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ESPN + Superheroes … How will Marvel marketing screw this up?

If you haven’t seen or heard about the NBA preview in ESPN The Magazine (the world’s most idiotically-named magazine!), it features various Marvel artists blending various Marvel characters with various NBA players. It’s, frankly, pretty goddamned cool. And I’m sure Marvel will see absolutely no bump in comics sales from it, because they’re, well, a comic book company. Oh well. Let’s check out some of the images, saving the absolute meanest for last!

First, Joey Q provides a sweet cover. I’m not sure why LeBron James is holding Captain America’s shield, but there’s a reason for both Kobe-as-Iron Man and Kevin Durant-as-Thor. And I always enjoy seeing the tattoo that Noted Philanderer Kobe has on his arm – his wife’s name. I hope he wore a long-sleeved shirt when he was cheating on her.

Maybe Bron-Bron is saying, 'You think this HEAT on my chest stands for Cleveland?'

On the first page of the preview, we get this painting of Kobe as Thanos (a pretty keen touch) reaching for another ring. I couldn’t get the whole thing because my scanner isn’t big enough, but you can see most of it. I have to say, this might be the best Greg Horn artwork I’ve ever seen.

Why would the Hulk want to win the NBA Championship?

Each team preview is accompanied by a drawing. This is Salvador Larocca showing Kobe as Tony Stark, because both of them are the “man everyone wants to be — and beat.” Yeah, I guess. They’re both smug, womanizing, arrogant assholes, but I suppose ESPN can’t put that in their magazine.

Kobe looks like he just ate something unpleasant

Olivier Coipel provides the Oklahoma City Thunder drawing. That’s pretty clever, as Thor now lives in the state.

And hey, they both bring the thunder! It's all clever!

Mark Cuban as Hank Pym is awesome. This is, of course, Kyle Baker art.

See, because Cuban keeps tinkering with the Mavericks, much like Hank Pym tinkers with ... time travel? Pym particles? Tiny women?

Simone Bianchi’s “Weapon Y” drawing is pretty keen. That’s Yao Ming, who has had more surgeries, if possible, than Wolverine.

ESPN suggests lacing Yao's bones with adamantium, which is probably the only way he's going to make it through a full season

The Kings drawing might be my favorite, because Skottie Young is awesome. The Kings are a really young team, so they’re the X-Babies. It’s funny!

The facial expressions really sell it

Terry Dodson homages Frank Miller in this drawing. The idea is that Dwight Howard better get tougher if he wants to lead the Magic to the Finals.

But ... I ... I ... thought Dwight was ... Superman?!?!?

Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut as Luke Cage and Danny Rand. I just really like Kalman Andrasofszky’s drawing.

The next Power Man and Iron Fist ongoing should be set in Milwaukee, just because

I can totally buy Michael Jordan as some sinister puppeteer, like in this Alex Maleev drawing.

He's thinking, 'Why is no one as good as I am?!?!?!'

Finally, John Romita twists the knife, and I LOVE it.

Romita Senior is still alive, so I don't know why he couldn't have drawn this

There are ones for every team, of course, and the talent is pretty good: Mike Perkins, Doug Braithwaite, Brian Stelfreeze, Dave Johnson, Gabrielle Dell’otto, Mike Deodato, Kaare Andrews, Leinil Francis Yu, Tom Raney, Jason Pearson, and Phil Noto are all in there, among others. It’s not quite worth $4.99 (the magazine’s cover price), but it’s a pretty cool issue, even if you’re not a big NBA fan (which I am not).

The title of the post is a bit joking, but I did wonder, when Disney bought Marvel, if we’d see more of this cross-promotion among the Disney Hydra (ESPN/ABC included) and I wonder if Marvel marketing has prepared for this. It seems like superheroes in general have never had a higher profile in the bigger world, and Marvel ought to be taking more advantage of it. Nowhere in the magazine is there even a small note about the actual comics – not even something about Marvel’s web site. I mentioned that the Avengers now have a show on Disney Channel, and Marvel didn’t advertise at all during the show. The show was very loosely based on Bendis’s first New Avengers arc – the breakout at the Raft – but Marvel didn’t tell parents that they could buy that trade if they wanted to read a more grown-up version of the story. Maybe Marvel has no power in this new arrangement, and maybe they’re going to try things down the road and the ESPN thing is just an initial blast, but I really have no confidence that superheroes showing up in ESPN The Magazine will lead anyone to read more comics. I’m sure Marvel, at this point, cares more about people going to see their movies, so maybe they don’t care at all about raising anyone’s awareness about the printed stuff. Could be!

