Peter goes black again. That’s rad.

What bugs me though, is the timing. We received a press release from Marvel on Monday announcing the black costume in the following books:

Pencils and Covers by RON GARNEY

Written by PETER DAVID
Penciled by TODD NAUCK

Pencils and Covers by ANGEL MEDINA

Now that sounds like some great lineups! JMS and Garney? Awesome. PAD and Todd Nauck? Even more awesome. Aguirre-Sacasa and Medina? That could be good, I dug Roberto’s work on 4. The first books hit the stands in February and the storyline runs through May 2007.

Waitaminute… May 2007? What else is happening in May 2007 (besides me turning 30 … eep!)?

OH RIGHT! Spider-Man 3 opens in theaters world wide. So what, right? Why does that even matter? Well if you haven’t watched the trailer yet, then I’ll give you a common known spoiler: In the new movie, Peter dons the black costume.

So, it seems as if the black costume will come back into comics a few months before the movie comes out and then when the movie comes out, Spider-Man will be in the black costume both in print and on-screen.

In the marketing world, we call that “synergy” and I completely do not fault Marvel for doing that. We’ve seen the comics ramp up around a movie release and its just good business. I would totally do the same if I were running Marvel.

If that’s the case, then what am I all riled up about? Enough at least to write you this lovely rant?

This past weekend I did a lot of driving and I listened to a lot of podcasts. First, I listened to a recent episode of Fanboy Radio with Scott Hinze, where the esteemed Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada was the guest. He’s always fun to hear, and there was a lot of Spider-Man talk. Don’t even get me started on the whole MJ/Peter marriage debate and Mr. Quesada’s apparent anti-marriage stance. That’s not what riled me up. What riled me up was when they discussed the black costume coming back and he was asked if the movie had any influence in the decision, and his reply was:

“It wasn’t originally meant to be strategic, there was actually a story point behind it, but as the timing started… we were like hey, look at that! Another happy accident. it wasn’t strategically mean to be a part of a tie in with the movie, but we’re happy as hell that it’s happening.”

A “Happy Accident” Really? Is that what you’re saying Joe? Really?

Now I could have let it go, until I tuned to Word Balloon with John Siuntres for this quarter’s marathon interviews with Brian Michael Bendis. Always an amusing 2-6 hours of podcasting there. Somewhere towards the end of the first hour, the talked about upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man stories and if there was any tie ins with the new Spider-Man movie? Bendis quickly said:

“I think my next Venom story does kinda anchor towards the release of the movie, but not on purpose.”

Really? I mean, really? Is that what you’re saying Bendis? Have you spoken to Joe?

Now, I’m not bashing the idea of putting the black costume in comics around the time of the move, like I said, that’s smart. Go for it. What I am ranting about and annoyed about is how you think that we’re just going to drink the kool-aid and think that this is all just a coincidence, that in every Spider-Man storyline in all the major comics all happen to have the black costume around May 2007? It’s not so much that they’re doing it, it’s that they think we’re morons, when really after 10+ years of internet whining and bitching about comics, you’d think they’d know better. We’re actually pretty smart and can see right through their “Happy Accidents”

And another theme that was discussed in both podcasts what the idea of comics fans being like sports fans, that they get really loud when they’re displeased and can cheer and be awesome when they’re happy, but it never changes their love for their team. Well, that said, you guys should hear me talk about the Mets.


  1. So, you’re mad because they won’t admit that they are shills for the movie? If they just said than that would be alright?

  2. I know what you’re saying, there’s a strand of hucksterism that runs through comics marketing that always strikes me a bit the wrong way – you know, don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s raining. I mean, it’s not like we’re all not going buy the books and see the movie anyway. At least respect our intelligence as you take our dough!

    And you should hear what I have to say about the Cubs…

  3. drink the Kool-aid?

    You’re comparing the use of the black costume as a marketing scheme to a mass suicide?
    Because honestly, I think you’re right on. Its a travesty!

