This is a question I’ve asked many times in the past, but as I finish up watching the season finales of Daredevil and Flash and Arrow and Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., I once again have to wonder with the success of these shows, why doesn’t Marvel and DC use the popularity to promote selling comic books?
Here’s why I think they should and how I think they ought to do it.
Superhero movies are the biggest thing at the box office these days and show no sign of slowing down. However, while some of the top grossing movies in history feature four-color superheroes, the comic book industry continues to dwindle, with the most successful comics of the day are selling at below cancellation levels of just a decade ago. So at a time when superheroes are hot, why are comics failing and why are comic publishers not using the movies and TV shows to push their print product?
Yes, DC in particular has been putting out an Arrow Season 2.5 series and a Flash Season Zero series, both extensions of the TV series on the CW. They do not, however, spend any time that I’ve noticed promoting the comic books in the TV series. I also don’t see them calling attention to the comic books in their animated movies.
Marvel does nothing of import in the movies or TV series either. I think Marvel’s failure is even more egregious however because while DC actually puts out TV-related comics, Marvel really doesn’t. If someone went to see Guardians of the Galaxy in the theater and got interested in reading comics based on that property, the comics aren’t remotely the same as the movie. The same goes for Captain America, Avengers, Iron Man, etc.
It ought to be really simple to put a short advertisement for the comics at the beginning of every movie or at the end, near the post-credits bumper. Put it into the contract for every film. Make it part of every TV show. A decent advertising campaign could drive potential readers into comic book shops. Intelligent theater owners could offer discount advertising for local comic shops before all of the superhero movies. Comic shops could offer discount tickets to local theaters showing superhero films. I can’t be the only person who has ever thought of this, can I?
Well, no. But it seems like it’s too much work for Marvel and DC to do and they really don’t care about comics these days anyhow. The only thing comics do is serve as a loss-leader product while they sell the rights to television companies, movie producers and toy manufacturers. The comics don’t really matter and that’s really too bad because if I was running a company, even a company making as much money as Marvel these days, I’d never turn down an opportunity to make even more, especially since it wouldn’t cost a red cent more than they’re already spending. They put out comics every month anyhow, it isn’t like they’d have to start publishing things they don’t already publish. However, they would have to start thinking like a movie fan and a potential reader.
I’m going to talk about Marvel in particular here but the same things apply to DC. Because the comic Marvel Universe is far, far different than that found in the movies or TV, there has to be a bridging product. Way back in the day, Marvel put out movie adaptations in comic form, they did Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark and many more. Often, these comics became regular ongoing titles and people were drawn in by the movies into reading the comic versions. Certainly, now that Marvel is owned by Disney, which also owns Lucasfilm, Marvel is in a good position to put out a comic adaptation of the new movie. So why don’t they do it for their own films? And even more, they know when their movies are coming out, why don’t they put out a movie-version comic for each of their MCU films? That way, when the advertising they put in their movies drives fans to the comic shops, they have something they can buy that has the spirit of the movie and can slowly transition from the movie version to the regular comic. Avengers 2 is coming out soon, there are a lot of changes from the modern comic Avengers series, why not do one that takes the Joss Whedon Avengers, tells more stories in that vein, and then encourage people to buy more Avengers titles? Seems like a no-brainer. It really costs them nothing to try, they’re publishing comics that sell hardly any copies now, what harm does it do to give this a shot?
Perhaps an even bigger crime are Blu Ray sales. Every single superhero movie that goes to home video ought to have special features pushing comics, explaining where the characters came from and how what you saw in the movies differs from the comics. I’ve seen a couple of really well done featurettes, but only a few. Most don’t even acknowledge that the comics exist. That makes no sense.
It really feels like Marvel spends most of it’s time repeatedly shooting of it’s own foot. It’s in a constant war with Fox over the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four, they’ve done everything they can to poison any Fox movies that come out, including screwing up the comics and refusing to release any merchandising for the properties. It is a dick move on every conceivable level. Maybe they shouldn’t have been so stupid as to license out those properties in the first place?
The comic world just feels like it deserves more attention from Marvel. After all, they are at least trying. They keep running an endless supply of events, they are trying to get people to read the titles, they’re just missing the giant mutant elephant in the room. Can someone please explain to me how these people can miss this ridiculous simple and essentially effortless solution to some of their problems? Or does the world just make no sense?