Anyway, I thought this was a pretty cool idea, even if it has no effect on sales. Good move, Joey Q!

29 Comments

To your comment about Kobe covering up the tattoo during his *ahem* extracurricular activities, I believe he got all his tattoos after the whole affair. [/nitpick]

As a Cavs fan I hate the cover! As a comic book fan I love it. Unfortunately, the way LeBron left the Cavs was much harder to take than a knife in the back and I don’t like the fact that everyone (especially ESPN) thinks the Cavs are nothing without him.
But like I said, I love the homage and art… as a comic book fan.

Greg Burgas is definitely NOT a Kobe fan. I’m not either but the bitter sentiment here is palpitable. Honestly, and this is only my opinion, like yours, which you somehow felt was suitable for this site, but you shoulda saved those comments for a personal blog.

This might as well be his personal blog now. His name is clearly stated at the top of the article and if you read his weekly reviews, you know Greg isn’t one to hold his tongue when he doesn’t like something.

I don’t see why him disliking Kobe (especially for valid reasons) is such a sensitive topic to you.

Why not point out that Kobe is a cheating scumbag?

Anyway, you’d think that DISNEY would be doing the marketing. You’re talking as if Marvel is a separate entity, which I suppose in day to day operations, they are, but they’re really part of the big Disney family, and Disney should cross promote things to increase sales all around. It seems ridiculous to have all your comics artists drawing for a promo for one of your magazines, but not promote AT LEAST the website of the comics company YOU OWN NOW!

I’d say more likely, Disney is just using Marvel as a content provider for things like ESPN that, y’know, make money (snark).

I’ll have to try to pick this mag up at a library book sale in the months to come (as I’m sure it’ll pop up at one some time).

Honestly, and this is only my opinion, like yours, which you somehow felt was suitable for this site, but you shoulda saved those comments for a personal blog.

If that’s the most objectionable thing you’ve found on this blog, we need to try a lot harder.

I think there’s a lot of confusion in advertising today and there are lots of brands that are looking for relevancy, and at the same time, suffering from dwindling engagement from their traditions audiences. So I think we should get used to seeing more weird brand mashups, where they leverage one-another to try and reach new audiences. I get the brand integration, but sometimes it’s just plain weird.

This is cool.

I wish that you would have edited yourself a bit better. Your combination of limited knowledge and strong opinions is not a becoming combination. Say whatever you like about Kobe, but he isn’t a womanizer. The incident in Colorado neither a seduction, nor (by all indications) part of a recurring pattern. The tattoos were part of his attempt to atone to his wife. His accuser got a large cash settlement and hopefully returned to her life as happily as possible.

I am not sure there is a word that really captures it.

Anyway, it is fascinating to see which comic artists can capture real people and which cannot.

I think I recall at one time when Joe Q’s early years as EIC at Marvel, there was talks to use some of the marvel characters for Monday Night Football. I remember it was in Wizard, def do not have that anymore.

‘Why would the Hulk want to win the NBA championship?’
For the endorsement deals. Duh.

I have no interest in sports, so I might not get all the jokes here, but some of these are kind of cool.

I live in Oklahoma, and I wasn’t even aware the OKC team was called the Thunder. (That does fit really well for Thor.) Shows how well I pay attention to these things. I do remember all the local news making a huge deal out of it when it was announced the team would be moving to Oklahoma City, but for the most part I would just tune out whenever they mentioned sports, so I guess some things just never stuck. I may forget again pretty soon.

Bring back Superpro! Or not…

Yeah, gosh, Greg, I gotta agree with everyone who said you went to hard on Kobe.

Or I would say that if Kobe wasn’t a gigantic douchebag on every possible level.

“I wish that you would have edited yourself a bit better. Your combination of limited knowledge and strong opinions is not a becoming combination. Say whatever you like about Kobe, but he isn’t a womanizer. The incident in Colorado neither a seduction, nor (by all indications) part of a recurring pattern. The tattoos were part of his attempt to atone to his wife. His accuser got a large cash settlement and hopefully returned to her life as happily as possible.

I am not sure there is a word that really captures it.”

Apparently the word you are looking for is “apologist.”

Surely this must only be a prelude to the triumphant return of Sentry’s pal, NFL Superpro.

Spider Jerusalem

October 23, 2010 at 12:41 am

I know within the confines of the article you comment on the title being at least partially humorous, but the title is all most people will read. Why the hell not applaud them for trying something new instead of just throwing a crappy headline like that out there?

I’m sorry, I get frustrated when I see shit like this. My username’s not a joke; i really am a passionate journalist, and this is just irresponsible.