  4. You know…
    Everytime one of these movies comes out I get all bent out of shape about one thing or another and the response that I always get is: these movies aren’t made for you. Comic book movies are made for the general public not fanboys. Usually I say: oh yeah go fuck yourself. But not this time. This time I’m determined not to get pissed.

    screw that

    OK Who thought that that would actually work? I hadn’t put this costume thing together before now because I hadn’t thought about it. Thanks Ron. This is bullshit. Comics should be about the stories and should be faithful to continuity. They shouldn’t be about Synergy. That’s fucking bullshit. Because for every $100M they make on a movie another $100M is put down by actual comics fans who actually stand by them week after week. That’s why I get so upset when I feel like I’m being fucked to get $8 from a 15 year old boy who doesn’t even read comics. Fuck that shit. It’s ridiculous. Dance with the girl you came with bitches. Tell the story you were telling. Who cares about synergy? When a new Harry Potter movie comes out do they make sure that the latest book makes nods to it? NO. Why is this any different? Is it because I’m a fucking mark and I’ll keep buying several Spider-man titles every month anyway no matter how much shit I talk about them on the internet? Probably but it’s still not right

  5. damn you quesada

  6. Why not make a movie out of Civil War and then bring Goliath back to life in the book just to kill him again after the dvd release?

  7. Don’t get me wrong, I understand synergy and am ok with it. I’m ok with the black costume as a story point and the timing with the movie. Just don’t pretend like its a happy accident. Cal lit what it is, then I’d respect you a whole lot more.

    It’s one thing to make Wolverine look like Hugh Jackman, but its another thing to get a corporate mandate and actually make it work in the stories.

  8. and another thing about the feb solicits
    how the hell can wolverine be fighting what might be his last battle(sure) with sabretooth while sabertooth is seeking refuge at the Xavier school in the adjectiveless book released in the same month?

  9. I have a question for you Ron, how did you react to Pete getting organic web shooters in the comic?

    I was a big fan of the mechanical webshooters. “I am all out of web fluid? Not now!” That line was a running gag with my friends and I all the way through high school. When they didn’t appear in the movie, I was disappointed, but I still enjoyed the movie. When they ditched them in the comics a tiny piece of my soul died. Well, that it was too dramaticly. The mechanical web-shooters were a symbol of Peter’s engineering skill. They were a symbol of how clever a guy he is and he has talents other than his powers. They were a nice detail. When they ditched them there wasn’t much story to it. It was like, “Oh wow. I have organic webshooters now. That’s cool.” It was obviously a a change in the character to make him more similar to the movie version. I saw that. Everyone saw that. However it wasn’t that big of a deal in the end. Tony put Pete in charge of coming up with a plan to take out that Michael guy and we got a glimpse of Pete’s scientific know how. They found a way to bring it out of the character.

    I guess what I am saying is, in my opinion, Bendis and Quesada are doing interesting things with Spidey. I have faith they will be able to produce decent stories that put him in the black costume. Yeah, they are obviously putting him in the costume because the movie is coming out. And they are not good at covering that up. As long as the black costume stories are entertaining, I am not going to be insulted.

  10. Then I will carry the mantle of righteous indignation for you

  11. I think the point is that they are simply lying for lying’s sake; they gain nothing from pretending it is a happy accident, so why the hell do it? It’s rediculous.

    If they are prepared to wheel out the bullshit wagons for something as trivial as this, then what does that say about their public stance on topics that genuinely affect the company and sales?

  12. Lets not condemn them for lies that haven’t told…yet. As far as the happy accident lie. Coming from Joe Q, I take it as spin to create an image for Marvel. His job is to sell Marvel. Some people are going to buy the bullshit and some people won’t. Don’t hate the guy for doing his job. Even if it is annyoing as hell (I am listening to the Fanboy Radio interview right now).

  13. i’m a big fan of what joe q’s done for marvel and the industry as a whole, and i still think he’s doing a great job. based on the few interview i’ve heard from him though, i don’t much care for his personality, or at least his public personality.

    but yeah, this spider-man thing is retarded.

  14. To my great shame, one of the only times I ever posted anything on a message board besides this one, it was because something Joe Q made me so mad that I logged on and was a completely snarky jackass.

