Friday, May 04, 2007

Spider-man 3 Movie Prequel: FCBD Exposed! part 1

Spider-man 3 Movie Prequel, June 2007, Marvel Comics
writer: Todd Dezago
penciller: Stuart Immonen
inker: Wade Von Grawbadger
colorist: Stephanie Peru
letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
project manager: Javon Frazier
editor: Nicole Boose
EIC: Joe Quesada

When I strolled into the Starbucks to buy a venti coffee frappuccino before the midnight showing of Spider-man 3, proudly wearing an Erik Larsen Spider-man print T-shirt, and the barista playfully challenged me to sing the old Spider-man theme song for a free drink, and I passed, I knew this was the start of a beautiful Free Comic Book Day weekend. Those venti fraps are almost five bucks! The free Spider-man 3 Movie Prequel comic (Spider-man 2.5?) at the movie theater was just an added bonus, and though this issue, compliments of Target, isn't an official offering of the Free Comic Book Day drive, it epitomizes the concept of the annual event and provides some unique insight into the idea of promotions for promotion's sake.

If only Spider-man 3 could've remained so true to its brand . . .

But I digress. This is not a movie review, which I will post rife with spoilers in my LiveJournal, but rather a supplemental look at the Spider-man film franchise, and in fact the first in a series of reviews about the Free Comic Book Day phenomenon, posted in cooperation between Geek in the City and A Comic A Day. FCBD has always corresponded with the release date of the latest Spider-man film, and considering the webhead's cinematic success, one would conclude that such timing is everything. Unfortunately, on a base level, this marketing opportunity has yet to be utilized to its fullest potential, at least not in my limited sphere of observation (which is, the devil's advocate would say, one of the largest movie-going markets in the world -- Orange County, California). I didn't see signage for any local FCBD events, or any reps from nearby comic book stores promoting their wares. Generally speaking, it's safe to say that the only folks that take advantage of Free Comic Book Day are the ones that found out about it by shopping at their local comic shop in the first place.

Comicscape columnist Kurt Amacker recently wrote about some of the other failings of Free Comic Book Day, which can be found here, though, while interested, don't pertain to reviewing the available material. Ultimately, as a fan and observer of the industry, I'm simply baffled that Target Stores would have the upper hand with this opportunity. Timing may be everything, but only when laymen know what time it is.

Spider-man 3 Movie Prequel is a pleasantly packaged freebie, containing a twelve-page story masterfully illustrated by Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger fresh from their stint on the Warren Ellis vehicle Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. While their style is certainly unique, distinct from other artists in the mainstream (that I'm aware of), their expressive caricatures and detail-oriented backdrops, all balanced through crisp, varied ink lines, boast a commercial appeal perfect for such cross-market distribution. Todd Dezago's script is a shallow "Spidey saves the day" set-up for the film, establishing (Spoiler alert, but only if you haven't paid much attention to the trailers or TV spots!) Peter's preparation to propose to Mary Jane, and Flint Marko's unlucky life of crime. When Spidey wonders if he's ready to pop the question only to thwart a few vaguely wedding-themed mishaps (a runaway bridal bouquets truck?), he nearly crosses paths with a pre-Sandman Marko, who's terribly laid plans to rob a jewelry store land him smack in the middle of a police barricade. The characterization is vivid and the action is appropriately suspenseful (plus the kids will dig that two-page pull-out Spidey poster in the middle!), but the story is inconsequential, which makes sense considering its limited availability. It's meant to look good, nothing more.

Then, in the back, where a letter column or supplemental essay of thanks would usually be, Target makes their mark with a mini-Spider-merch fold-out, as if fans of all ages didn't know the Spider-man cuddle pillow was only $17.99. The proverbial cliffhanger is the ad's tagline, "Get your Spider-man 3 gear while it lasts," asserting its limited availability and potential value on the collectors' market. You can pack those Spidey fruit snacks with all of the preservatives you want, eventually they'd have to make way for those booger-flavored Harry Potter jellybeans.

However, as "sell out" as that ad space might seem to possessive Spidey fans, it represents what free comic book distribution is all about. Free Comic Book Day isn't about the free comic books you can score, but the future comics you might buy. Just as Target was willing to eat the cost of a thin Spider-man comic to push some partyware, publishers are willing distribute free material in the hopes that your stint in the comic shop will spark an interest in other stuff -- stuff you'd have to buy. It's the chicken-on-a-toothpick at the mall, or the lotion sample at the make-up counter. That moment of undeniable frugality exploits a vulnerability toward consumption . . . and they wouldn't have it any other way.

So, looking at the list of publishers' contributions to Free Comic Book Day, I'm hoping to acquire all forty-three issues that are available, by traveling to as many comic book stores in my area as possible. (Of course, I intend to buy something at each store, as well, since that's the give to this take. I want these shops to stay open for next year's giveaway!) As I review these books, a few at a time to get through them all promptly (in a week's time if all goes according to plan), my main criteria will be whether or not I feel compelled to pursue the series based on one strategic free sample. If that small morsel of orange chicken is really tasty, you'll order the one item combo, even if it's from a food court, right? From Marvel's perspective, if the casual movie-goer digs this free Spidey comic, maybe they'll seek out the webhead in his native medium! Sure, it's no five dollar frap, but it may wake you up to a new experience, which is, ahem, priceless.

To be continued.

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