The whole issue with Kobe is pretty much a huge rubbish, I see no reason why he’d have to rape when thousands of women are willing to dive for him to begin with.

The woman was just aiming for the settlement, Win or not, she was going to walk out with something big due to Kobe’s popularity.

Regardless, Regarding the covers, I really liked the Rockets and the Spurs, they had awesome crossovers.

Captain Librarian

October 23, 2010 at 6:11 am

As a big NBA and Superhero comics fan, I love this, though I have to wonder if I’m that large of a demographic :) Oh well, the Pacers Dr Strange one was interesting, and the Bobcats with Jordan as Nick Fury is good too. Really, a lot of effort went into these.

BTW, the Cavaliers one /really/ raised some ire on some of the local Cleveland news websites.

I had no idea Oklahoma had a team let alone one called the Thunder. Also surprised to find out that the Supersonics weren’t around anymore.

Then again, I was surprised to find that the Hornets play in New Orleans and not North Carolina.

I also want to comment on why everyone seems to think that Marvel did this for ESPN to promote themselves as opposed to ESPN hiring Marvel to do it? I have a feeling ESPN contracted Marvel for this and Marvel agreed because part of what they do is creating specialized comic content. This probably wasn’t some grand comic-awareness plan (Which no one needs to do at this point) but rather just another money maker.

Spider: If all people read are headlines, then I don’t really think they have any cause to bitch about me being negative.

I never called Kobe a rapist. He was not charged, there was little evidence, and I accept that. But the excuse that he could have any woman he wants doesn’t mean he won’t rape someone. That’s not it works. Regardless, I don’t have a very high opinion of Kobe as a human being. It’s not just him, though – I don’t think most athletes deserve the adulation that gets heaped upon them.

Ian: I have no idea how the hiring works now that everyone is owned by Disney (maybe the Mouse Overlords ordered ESPN and Marvel to do it), but I do think we need a “grand comic-awareness plan” – well, we don’t, but Marvel ought to think about it, considering that they’re hemorrhaging readers. If they could get 5% of NBA fans to try comics through this idea, that would be a huge boost. But they won’t. I’ll applaud the idea, sure, but Marvel is a business, and having a good idea but not capitalizing on it is dumb.

Can we also get a drawing of the Marvel staff dropping the ball when it comes to a cross-promotion opportunity?

A lot of the drawings are great.

I don’t mind Greg making comments about Kobe, they seemed like jokes to me. Maybe a bit harsh, but Kobe gets insulted in way worse ways on a daily basis. For examples of how superstars get criticized in harsh ways you can look at some of the tweets Lebron James posted on twitter. They get a lot of very racist comments thrown their way.

Lay off Greg about the Kobe remarks. Most of you have probably said far worse things about Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld for merely making comic books.

Yeah, what Kevin R. said.

Wow! Sports fans are even more whiny ass cry babies than the average comic book fan, but I guess that’s probably not a new observation.

Most of the drawings are cool, even if most of the jokes/references are lost on me.
The Kings and the Yao drawings are particulary nice.

“The show was very loosely based on Bendis’s first New Avengers arc – the breakout at the Raft – but Marvel didn’t tell parents that they could buy that trade if they wanted to read a more grown-up version of the story”

Wow, you just straight up get advertising don’t you…

Expecting rich, famous, adonises (N.H.) to travel across the country from hotel to hotel and remain monogamous is ridiculous. Any fan or commentator on Kobe or the NBA knows or should know that this stuff goes on. Getting on one’s high horse about Kobe’s love life is some doe-eyed old-fashioned bull chips.

As regards rape allegations–it’s a shame that people are actually seriously questioning that poor girl’s motives. All of us are too far away from that situation to comment on it.

These covers are awesome though. It’s sorta like that “The Line is Drawn” but way cooler.

Go Bulls.

You can’t insult Kobe Bryant now? F*ck the heck?

Lay off Greg about the Kobe remarks. Most of you have probably said far worse things about Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld for merely making comic books.

I personally have no problems with Greg’s swipes at Kobe, it’s all fair game to me and just seems to be in the spirit of fun. People need to lighten up.

HOWEVER, I wouldn’t put those insults in the same category as taking shots as Loeb and Liefeld. We don’t have conclusive proof Kobe is a rapist or rampant womanizer. We have some solid evidence, but not conclusive proof. We do have conclusive proof of the quality of Loeb and Liefeld’s work however.

[…] will (or won’t) capitalize on this cross-promotion between branches of Disney, head over to Comics Should Be Good; I am also curious how Marvel will benefit from this exposure, as even though there have been […]

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