    And then he read it and replied to it. And he was as cheerful and as polite as if I’d given him the compliment of a lifetime. I was left with the knowledge that, in the only actual interaction I’d ever had with a creator, I had been this complete ass, and he didn’t even have to get in my face about it. This conversational judo made me admire his ability to get the message out, but I keep the salt grains handy.

    As years go by, I find myself less bothered by the organic web shooters (which honestly never, ever get mentioned) than by the way they had Peter and MJ separate before the first movie so he’d be single in the comics when it came out.

  15. … than by the way they had Peter and MJ separate before the first movie so he’d be single in the comics when it came out.

    God, if they had only kept it permanent…

  16. “Waitaminute… May 2007? What else is happening in May 2007 (besides me turning 30 – eep)?”

    If it makes you fell better Ron i’ve only got until February!!!!

    In my opinion as long as the stories are good, who cares. I hope the movie will be as good as the last 2 but if its not i won’t cry myself to sleep. I want good comics and if this strategy gets a few more people reading comics I’m all for it. As for the lying, maybe they weren’t lying? who’s to say it wasn’t just a happy accident and if it wasn’t then hey thats just good marketing anyway. Lets just hope the movies good and the comics are better!! The trailer certainly looks promising.

  17. I totally understand your stance…. I myself love the Black costume (My father had a customized denim Jacket made for me w/ it on the back years ago), but I hate that they think either we’re that gullible, or just plain morons.

  18. wait…quesada is doing all he can (including forcing stories) to make more money for the company and himself…what next, no santa claus….come on people, hes gonna do that…the next editor in chief will do it….the only way to change it is for one of us to become editor in chief and then deny the urge to make more money…i dont think its gonna happen….we live i a material world and joe quesada is a material girl…

  19. If it was really all meant to tie into the movie, Marvel would have had these storylines finishing in the next couple of months so that they could flood the bookstores with the trades and hardcovers of these storylines.

    Just a thought. Otherwise, yeah, I agree with you, Ron: Denying it’s a tie-in is just silly.

  20. I wonder how many “happy accidents” occur at the House of IDEAS. Give yourselves some more credit.

    Speaking of driving around a lot and listening to podcasts – I do a lot of driving each week and have been burning podcasts (80 min or less) to CDs (haven’t joined the iPod brigade). Anyway, I’ve listened to just about everything that’s not over 80 minutes. For those Siuntres/Bendis marathons and other two-plus hour podcasts, is there a simple program I can download to split up those long episodes so I can run them across several CDs? Or a way to do it in iTunes. BTW, I’m on a Mac.

  21. I am fine with using marketing to sell both comics and movies. I started buying Batman after I saw the movie when I was a kid (Micheal Keaton started my love for comics). But publishers need to remember not to take their core fans for granted. During the ’90s I stopped buying comics because the companies were creating shit and telling me that it smelled like roses! So Joe, tell us it is a marketing ploy and it will be a great story. Then let us decide if it is a good story. Do not piss down my back and say that there is a chance of rain!!!!

  22. Aaron,

    Go download a program called “Audacity” and you can drag the mp3 file into that, and cut it in half, then export the selection as its own MP3. You should be able to make shorter files that way.

    There are cheaper options than ipods out there if you’re getting sick of it…not to mention the huge piles of non-biodegradable waste created by burning tons of CD’s a month. But don’t let me convince you…

  23. Thanks, Josh. The new iPod Shuffle is looking pretty appealing right now.

    Anyway, I’ll be listening to Augie and his podcast while tootling around between photos today.

  24. Aaron
    if youre gonna get the shuffle…spend a few extra for a 2gig nano…they are tougher structurally and have better navigation…

  25. Shuffle’s a bad idea for podcasts. You can’t find the one you want to listen to. No screen, all shuffle. Go to on any given day, and look at their various deals on mp3 players. There are enough cheapo ones that will do the job of podcast listening without spending too much, if you don’t want to go all the way with the nano.

