The most surprising thing about Marvel Comics’ launch of Avengers VS X-Men in New York City? Given the fighting focus of the book, you’d expect things to be coming to blows... But nope, this wasn’t a Civil War, it was more like a Civil... Thing that was civil*.
For those of you not up to speed, Marvel’s mega-giant-humungo-Event would normally have gone on sale on Wednesday, April 4th - but due to an early shipping time, the Publisher was able to start parties all over the country (and even internationally) at 8pm on Tuesday, April 3rd. To spice things up a bit, they released Avengers and X-Men variant covers of the first issue, with stores having to choose a side before receiving one or the other
It’s a fun idea, of course, and part of the draw for fans to the event: who are you with, The Avengers, or The X-Men? But maybe part of the reason the Midtown Comics launch - ostensibly the flagship launch for Marvel Comics - was so subdued: because they own three stores, Midtown was able to toe the line, and sell both variant covers. And in fact, a rough poll of the crowd showed that they were evenly split, too, with most people falling on the side of just being excited.
The crowd at New York's Midtown Comics stretched down the block at 9PM.
Don’t get me wrong: this wasn’t fans going through the paces, buying comics because they wanted to keep up with what was going on in Marvel’s superhero universe. The first fans showed up at Midtown at - no joke - 8am in the morning on Tuesday. And though it had only grown to an even dozen by 11am, according to one Midtown employee, by 5pm the crowd swelled to a capped-off amount of 200.
That’s the joy of having a big, reliable comic book shop like Midtown Comics, of course: if they build it, they will come. I don’t think I’ve attended a launch at Midtown that wasn’t packed to capacity quickly and efficiently. Littler comic book stores in non-metropolitan areas like New York have to do a lot more than post on Twitter and Facebook to motivate their base, and this might be what was missing. I kind of wanted to see an Avengers and X-Men themed bake-off, or some back alley fighting. Here, everybody was happily hanging out with their friends, and calmly waiting in line to pick up a copy of the book.
So sure, from the perspective of a reporter looking for something insane to happen I could hang this event recap on, I was sorely disappointed. But I was, really, the only one. Chatting with Midtown’s Thor Parker, he told me that they were briskly selling out of the book - a big question of course, as the 250,000+ copies “sold” of the first issue are actually sold to retailers, and still need to actually end up in the hands of fans - with most fans buying at least two copies. Parker also noted that the (totally freaking awesome) Skottie Young variant cover, featuring X-Men and Avengers babies duking it out, would probably be the first version to go.
Avengers VS X-Men for everybody!
Also a nice bonus for fans? Though John Romita Jr couldn’t make it to the signing at the last second, artist Andy Kubert brought a special gift to make up for the absence: a splash page from the EIGHTH issue of Avengers VS X-Men, pencilled by Kubert, which doesn’t hit comic book stands until July. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it looks like a few months day the road this book doesn’t turn into “Avengers Love X-Men” if you get my drift.
And for Marvel’s Arune Singh, who I also chatted with briefly, they couldn’t have been happier with the excitement from fans, and the reactions to those who have actually read the book. He, and the rest of the marketing team basically had nothing to do but hang out and enjoy the signing, while Midtown took care of the rest. From Ryan Penagos - Agent M if you’re nasty - happily snapping pictures of AvX exclusive hats, to new host of Marvel’s The Watcher Lorraine Cink excitedly chatting with the signing crew of Kubert, as well as Editors Nick Lowe, Tom Breevort, and Axel Alonso, the Marvel crew was in full force, but, like the fans, being surprisingly confident, calm, and composed. Heck, they even ordered twenty-five pizzas for the fans waiting on line, which makes waiting since 8am worth it, right? RIGHT?
Marvel's Lorraine Cink does her wrap-up speech!
If there’s a reason for all of this calmness, it’s that Marvel doesn’t have a whole lot to worry about with Avengers VS X-Men. The first issue is a solid, fun kick-off to an event, with the fireworks sure to come in the next few issues (and if the issue eight splash is any indication, will continue for several issues beyond that). And the Infinite Comic - a digital experiment by writer Mark Waid, and artist Stuart Immonen - is stellar. If Marvel wants to get more readers back to their comics, Infinite Comics, not motion comics (or even the DVD bonus feature AR app) is the way to do just that.
Midtown, as I’ve mentioned, is always efficient in their events, keeping things moving briskly along, and being pleasant to the fans. One of the big changes they implemented this time around? Pre-selling the comic, so fans just had to bring vouchers in, pick up their books, get ‘em signed, and be on their way to reading the book. That, if anything, is a great metaphor for what Marvel has going on for AvX: they’ve pre-sold the book. You know what the concept is from the title, you know as a comic book fan that you’re going to be into it, and what they deliver is fun.
Agent M snags pics of the exclusive AvX hats.
Does it need to deliver month after month, and not end up in some sort of deep continuity hole like most events seem to do these days? Oh, sure. But as long as the Avengers keep punching the X-Men, we have a feeling fans reactions will keep the fighting on the inside of the book, rather than the outside.
*Sorry, everybody, but I really didn’t want to say “Civil Bore,” because it was actually a lot of fun. First person to send in the pun I SHOULD have used gets a No-Prize.