I'm sure some of you have heard of the funding site Kickstarter. Recently, an artist raised over a million dollars to publish a print version of his long-running web comic.
While I'm not saying Marvel should stop publishing themselves, Marvel should open up their characters to a Kickstarter-type system where creative teams could post pitches that readers could vote on with their dollars.
Marvel could set up an editorial board similar to what exists at Kickstarter. Maybe they extend editorial services to projects that get funding (for a fee that would be listed in the funding). Basically, the project must not damage the brand (no pornography, etc.) but otherwise the pitches can do anything.
After hearing about the number of comics projects successfully funded through Kickstarter, I read the Kickstarter site. I'm proposing Marvel do that, with all the safeguards in place, but for Marvel characters only. Pitches for merchandise, comics, clothing, whatever. Marvel/Disney could even offer to broker printing or manufacturing services (again, for a fee that would be part of the funding structure).
Marvel would take a cut, a percentage, probably a larger percentage than Kickstarter does, but they would want to set up some kind of standard pricing structure for what could be done, with the variable being what the potential creator set for his own fee. If the bids go over that amount, Marvel's cut goes up, and the creators get more money.
Diamond could even order copies of successful projects for the store, increasing the print run at no cost to the creator or Marvel.
This would be a win for Marvel because it could allow creators to have sanctioned material they could sell at conventions, and Marvel/Disney would get their cut right off the top, and as long as the creators deliver, there's no way Marvel could lose money off the deal. They'd get the chance to approve or kill the projects before they ever got off the ground if they don't like them, but otherwise have no overhead involved. New Marvel Comics that fans wanted would get made without Marvel having to put up any money to get it made. And again, there's nothing that would stop Marvel from putting out their "official" line of comics.
Imagine if professional artists got involved, and not just comics artists, either. They could put together a proposal, name their price up front, and if the funding doesn't show up in 60 days (or whatever), no harm, no foul. But if it does, the artist starts work knowing the money's in the bank and all of the costs have been met. Of course, there would be stiff penalties for those who didn't follow through, stern enough to absolutely discourage fakes.
Marvel would own the work, of course, but this system would also afford them to pay royalties. It's like, they get new intellectual property to exploit for free, and people with creative talent get a chance to play with the toys.
Of course, DC could do this, too--as could any entity which has IP to exploit. I was thinking Marvel as this would be a solution to take care of people like Gary Friedrich.
Imagine, Gary could team up with an artist, like Herb Trimpe, and they could submit a pitch to Marvel-Kickstarter. Gary could pitch a project to create a new comic that he and Herb could print and sell at conventions. Marvel gets a cut off the top, enough to pay for their involvement and then some, and they get to approve the material.
How could this lose?