NYC rescuers are heroes to Marvel

Client: Marvel Comics (NYC)

PR Team: Bender/Helper Impact (NYC)

Campaign: Heroes: "Comic Relief"

Time Frame: September 14 - ongoing

Budget: phone, e-mail, and faxing costs only

The events of September 11 brought grief, anger, and sorrow to a stunned

world. And in the days following, the surrealism of what they'd seen had

New Yorkers wondering why the likes of Captain America or Spiderman

couldn't swoop in to save the Big Apple. However, it was clear to Marvel

Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada who the city's real heroes were:

policemen, firefighters, EMTs, and the ordinary citizens who volunteered

to help.

Quesada decided to create a comic book in their honor, and donate the

proceeds ($3 out of the $3.50 cover price) to various

World Trade Center charities.

After bringing together some of the industry's top artists, Marvel

sought to create Heroes, a 64-page comic book, and have 100,000 copies

ready for an October 17 release. This gave Marvel about 30 days to do

what usually takes three to six months.

"The climate was unbelievably therapeutic," says Quesada. "It was like

going to Ground Zero and lifting a brick."

Strategy

As production proceeded faster than a speeding bullet, Marvel had to

publicize Heroes with no ad support, while avoiding the appearance of

looking to profit from tragedy. The NYC office of Bender/Helper Impact

(BHI) came to the rescue.

BHI's challenge was to attain coverage from a media concentrating on the

daily developments both here and abroad, so the timing had to be

perfect.

The plan was to slowly build awareness for Heroes, and then climax PR

efforts right around the day the book would hit stores.

Tactics

The project was termed "comic relief" to help convey that this was

Marvel's way of honoring the real heroes. Emphasis was placed on how

Marvel invited artists from rivals DC Comics and Dark House Comics to

join the project.

In addition, a minimal amount of Marvel superheroes were featured in the

book. The focus was appropriately placed on real-life firefighters,

policemen, and EMTs.

Initially, exclusives were offered to only the four news outlets BHI

deemed most influential: The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, and

NBC's Today show. This built excitement for the project, but ensured the

story's freshness for an upcoming media blitz.

The second round of coverage, which began on October 15 (two days prior

to release), targeted top major-market papers, major news syndicates,

broadcast stations, and comic book websites. To ensure that none of the

outlets broke the story early, BHI guaranteed access to many Marvel

executives and artwork, and allowed the websites to display the cover

image of Heroes.

Results

While media coverage was impressive, Quesada was proudest of the

personal responses. "Fire stations have called to thank us," he reports.

"National Guard members toured our site. It's been humbling. Our

industry has long fought the stigma that comics are just for kids.

Heroes proves that comics are for all ages, and can really touch people.

The entire comic book world should view this a crowning achievement for

the industry."

BHI can consider the press it garnered a fine achievement as well: 13 of

the nation's top 15 newspapers ran features on Heroes, and almost all of

the top 200 papers in the US had coverage. In addition to Today,

segments appeared on CNN, MTV, CBS, Fox News Channel, and BBC America.

Extensive online coverage on entertainment, news, and, of course, comic

book sites, rounded out a media barrage that produced several hundred

million impressions.

Heroes' first run of 100,000 sold out in two days. The second run of

150,000, which hit racks on October 26, sold out as well.

Future

"The book will be kept in print for as long as people want it," says

Quesada. It seems that Marvel's presses will keep rolling for some time.

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