Monday, February 3, 2014

At DC, Comic Book Covers Get Cross-Marketing Role

by Gregory Schmidt)

Advertising for X-ray Specs and Sea-Monkeys has long appeared inside the pages of comic books. Now, DC Comics is turning its covers into a marketing tool.

But the covers won’t be used to pitch Twinkie the Kid. Instead, DC Comics, the home of Batman and Superman, is using its covers to promote Scribblenauts Unmasked, a video game released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment in September, as well as a line of toys that will come out this month.

The Scribblenauts Unmasked characters, which are based on DC’s superheroes and villains, graced the covers of 20 comic book titles in January, recreating scenes like the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics and the first formation of the Justice League.

On Wednesday, the toys will follow from DC Collectibles, which is a unit of DC Comics’ parent, DC Entertainment. (DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment are both divisions of Warner Bros. Entertainment.)

DC Collectibles regularly works closely with its corporate parent to create and market niche products that are overlooked by larger companies, but this was “the first time that all these pieces have come together,” said Kevin Kiniry, vice president for creative services at DC Collectibles.

The Flash is featured on this DC cover that promotes Scribblenauts Unmasked. DC Collectibles
The promotion is intended to increase awareness of the toy line, which was conceived after the design team at DC Collectibles saw sketches of the Scribblenauts Unmasked characters.

“The more villainous they are, the more adorable they are,” said Jim Fletcher, the design director for creative services at DC Collectibles.

The first toys, which will sell for $5 each, are expected this month at independent comic book shops and the retail chain GameStop, followed by more in March. If successful, the toy line could dive deep into the DC universe. Scribblenauts Unmasked is getting its own comic book title, too.

Another of the covers features Aquaman. DC Collectibles
Mr. Kiniry said the promotion was inspired in part by a grass-roots campaign created at Warner Bros. Interactive in which images from DC Comics were produced with a Scribblenauts aesthetic.

“They were doing some underground marketing,” Mr. Kiniry said. “We saw that, and we realized we needed to have a month of variant covers.”

Those covers are helping to bolster comic book sales, too. Because of their rarity, comic books with special covers usually fetch two to three times the cover price.

At Midtown Comics in Manhattan, the comic books were selling well at $15 each.

“Customers like to see that cute and fun version of typically muscular superheroes,” said Thor Parker, the social marketing and events director at Midtown Comics. “It shows there is a big market for a reinterpretation of the characters in a more lighthearted version.”