On August 3, Marvel Comics, Disney Publishing Worldwide imprint Marvel Press, and several licensees launched a publishing program tied to Marvel’s first-ever TV series for preschoolers, Spidey and His Amazing Friends.
“It’s a very modern take on Spider-Man,” said Sven Larsen, v-p of licensed publishing at Marvel Comics. “It’s a chance to take the lessons and core values of the comics and communicate those to kids, with the fun and humor that appeals to this age group. And we’re reaching an audience we haven’t reached before.”
Mike Siglain, creative director overseeing Marvel Press, added, “It’s an amazing introduction to Spider-Man and the cast of Marvel characters. It’s a stepping stone that will lead to other publishing, and eventually back to the comics. First and foremost, we want to expand on the comic storytelling in an age-appropriate way. It all starts and stops with the comics.”
The 3D-animated series, which debuts August 6 on Disney Junior and Disney Channel, stars young versions of the characters Peter Parker, Miles Morales, and Gwen Stacy as they use teamwork to fight villains like Rhino, Doc Ock, and Green Goblin. Other Marvel characters, including Black Panther, The Hulk, and Ms. Marvel, also make appearances. Anticipation for the series seems high, as 10 Meet Spidey and His Amazing Friends animated shorts released before the series debut generated more than 35 million views on Disney Junior, YouTube, and the Marvel HQ website in just two weeks.
The publishing program includes more than a dozen titles to start, including storybooks, early readers, board books, and novelty books, as well as licensed titles from Scholastic, Random House, PI Kids, Bendon, and Studio Fun. “It’s pretty comprehensive,” Larsen said. “We’re leaving no stone unturned. There’s a format and story for every kid.”
As the first preschool property for Marvel, Spidey opened up some opportunities for new formats. One of the initial titles is a My First Comic Reader that includes short stories and fewer panels per page than a traditional graphic novel, to help kids learn how to read a comic book. The list also includes several common preschool formats, such as die-cut board books and seasonal titles, that are new to Marvel, while ideas being considered for year two include books with social-emotional themes and concept board books. “We always thought these were too young an opportunity for Marvel, but this gives us a way into those categories,” Larsen said.
Spidey and His Amazing Friends is a Marvel-wide initiative. In addition to the TV series and publishing, a broad range of consumer products supports the effort, including toys from Hasbro. “This is one of the biggest programs we’ve ever launched at Marvel, both for publishing and consumer products,” Larsen explained.
Spidey is just one component of an active kids’ publishing program for Marvel and Marvel Press. “Marvel Press is kids’ introduction to a lot of the characters,” Siglain said, “whether it’s in the World of Reading series where we can introduce Shang-Chi or Ms. Marvel, our picture books like our Rocket and Groot series and Spider Man’s Very Strange Day!, where we can have fun and show some humor, or our Gamora and Nebula YA novels.”
More publishing-driven original content is on the way, including new series and one-off projects based on some of Marvel’s 8,000 characters. “It will be both the most popular characters and some you might not expect,” Siglain said. “With all the characters and stories, it’s an embarrassment of riches.”
The teams at Marvel Comics and Marvel Press work together to identify opportunities and determine the right publisher for each concept. Marvel Press is Marvel Comics’ primary juvenile book publishing partner and spearheads licensed publishing, while Marvel Comics takes the lead on graphic storytelling, including children’s graphic novels.