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Marvel announces polybagged comics with more violence for mature audiences

The upcoming Blood Hunt series will have an "explicit content" alternate edition for every issue, featuring additional pages

Marvel Red Band
Image credit: Marvel

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As the cliche goes, comics aren’t for kids anymore — a fact that Marvel has decided to lean into with the announcement that its upcoming vampire-centric crossover event Blood Hunt will be released in two editions: a regular version for the normies in the audience, and a polybagged edition with “additional pages and more graphic art too explicit for the regular edition,” according to the publisher.

The so-called “Red Band” editions will feature a banner reading “Warning! This comic book is only approved for APPROPRIATE AUDIENCES by Marvel Comics,” with additional text teasing “explicit content” and that “reader discretion [is] advised.”

In its announcement of the Red Band editions, Marvel promised that the editions will be “polybagged to keep those weak of heart from experiencing its intensity,” with series artist Pepe Larraz quoted as saying, “the Red Band pages are really interesting to me. They allow me to convey the dark, violent, bloody tone of this particular story, and flex new muscles that I don’t usually get to use in a super hero comic.”

Blood Hunt #1 Redband
Image credit: Stuart Immonen/Marvel

Although this is, as Marvel puts it, “the first time that a different edition of the same Marvel comic book is produced for more mature readers,” it’s far from the first time that Marvel has released dual versions of the same comic. Beyond the current trend for releasing “Director’s Cut” editions with additional content for best-selling comics, back in the 1990s, Marvel had a brief period where it released “regular” and “deluxe” editions of selected titles, with the deluxe editions featuring higher quality paper and coloring; as Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort remembered recently, “the idea was that the regular editions would be for the Newsstand market where [the] lower cover price was seen as more important. But the Direct Market, which was already showing that it would buy the higher-priced Image titles, wasn’t likely to blink as the same improvements in the Marvels.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lower-priced “regular” versions were soon phased out, leaving only the higher-priced editions available.

While it’s unlikely that such a thing will happen with Red Band editions — Marvel is unlikely to solely rely on Mature Readers editions of all of its titles moving forward — it’ll be interesting to see if the publisher reveals sales data on whether the Red Band editions, featuring additional material, outsell the regular editions of Blood Hunt when the series launches this Spring. Maybe dual format Marvels will be here to stay this time around.

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