  26. The more I read of Spider-Man in this Tony Stark go-go-gadget getup, the more I don’t care why he gets in the black suit just as long as he gets there. They can be timing it to tie into the release of the new Wolverine boxers for all I care. Every time I see those spindly yellow tentacles, I think of Joe Q saying, “In ten years, everyone will be nostalgic for this costume too,” and I think, “I will take that bet, my good man.”

  27. You know what, I can’t think of a time when Bendis or Joe Q have lied to the public so I do believe them. At the very least I’m willing to give them the benifit of the doubt.

    Also Bendis has had most of USM plotted out for a long time, and he’s already done writing the last of the Bagley scripts which is almost another year’s worth. Movie release dates are a moving target, and if he actually set out to get the next Venom arc to match the movie something would go off the rails and it wouldn’t work.

    Also we don’t even know if Venom is in the movie proper, since the previews don’t show him, just Peter in the black costume. There seems to be an awful lot of plot needed to be fit into the movie, the Venom arrival and fight might come in the next film.

    Lastly, this is a company that didn’t have any toys out for X3. They’re nowhere near as together marketing wise as DC. DC has an event and there’s action figures on the shelves by the time the trade it out.

    Most of all I just trust people until I discover they’ve lied to me before. Bendis and Joe Q. haven’t so I’ve got no reason to doubt their claims.

  28. Also we don’t even know if Venom is in the movie proper, since the previews don’t show him, just Peter in the black costume. There seems to be an awful lot of plot needed to be fit into the movie, the Venom arrival and fight might come in the next film.

    He is. It was in the trailer that got leaked and then pulled off the net. I saw it myself. Check out the end of this discusion:

    Most of all I just trust people until I discover they’ve lied to me before. Bendis and Joe Q. haven’t so I’ve got no reason to doubt their claims.

    If you believe that the sudden confluence of the black costume, Sandman and Venom at the same time as the movie with all three of these elements, then more power to you. 🙂

  29. If you guys really didn’t see this coming (the synergy between the comics and films, everyone using phrases like “Happy Accident”) then you guys really need to open your eyes. Of course it�s going to happen. It�s happened before and it’ll happen again.

    Basically it�s like this; remember when you found out the truth about Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy? Remember when your parents kept up the �scam� for the next couple years before you told them you knew so you wouldn�t hurt their feelings? Same thing here. Let him spin, and well just nod and say, �Wow! That�s awesome!� All the while we�ll know the truth, and he�ll feel like he accomplished his job.

    And that stuff about Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy, was anybody else as surprised as I was to find out they are government assassins. I know I was.

  30. Anybody remember the changes that went on immediately after the first X-Men movie? Mystique suddenly became all scaley and Toad turned green and grew a huge tongue…I remember it happened in some miniseries,, but I forget which one. Good thing, too, because they were able to ignore or retcon most of its absurdity. Can anybody remember if the writers were trying to pass it off like “oh, great minds think alike!”

  31. Quesada’s ah whore–at least, I’ve heard that somewhere. But by ‘happy accident’.

  32. Remember when Ultimate Spider-Man launched right after the movie and everyone was positive that Bendis was going to give him organic web shooters to tie into the movie, and that they’d do that in 616?

    Well they did last year in 616 with the Other storyline (I think, between the new suit and the Other powers I can’t actually remember what Spider-Man’s powers are now which is a problem with the character). It’s hard to argue the Other was a way to get 616 Peter more like the movie, because all it did was confuse his powers and make him a harder character to understand origin wise.

    As I’ve said, that Bendis and Co. have been fairly straight forward, and he seems honest on the Wordballoon Podcasts. I’ve got enough to get me annoyed about comics without actively looking for new stuff. I think it was a happy accident, when they realized that after the Iron Spidey suit they’d be having another costume change they figured “Hey black works with the darker turn of events in Peter’s life and with the movie. Hurray for us.”

    I doubt they had a special meeting at any point to figure out how to get him in the suit.

    Either way my main point is there’s no use complaining about it before the story is out and complete. Reading it if it feels natural then it won’t matter how they came to that decision, just that they did. If it feels forced or out of character then it won’t matter either.