There had been a table, seconds before.  Now there were only splinters, splinters and a very large man in what used to be a nice suit. 


Could this be Wayne Flagg, the mild-mannered marketing mastermind mounting a money-making mission with the merry men of Marvel Comics?  As a seasoned investigative reporter, I’ve seen my fair share of bad reactions to delicate questions, but my last one sent Flagg from green around the gills to green all over his body.

*   *   *

The interview had started out friendly.  I was full of questions about the article touting t-shirts with crimson and gold-wearing copies of Spider-Man, Captain America and other Marvel superheroes, and Flagg was full of answers and vigor and himself.

“I’m God.  It’s as simple as that,” Flagg said, without a whiff of sarcasm.  “I just took the two of the nation’s most heroic brands and brought them together.  Well, the rest of my team helped too, and my boss, but seriously, me here.  It’s like creation, nuclear fusion, a gamma bomb for the consumers.” 

Though a tiny majority of USC’s student body hasn’t yet caught on to the hype, Flagg compared the marketing strategy to that used to promote Christopher Nolan’s 2008 superhero hit The Dark Knight.  “We started out with that one article on the Internet, but we’ll build the tension over time, and it’ll blow up when The Avengers comes out in May.  I can tell you now that a heavily-armored Trojan will be the drum major at an upcoming football game–think GridIron Man.”

Mentioning Batman, however, also proved a bit of a sore point.  Comics-savvy students have raised concerns over the potential loss of his merchandising rights to UCLA.  The rivalry between MARVEL and the Dark Knight’s publisher DC runs almost as deep as the Trojan’s war with the Bruins, and some fear that Batman will don blue and yellow tights out of spite for our deal with the competition.  When I brought this up, Flagg’s unflagging good cheer faded.  “He’s the hero USC deserves, but not the one it needs right now.  So we’ll fight on, because he can take it.”

That bitter bit of business behind him, Flagg recovered his smile and spoke with great enthusiasm about the future of USC’s licensing deals.  If the shirts are successful, he plans to release more MARVEL/Trojan gear, and that’s not all.  Flagg hinted that four fantastic brands were fated for future fusion with the USC.  When I pressed him for details, he gave me the inside scoop.  “We’re courting George Lucas for Star Wars, though he’s probably not going to bite.  It’s not like he gave us a cinema school or anything.  Halo 5: OUSC is a more likely buy.  And we just inked deals for USGlee and Hello USCitty.”

“Hello USCitty?  Seriously?” I started to laugh, but then I caught the look in his eye.  Rather, I caught the look of his iris as it changed from sky blue to dark green.

*   *   *

“WHEN USC MERCHANDIZES, USC SMASHES!  WHY DOES PUNY REPORTER NOT UNDERSTAND?”  I could hardly argue with the gigantic evidence in favor of Flagg’s conclusion, and I conceded the point.  As pink color returned to his face and lowercase letters returned to his speech, he assured me that Hello USCitty was the first of many USC ventures into East Asian media.  “There are so many East Asian students at USC, it’ll sell like crazy.  There are so many students of East Asian heritage, I’d be angry if it didn’t sell.  And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

To prevent this outcome, I threw journalistic objectivity out the window and pre-ordered USC/Marvel t-shirts in Hulk.  I mean, bulk.