How a Marvel Marketer Helped Rob Liefeld Persuade Marvel Comics to Publish X-Force

Posted by March 22, 2018 Comment

Fabian Nicieza was the Marvel writer on New Mutants. He would become Editor-In-Chief of Valiant Entertainment. He is now a comics writer and recently adapted a Stan Lee poem into the graphic novel God WokeBob Harras was the editor of the X-Men related comics, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics and is now Editor-In-Chief of DC Comics.

Sven Larson is a digital/designer/developer/marketer, but in the early nineties, he worked for Marvel. His bio says ‘I started in Sales at Marvel but quickly moved on to found the company’s first Marketing department. I also headed up their Creative Services department and was a major part of Marvel’s publishing management team at the time. Heady stuff for a guy in his twenties. It was an amazing time and I probably learned more in six years there than many people learn in their careers. I treasured my time at the “House of Ideas” but knew there were other things I wanted to try and a big world I wanted to explore.’

And today Rob Liefeld, then-artist of New Mutants posted on Instagram a fax from Sven in 1990 about Rob’s plans for New Mutants to become X-Terminators. That would later become X-Force. And as X-Force get a big mention in the new Deadpool 2 trailer, it was time for a little excavation. Transcript below…

Hey Robbo! Fabs and I talked about your Idea some more yesterday afternoon and we got even more rewed about It. I also talked to Jim yesterday afternoon and he had some interesting comments too. I’ve got some marketing points I think you can bring up with Bob that might help sway things your way.

1. Timing. Currently they have the new X-MEN book scheduled to be released In June at part of the New Series Premiere program. What I think you should suggest to Bob is altering the schedule so that X-TERMINATORS #1 would ship in June. This would be advantageous for several reasons. Since Chris and Jim have to deal with the X-Tinction Agenda they aren’t really going to get rolling on their own stuff until December. That gives them only seven issues to build up momentum for the new X-Men title. If we could delay that title to August it would give them an extra two issues to get things going and would also avoid the appearance that we’re trying to clone the success of SPIDER-MAN #1 (which could create a possible backlash in the marketplace). Also, with NEW MUTANTS #100 corning out in February you would be able to have three months to generate demand for the new title and get ahead on the new book. Finally, we were planning a spring promotion for all the mutant books. With Davis and Neary not coming on EXCALIBUR until April this could be moved up to a summer promotion. If we schedule X-TERMINATORS #1 for June it could be the final new series premiere and also serve as the kickoff for this summer mutant promotion. You could have X-TERMINATORS #1 in June, the revamped X-FACTOR debut in July, and the new X-MEN book in August. This way you would get high sales on X-TERMINATORS #1 (since it would benefit from two promotional programs and hit the hot summer sales season) and you would build momentum for X-MEN-#1 (the great thing is that retailers would be placing their orders on X-MEN #1 at the same time that X-TERMINATORS was appearing in their stores. If they saw themselves selling out of X-TERMINATORS #1, they would naturally increase their orders on X-MEN #1). If we could get Bob to go with this timing I think it would give the concept editorial, marketing, and promotional credibility.

2. The name change. You can sell this to Bob two ways. If he looks at his own sales figures on X-MEN CLASSIC he’ll see that a simple name change helped sales on a reprint book. Imagine what it could do on an all new book. You should also point but that the New Mutants name has a stigma attached to it. It has always been perceived as the weak sister of the mutant books and many people avoid the title just on principal. It’s also a lot easier from a marketing standpoint to get people to try something they perceive as new rather than getting them to try something they’ve tried in the past and haven’t liked. You can also point out that this would allow you to return the brand name to its original owner (Chris) thus keeping a major freelancer happy and potentially adding another profitable book to the company’s roster within the next two years.

3. Editorial content. The change in editorial content and the start of a new series will allow us to generate much more publicity both in house and in fan publications to promote the book. Let’s face it, most of these fan publications feel they got their New Mutants story when you took over pencilling the book. You’re only going to get marginal coverage for a series revamp. But a new series (especially a new X series) should generate intense publicity including feature articles in Amazing Heroes, CBG and MARVEL AGE. That sort of excitement will…

… don’t suck anymore, Anyone hope this all helps out, I’ll jot some more things down on paper later on this week. Carpe diem, Robbo, carpe diem.

The Rob Liefeld of today adds,

HOW X-FORCE ALMOST DIDN’T HAPPEN! More than a boring memo from 1990, this contains the battle plan of how to turn the no’s into the all important green light that eventually produced X-Force, referred to as X-TERMINATORS here prior to the name change. Bottom line, DON’T GIVE UP!! So I came across this original fax from 28 years ago, 1990, where the Direct Sales Manager shared his brainstorm with me after I had repeatedly lobbied to change New Mutants to X-Terminators and eventually X-Force. I had been turned down twice in my efforts to reboot the book. It was frustrating as I was on the west coast and wasn’t able to lobby in person, it was always over the phone or fax. I knew I needed to keep up with my peer group and transforming New Mutants was the key to staying ahead of the pack as well as the right direction as my tenure had increased sales 1000%. Each turn down was crushing, I was always informed following a meeting in the New York offices (that I wasn’t personally involved in) that the committee had turned the book down. But I didn’t give up hope and neither did Sven who was also in marketing and key to the push. Eventually we turned the tide and got the green light and X-Force #1 sold 5 million copies and remains the 2nd best selling title in comics history. Anyways, hopefully you can draw some inspiration from this and be reminded that most things don’t come easy and if you feel it’s worth fighting for, keep at it. I’m eternally grateful to Sven and all the others behind the scene that worked to transform the direction of the book from New Mutants to X-Force. Creating cool characters like Deadpool and Cable and exciting storylines isn’t always enough, it’s the grind behind the scenes that produces results. Keep at it, whoever you are!!! #xforce #cable#Deadpool #robliefeld #marvel

Within a year, Rob Liefeld announced he was going to do a new superhero comic for Malibu called Executioners, under the Image name, very similar to X-Force in look and concept. Marvel threatened to sue. Executioners went away. But within a year, Liefeld would leave Marvel, found Image Comics with five others and launch Youngblood

Which is now getting a Netflix adaptation.

(Last Updated March 22, 2018 6:38 pm )