Grotesque Anatomy
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
  Also: Spider-Girl To Feature 80% More Panty Shots
Thanks to Augie De Blieck for mentioning this blog in his column today.  I did want to respond to his comments regarding the cover design for the "Marvel Age" imprint:
John Jakala's Grotesque Anatomy posted cover images of Marvel's new manga-wannabe imprint versus TokyoPop's, just to show the similarity in designs. I don't think, however, that this is Marvel trying to trick people into thinking their books are TokyoPop's. I think it's a couple of other things. First, the art reprinted on the cover is in a slightly different ratio than the page size it's being printed on, so the horizontal strip is needed in lieu of art cropping. You can see that happening in the oversized RED STAR trades, as well as the ULTIMATE MARVEL magazines that were coming out a couple of years ago.
But if you look at the cover art for Runaways #11, it seems as though the Marvel Age edition of Runaways does crop the original cover image, at least going by what was shown online in the February solicitations for Marvel:

Cover to RUNAWAYS #11 (as seen in online solicitations)
Cover to "Marvel Age" digest-sized edition of RUNAWAYS

Disclaimers:  That's obviously not a final cover image on the left, since there's no logo on it.  And the ratio for that image is slightly squatter than other cover preview images.  But there's still some cropping of the image on both sides.  In any case, cropping or reformatting images hardly seems like much of a barrier in this digital age.

And this is probably a grossly uncharitable misreading of Augie's statement, but reading it I thought, "So what is he saying?  That there were only a handful of possible cover designs available for Marvel to choose from?  That it was inevitable that Marvel would choose this look?"  Funny how a single series such as Sandman managed to have about a dozen distinctive trade dresses over the course of its publication in the bookstore market.

Anyway, I don't think Marvel will really be able to "trick" anyone into reading anything they don't want to.  Yes, I still think the Marvel Age trade dress is suspiciously similar to Tokyopop's, but I don't think it's going to fool manga fans into buying these books.  I think most consumers are savvy enough to distinguish content from design, and content is really what's going to make or break these books for Marvel.  Sure, the new format might be more appealing to readers who are used to the manga digests, but I think the packaging will only allow Marvel to get their foot in the door.  They'd still better have compelling stories to complete the sale.

So until Marvel comes out and announces that the Marvel Age books will have art flipped to a "right-to-left" format and sound effects translated into Japanese, Make Mine Manga!
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