Updated: Jan 25
From February to August of 1983, Marvel Comics tried in vain to make a name for itself among video game players, with its aptly-named Blip. With the electronic entertainment industry ready to take a nosedive in 1984, Blip magazine was the very definition of "wrong place, wrong time." While the publication did contain legitimate video game content, including your standard array of "how-to" articles, this entry will focus on possible reasons why it failed. You know, because I'm a pessimist.
The publication was aimed at a preteen audience, which is no doubt why it touted itself as being from Marvel Comics on issues number one, four and five. You have to wonder why they didn't use their comic street cred for every issue. Maybe they could have gotten an extra month or two out of it.
The fact that Marvel published the magazine may in fact have been its primary weakness: The pulpy feel of the pages was that of your classic '80s comic book. It felt childish, and by extension, irrelevant. The cartoony illustrations in the magazine (below) also didn't help its cause in winning over more a more mature audience. A nineteen year-old gamer would have lost all arcade credibility if he was caught flipping through Blip. (And why wasn't "Flip Through Blip" the magazine's catchphrase? I should have been in marketing.)
Blip made extensive use of Marvel intellectual properties. On the surface, cameos from beloved Marvel staples doesn't sound like a bad thing, but it ended up lending itself to six page-long advertisements. I'm not kidding. I was the lucky recipient of one of these epic ads when I bought my issue at an antique store, and I have to imagine that I was as thrilled with it as a kid in 1983 would have been. Keep in mind that this ad followed a four-page ad promoting the same game, so about one-third of this issue is an ad for one game. That's not including other ads. Blip was spamming before spamming was a thing. I'm including the grandiose promotion here for purposes of illustration (pun intended).
Issue two wasn't the only Blip to pull the infomercial card. Number seven, the last issue, had another six-page ad with The Incredible Hulk, playing his own Atari 2600 game. (The Hulk's game would never get released, becoming another casualty of the Video Game Crash of 1983.)
It appears that even some Marvel staff wasn't privy to Blip's imminent demise: In the final issue's "Constructive Criticism" article (below), we see the editor writing back to reader Chris Cereno, promising a "complete article about that system [the Vectrex] in the near future." How long did Chris wait before giving up on learning more about the Vectrex? One can only wonder.
Also in the last issue, we see the subscription offer that had been a hallmark of every previous incarnation of Blip. How many kids lost six bucks to Marvel? With 1983 movie tickets averaging $3.15 each, that would have just about funded a date. Maybe childhood crushes didn't get asked out because of Blip. Maybe the world could have had more love, if it wasn't for this seven-issue magazine. Maybe I'm over-analyzing.
I'm surmising that Blip suffered from a disproportional amount of ads and a cheap physical feel. It also alienated a large audience of older gamers, who were the demographic with more money. These factors, combined with bad timing, all contributed to the demise of this little-known rag. Blip was an ambitious project on Marvel's part, but consumer tastes in electronics were temporarily shifting from video games, and Spider-Man himself couldn't stop it. The U.S. release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985 would bring electronic games back in a big way. This new era would be ushered in by gaming publications such as GamePro, which would dominate newsstand shelves until the Internet age had matured. Marvel never again ventured into non-comic pursuits.