The numbers are in and it’s safe to say Marvel’s crown jewel, The Avengers, delivered an excellent tie-in to an already powerful line-up of incredible films. Raking in over 200 million dollars opening weekend, it has proven without a doubt that comics have arrived as a true entertainment medium. It also proves that Marvel really knows how to create a universe and be able to create followers committed to investing in it. They built a culture around the Marvel Universe by enabling followers to explore it and express themselves through the characters.
Marvel has a great sense of timing. Ever notice how each movie they have released over the past 5 years is followed up by a Free Comic Book Day? The purpose of FCBD is to entice new readers to try something new. Right after watching The Avengers, new fans can venture to a store and pick up a free issue of The Avengers. When the next movie comes along readers are then rewarded for the bits of knowledge they picked up reading the comics and are able to be on the inside with character back-stories.
A friend talked with me about how Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes got top billing on his list of shows to watch. Originally, I thought it was just a kid’s show, and then he told me about some of the story lines and described the deeply woven nature of the show. He later explained that some Easter eggs had been hidden in Avengers to reward some of the Avengers: EMH fans. Giving followers multiple outlets outside of comics is essential to ensuring their continued participation, and in that Marvel delivers in spades.
Tons and tons of shirts, buttons, soundtracks, posters, coffee cups, and every website that provides each and every single follower with the ability to follow along in their own personal way. This isn’t to say that Marvel has exclusive rights over how they do business or the act of creating a cycle of rewarding followers. They don’t, but the true key to their success is quality control.
Look at the difference between Hulk and Iron Man. It would be easy to say one is just better than the other, or that Robert Downey, Jr. is just that awesome, but the reason behind that boost in quality is that Iron Man and all the other Avengers movies were independent productions by Marvel Studios. Marvel had direct unilateral control over those productions, and they focused making the choices that best represented the already existing stories and characters.
Between the movies, comics, and other merch, Marvel is able to sustain a culture that can generate followers and continue to deliver excellent products to reward them.
I am Alexander Añé, and I believe in heroes.