Show Me the Money: Are Adaptations Helping Comics?

Show Me the Money: Are Adaptations Helping Comics?

Video games, television and movies are bursting with superheroes, but are these new fans buying comic books?

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If you aren't already into Comics, getting into Comics is intimidating. I say this as somebody who has been passively interested in comics for a while and is finally taking active steps to get started.

Let's say I go to Amazon and look up 'Avengers'. That's a reasonable first step. So I narrow the search down to just the Books category and am told there are 11,854 results. Well, that's a thing. But I'm smart enough to at least check the first page to see if there's an obvious answer.

Sure enough, result one: "Avengers, Volume 1: Avengers World." That sounds promising. So let's read that. But wait! The second result is "The Avengers, Vol. 1, no. 1-10." That also sounds like the right book. Below that we have "Uncanny Avengers Volume 1: The Red Shadow.' Is that the book I want? Or do I want "New Avengers Volume 1: Everything Dies"? Or is it the unnumbered book "Avengers; Legacy of Thanos" that I need? I heard that was the guy in the Avengers trailer. The next page doesn't offer any more answers, it just delivers even more books with titles like "Avengers Omnibus, Vol. 1" by that Stan Lee guy I've heard so much about and "Avengers, Vol. 1." Also present is "Avengers: The Complete Collection - Volume 1" and a number of other standalone books.

So my quick internet search has turned up half a dozen different Volume 1s on the first two pages alone and there are 81 more pages I would need to go through.

I know there's a whole internet community I can (and have) asked for comic recommendations, but if I was just a random person trying to get started? This is the point where I'd probably give up and go back to whatever I was doing before.

Going to the Marvel website and clicking 'Comics' isn't much more helpful. Now I'm met with a bunch of different issue numbers and no indication of which one comes first. I see that "Avengers #30" and "Uncanny Avengers #20" are both best selling right now. Which is the one I want? If I decide to just go with one I'll find out that they don't even directly sell the issues - I'd have to look up a local comic shop if I wanted to buy that issue.

What Marvel really really needs is a big flashy button that says "New to comics? Click here!" so that I'm not stuck trying to sift through incalculable numbers of comic books trying to figure out where to start.

"Package an issue with a self-contained story in every single Avengers play set for Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes."

While I don't have extensive knowledge of comics I do know that of the few mainline Marvel issues I have read I wouldn't consider them suitable for the audience of a Disney Infinity game and I've let under tens watch the Alien and Terminator films.

I am shocked! Shocked to hear that comic books are not accessible! After seeing the new X-Men movie, a fan can casually stroll to the counter for a copy of X-Men #1. It features instantly recognizable, easily understood characters like Rachel, the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey from a dystopian alternate future. Or Psylocke, the British Japanese telepathic ninja assassin who'll have you saying "Since when did Black Widow start dyeing her hair?" Or Rogue, who is just like Anna Paquin except with 5 more super-powers and a totally different personality. Thrill to their fond memories of the time Dazzler convinced Storm and Rogue to go to a strip club in 1989!

Robyrt:
I am shocked! Shocked to hear that comic books are not accessible! After seeing the new X-Men movie, a fan can casually stroll to the counter for a copy of X-Men #1. It features instantly recognizable, easily understood characters like Rachel, the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey from a dystopian alternate future. Or Psylocke, the British Japanese telepathic ninja assassin who'll have you saying "Since when did Black Widow start dyeing her hair?" Or Rogue, who is just like Anna Paquin except with 5 more super-powers and a totally different personality. Thrill to their fond memories of the time Dazzler convinced Storm and Rogue to go to a strip club in 1989!

But is that X-Men #1, Ultimate X-Men #1, Uncanny X-Men #1, X-Men Forever #1, X-Men Legacy #1, X-Men Unlimited #1, or a different issue entirely?

Fun fact! If you go to Marvel's series list there are four different titles named X-Men. Are they connected? Separate? Do I just start with the most recent or should I start with one of the earlier series. No answer is forthcoming from that page nor from the pages for each individual series.

Fortunately, the X-Men page is here to clear things up. Suggested comics include 'All-New X-Men', 'A+X', and 'Secret Avengers'. That sure cleared things right up.

