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In a surprise move Tuesday morning, IDW Publishing and Marvel Entertainment announced that, at the end of this year, IDW will start publishing a series of comic books featuring Marvel characters aimed at the quickly growing middle-grade reader market.
The line of Marvel-licensed titles will launch in November with a Spider-Man series teaming both the Peter Parker and Miles Morales versions of the character — Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which also features both incarnations of the character, hits theaters the following month — ahead of an Avengers series to debut in December, and a Black Panther series in January 2019. Each series is intended to act as an accessible entry point for new fans to begin following the adventures of the Marvel character.
In a statement about the partnership, Marvel director of licensed publishing Sven Larsen said, “Marvel is committed to delivering unique and accessible content for our younger audiences and fans. As one of our most valued partners, IDW is the right fit to help us feature some of our most popular characters and publish stories created especially for the next generation of super heroes.”
John Barber, IDW’s editor in chief, added, “From Iron Man to Captain Marvel, from the Hulk to Shuri — the Marvel pantheon has something for everyone. With this team-up, Marvel and IDW aim to bring exciting, all-new comics to a generation growing up in a Marvel world.”
The announcement is, at once, surprising and not. Ahead of this announcement, IDW was already developing a Big Hero 6 comic book series based on the Disney animated movie which was, originally, a Marvel property; the company has also partnered with Marvel parent company Disney for a number of titles used on iconic animated characters and Star Wars, all aimed at younger readers.
Additionally, Marvel had already licensed out newsstand digest publishing to Archie Comics, ceding part of the comic book creation of its core characters to an outside company, so this doesn’t mark an entirely new milestone for the home of Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man.
Nonetheless, Marvel had, as recently as May, launched Marvel Rising as a comic book property aimed at younger readers, based on the upcoming animated series of the same name. That rollout, however, has been criticized as being overly complicated and confusing — the five-issue storyline runs across five separate titles, each technically labeled a first issue with one exception, which is labeled No. 0 — and has performed poorly in the comic book specialty Direct Market, Marvel’s strongest marketplace. (June’s Marvel Rising: Alpha was estimated to have sold around 21,290 copies to retailers in North America, compared with 135,727 retailer sales for that month’s relaunch of Iron Man.)
This news seemingly suggests that Marvel is ceding itself from the middle grade comic book market in the future. That said, a Marvel source confirmed to THR that the two Marvel-published titles that arguably already exist in that space — Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, both of which sell well in collected edition to younger readers; the former was such a success that Marvel published an original graphic novel for that market in 2016 — will continue to be published with no changes planned.
IDW will release information on creators, story details and other information about the Marvel middle-grade titles at a later date.
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