Hobby Musings: Upper Deck meeting demand for Marvel cards – Marvel’s popular film franchise has helped familiarize classic heroes such as Iron Man and Captain America with new generations of fans and collectors. While there have been licensed items such as toys, there has also been a renewed demand for trading card products featuring these characters. Rising to fill that demand has been Upper Deck, who has created a variety of trading card lines tied in with the films, as well as original brands. To find out more about how Upper Deck brings the big screen to its trading card counterparts, I had the chance to entertainment marketing manager William Sobel. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: How long does it typically take you to produce a Marvel product that ties in a with a movie, especially compared to one that is a standalone brand?
WS: The short and sweet of it is, that it all depends. Even between movie and publishing products, there isn’t just a single answer. Each project is unique, but we start having preliminary discussions about some projects fifteen months in advance. Making a project is a huge task by several different internal departments, as well as our partners over at Marvel.
KS: One of the really cool things about the checklists are the autographs and memorabilia from actors/subjects that collectors don’t normally see. How do you go about acquiring those assets for the card lines?
WS: Each actor has to be sought at individually for each project. We try to approach all the big names or important characters. That’s why each set can vary so much, though. We approach agents with a proposal, who then talk to their actors. These agreements can sometimes come together quickly and easily, or go through several rounds of revisions. Each case is truly unique.
KS: Would you say it’s more difficult to acquire the memorabilia or autographs for the checklist?
WS: It’s a much different process. Memorabilia can come directly from Marvel Studios, and so we have proper pathways within Marvel that we navigate to see what the studio has left over and what it’s worth. Each of those presents their own challenges, so I wouldn’t say one is more difficult than the other.
KS: Who are some of the top actors from the Marvel films that you’ve been able to have sign cards so far?
WS: We’ve had Chris Hemsworth sign for us, we’ve had Chris Pratt for Guardians of the Galaxy and Chris Evans in Captain America: Civil War. Tom Hiddleston signed in Thor: The Dark World and when we did Doctor Strange, we got Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton. We have two projects coming out that are from Marvel television shows that have some great actors as well, including Charlie Cox from Daredevil.
KS: Are there any of them that you’ve been particularly proud to be able to include?
WS: We’re super proud of all the actors and actresses we’ve had the honor of including in all of our sets. There’s really nothing like being able to bring the movie (or show) closer to our collectors.
KS: What kind of response have you seen from collectors for these cards and hits of subjects who may not be as well-known as the actors in the movie?
WS: I think that’s one of the appeals of the Marvel movies, isn’t it? Some of these actors who aren’t as well-known can suddenly because well-known simply for being in a Marvel movie. That may not always be the case, but Marvel doesn’t pick bad actors.
KS: Expanding on that, what kind of response have you seen to the Marvel products from collectors and shop owners who sell the products?
WS: They’re all super excited. It’s a great time to be a Marvel fan, and I think everyone knows that. With their super events like Secret Empire and the popularity of their films and shows, there’s so much Marvel to go around. Retailers are super excited about all the different types of products, all the great autographs and sketch cards, and the feedback we got after showing our line up to them in January was great.
KS: Have any of the Marvel franchises risen above the rest in terms of sales and popularity?
WS: As far as our movie products go, we definitely saw lots of popularity in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the first Guardians of the Galaxy all stood a bit higher. We’ve seen a serious love for Thor: Ragnarok as well, but that set just came out. On the publishing side, lots of people showed their love for Marvel Masterpieces that we did with Joe Jusko, as well as 2017 Marvel Premier and Fleer Ultra Spider-Man that we did last year.
KS: Marvel’s latest film, Black Panther, recently released in theaters. Any chance we’ll see Upper Deck do a card line to tie in with the film?
WS: Definitely. We activate on every Marvel film. Currently our Black Panther set is slated for a spring release and we have some cool insert sets in the works that had a lot of positive feedback from our distribution and retail partners when we showed them at our conference in January.
KS: Looking ahead to the rest of 2018, what does Upper Deck have coming up for Marvel products?
WS: So in March we’re releasing Daredevil, and in April we have our 2017 Marvel Annual, which we release every year as a look back at the past year in Marvel comics. Then we have Black Panther and Fleer Ultra X-Men. We have a ton of other stuff in the pipeline, as you can imagine, but that’s all we’re ready to talk about for right now.
KS: Asking you to put on your fan hat a little, what is one Marvel-related card release that you currently don’t do that you would love to see a product for?
WS: That’s a tough one! I’m a huge fan of Moon Knight and his different personalities. I’d love to see a Moon Knight set that showcases all his different aspects.
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