While Marvel’s heroes have triumphed in movie theaters in recent years, comparable original adventures haven’t been available in bookstores. That is changing in October when Marvel launches a new line of original graphic novels with Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone.
Ellis—author of the recent prose bestseller Gun Machine, and creator of comics much as Planetary and Iron Man: Extremis, which formed the basis of some of the recent Iron Man films—is no stranger to the bookstore. He even grudgingly takes credit for coining the term “original graphic novel.” But Avengers: Endless Wartime represents a new business model for Marvel, which has previously stayed out of the OGN business because of the costs involved in producing over a hundred pages of new material without subsidizing it through periodical serialization.
However, times and business models have changed according to Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort at a recent press call for the book. He said Marvel had been looking at original graphic novels for a while. “It seems to be more and more a preferred format, even with the rise of digital,” he said. But, it was always a “fiscal problem,” for them, until “openings of various other distribution channels allowed this to work.” Marvel’s massively successful film slate has also made the characters much better known, and allowed them to get into more channels. “A lot of things combined to let us do something we probably should have been doing earlier, but couldn’t quite find the means to do,” said Brevoort.
According to Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, it’s just the first in a line of books they’ll be announcing soon, and he says it could be a game changer. Marvel’s recent success has “created the oxygen for a lot of new exploration.” he said, including recent digital initiatives like Marvel Infinite Comics and Marvel AR. “This is one of those moments where we’ve found a way to monetize—or at least take the chance to monetize—[this format.] I think it’s overdue.”
Another innovation for the book is its availability day and date globally and digitally in a number of languages; Marvel is working with longtime partner Panini to get the book out around the world simultaneously. “The distribution channel for this is much, much greater than any thing we’ve been able to do before,” said Alonso.
In turning to Ellis, Marvel also got a partner on board who had long been a proponent of Marvel explsoring the graphic novel format. “It’s something I had been nagging various people at Marvel about for what probably seemed to them to be a very long time,” he said. “When they said they actually wanted to go for it, it seemed a silly thing to turn down.”
The story involves a mysterious threat that ties back to Captain America’s past—Ellis says the germ of the story was inspired by his recent musings on military drones. Marvel will keep the characters best known from the movies in the forefront of the OGN line, with Captain America and Thor taking center stage in this one.
Ellis praised his artistic collaborator Mike McKone as someone who’s good at staging and lighting and character moments. Acclaimed designer Rian Hughes will be art directing the project.