The past few years have opened the eyes of fanboys – a group of individual who show untainted, unabashed dedication and knowledge of a particular genre or product – and the rest of the general populace. With movies like Iron Man, Watchmen, The Dark Knight, and just this past week, [Marvel’s] The Avengers, raking in millions upon millions of dollars at the box office, Hollywood has taken notice. Comic books aren’t just for little kids or nerdy guys at a comic book store (we are a proud bunch, though!). They can be brought into the mainstream media with resounding success. With the right cast, the right budget, and right story, you can have an instant classic. But what does that mean for the future of comics and the paper medium in general?
I believe one of two keys to keep the comic book industry going long into the future is electronic and mobile integration. Most of the publishers these days have made leaps and bounds towards comics as a mobile medium. Marvel and DC both have multiple apps for smartphones and tablets these days. Marvel has even gone one step further where most of their titles come with complimentary digital downloads of the comic if you buy the print version. This is very good for collectors, like myself, because we can go put those precious, first edition, status quo-changing issues into cellophane plastic and read that issue over and over in high definition on our mobile device. DC has special dual edition titles too for their key books as well, and both big companies have moved to same-day digital and print releases of their books.
This is a step in right direction and also may help with preservation as far as paper is concerned. Being tech savvy and “green” is the big thing nowadays, and this is just one example of keeping our medium in the game. People are almost attached to their phones and tablets these days. A lot of people run their entire lives from that mobile device. I know I do, mostly. What better way to get people to see your product than to put it right in their face? If you give people a product in the medium they most use, you can usually drum up more success.
The second key to helping comics survive into the future is mainstream exposure. We have seen it a lot in the last two decades or so. With the Superman and Batman movies from Warner Bros. and DC, and Blade (Marvel’s first comic book movie success) and the Spider-Man movies, and the new Marvel Cinematic Universe films (Iron Man series, Thor, Captain America, Incredible Hulk) that connected five different movies for the immensely successful Marvel’s The Avengers, we have been treated (I use that term loosely on some of these) to a complete bombardment of comic book related movies. That can be good and bad.
With ever increasing budgets and better special effects, it is becoming easier and easier to bring the spectacle and scale of our favorite books to the big screen. The problem is, they need to be good. While we have been incredibly fortunate in the last decade, with successes like the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman films, and Marvel’s big, BIG payoff of the Cinematic Universe, there are some equally bad films from both main publishers. DC had great success with the first two Superman and Batman films, but the few that followed it were huge messes. Superman III and IV, Superman Returns, and Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were critical failures. While they may have brought some box office success, they were panned by fans and critics alike. Bad writing, bad effects, bad musical scores, and bad directing were the keys to those failures, especially in Batman & Robin. Superman is supposed to be one of the strongest beings on Earth, but in Superman Returns, he doesn’t throw a single punch.
Marvel has had its shares of failures as well. Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Blade were all critical and box office successes. But the sequels again failed to measure up. Spider-Man 3 was a “hot mess” that fell into the same crowded and bad direction problems of Batman & Robin and the Blade sequels were really poorly written. The entire Fantastic Four franchise was a bad case of poor casting and bad writing, even though it did make money at the box office. Cue the “reboot” phase of the current movie slate. With the emergence of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and the soon to follow The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel, DC has proved that you can take something that didn’t work, tweak it, and make it into a highly successful, both financially and critically, endeavor. While the jury is still out on Man of Steel until next year, many believe it is the reboot that the franchise desperately needs.
The success of Marvel’s most ambitious endeavor to date is staggering. Make 5 different films, about several vastly different heroes, across several years, and bringing them all together in an enormous super hero smackdown. A lot of people said it couldn’t be done. But low and behold, they have done it. Not one of the first five films were a critical failure. All did decently, if not better, at the box office. And now you have them in the big payoff film, directed by one of the best writers in the business, with one of the best ensemble cast ever *pun intended* assembled. It just broke domestic and international records for an opening weekend, obliterating the last two to hold that title (the uber-popular Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 and the most critically acclaimed super hero film ever, The Dark Knight) with a whopping $200-plus million dollars in 3 days! This is the way to get people interested in your product. I’ve read everywhere online, with people saying “even if you’re not a comic book or super hero fan, go see The Avengers!”
Marvel has taken the right step. You have big name actors who have bought into their roles, who are as passionate about the product as the fans, and you have the right people writing the script. Along with Marvel’s tendencies to leave Easter Eggs in the credits and post-credits (come on, you know the scenes at the end of The Avengers were awesome) to make you giddy about seeing the next film in line, and you have a mass media frenzy waiting to happen. And it's what our precious industry needs. It also helps if your backed financially by one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world (Disney).
Well that’s it, the third and final entry in Why Super Heroes and Comic Books Matter. I sincerely hoped you enjoyed reading, and look forward to any comments and feedback you may have. Be sure to read my other two entries, and get the whole story!
Until Next Time, Peace!