A recent example would be the way Marvel Comics put President Obama on the cover of an issue of ‘Amazing Spider-Man’. Any sales increases from this sort of thing tend to be pretty short-lived, rather akin to the effect of including a free gift with a magazine, but in the current financial climate, I guess publishers are probably willing to accept that.
However, one of the more questionable (if not downright risible) publicity stunts of recent months has been the announcement that the forthcoming Marvel comic Models Inc (pictured) will feature Tim Gunn of the reality TV show Project Runway. I can understand that he’s amused at the idea of being drawn into a comic – it’s kind of flattering, I guess – but I don’t really know how Marvel think that this slightly gimmicky thing will translate into publicity or sales.
The Marvel publicity stuff about it suggests he’s going to be in a story involving Iron Man’s armour, which for me seems to sum up the problem here; it falls between two stools. Tim Gunn in a story about Iron Man’s armour isn’t necessarily what fans of Project Runway are interested in seeing, and fans of Iron Man probably don’t want to see some chap off a TV show who doesn’t have any superpowers (as far as we know) in an Iron Man story . It’s neither fish nor fowl, as it were (though as a vegetarian, neither of those possibilities is quite my thing).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against Marvel (or anyone else in comics or any other medium) trying something to reach a new audience, and I’m not anti-Mr Gunn (not that I’ve ever watched Project Runway, of course, though he’s always polite and well-dressed on the show), but I just think this is the kind of publicity trick which someone thought of without then stopping to wonder if it was necessarily going to have any kind of useful effect. Because I can’t really see the Gunn/Iron Man crossover story making the headlines which, say, The Death Of Superman did in 1992, or leading to many new readers buying it out of curiosity.
That’s not because I think casual readers won’t be amused and lured in by the fake-magazine cover aspect of the presentation (though there is a ‘variant’ cover showing Messrs Gunn and Iron Man), but because I understand that, like the vast majority of US comics nowadays, Models Inc will only be sold in comic shops – what’s known as the ‘Direct Market’. So the only people who might see the comic are people who’ll be in a comic shop anyway, and I’m not too sure how many of them will be enticed by the cover depicted above, or the prospect of seeing a chap off the telly, into buying the comic.
Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, and this comic will exploit that valuable Iron Man/Project Runway demographic, but since that’s probably about fourteen people, they may not live close enough to comic shops to make this publicity stunt pay off.