Don't get me wrong: I love the incredible depth comics has. I love the complex interplay between dozens (if not hundreds) of characters over decades of shared continuity, but neither Marvel nor DC has done a great job of giving new readers a place to start. Rebooting the universe and killing all the old history is not only a temporary solution, but one that hurts existing readers.

Really they need to do a few "Introduction to <CHARACTER>" books that summarize all of the history (not just the origin story) and just keep those eternally in print, updating them as necessary with new changes.

Mabye in the case of walking dead it's incredibly straight forward...no history, no confusion on where to start...no corporate BS...just one long running self contained story...start here and go where you want,

Vault101:
Mabye in the case of walking dead it's incredibly straight forward...no history, no confusion on where to start...no corporate BS...just one long running self contained story...start here and go where you want,

The easiest way to tell if comic's are selling to a movie audience is not by looking at direct sales (through Diamond to comic shops) but through book stores were Watchmen saw a massive sales increase after the Watchman film as did Scott Pilgrim, Kick Ass and certain batman books after each part of the Dark Knight trilogy came out (mostly 'the dark knight returns', 'Batman year one' and 'the killing joke').

Neither Marvel trades or the monthly issues ever see increases because as mentioned in other comments Marvels back issue and TPB sales are terrible at organising anything.

All Marvel had to do was stick the Captain America Winter Soldier trade in every book store to get sales up with the film's release but they couldn't even organise that.

Falterfire:

Really they need to do a few "Introduction to <CHARACTER>" books that summarize all of the history (not just the origin story) and just keep those eternally in print, updating them as necessary with new changes.

We have something like that. It's called wikipedia.

OT: movies and TV are generally self contained and a lot simpler. We're talking people that bawked that background information in the Matrix sequels had been given in a DVD movie: The animatirx because they didn't want to have to rent a movie to understand parts of another. Even getting over the hurdle of getting people to get that these aren't limited to specialty stores, but are available at libraries, bookstores and online, the thought of having a story that isn't self contained or contained in one series with an obvious flow makes people afraid to get started because they're afraid they'll miss out on something. I don't get it myself as several of my favorite series (comics, TV and games) were found by coming in on the middle, but I'm weird that way.

I find this to be sort of a, "Well, durrr!" moment. Even people who already are into a comic line probably have a hard time keeping things straight, so newbs getting into it will be COMPLETELY lost by comparison. I like the films, because I don't have to have read the comics to enjoy them, but knowing some of the comic history adds to the enjoyment through the small references and nods to continuity. I think the movies, games, etc. might bring a few people into the comics, but only effectively when they can clearly be tied to a specific line. Marvel's Ultimate Alliance has obvious ties to the Ultimate series, so I know where to go looking if I want to read the books.

Redd the Sock:
We're talking people that bawked that background information in the Matrix sequels had been given in a DVD movie: The Animatrix because they didn't want to have to rent a movie to understand parts of another.

The vast majority of people I know who were Matrix fans never even heard of the Animatrix.

The main problem is that the vast majority of comics are shit. That should not come as a surprise, it's a well known aphorism that 90% of anything is shit. But with something like films, sorting the good from the bad is usually not too hard - reviewing is itself a big industry, and all the trailers and advertising may try to present things in the best light but at least give some idea of what you can expect. Plus there's simply word of mouth - wait for a week after a film is out and there will be no end to the people willing to tell you what they thought of it. On top of that, films tend to be relatively self contained. Sure, there are sequels and occasional series, but it's very rare to find a film that simply can't be watched on its own without having to have watched several other films first.

Comics are, for the most part, the exact opposite. Not only is there no easy way to find out which are actually the good parts, but it's usually impossible to make any sense of those good parts without having to wade through reams of shit first. Most people just aren't willing to commit to paying every week (or month, or whatever) when they have absolutely no idea what they'll actually be getting. That's really the important word - commitment. People want to be able to pick their entertainment as and when they want; they want to be able to dip in and out, pick out the good parts, and so on. Comics just don't allow that; either you stick with it through good and bad, or you have absolutely no idea what's going on.

That estimate makes no sense. The average comic book fan buys at least three comic books per month. Me, I buy about 12.

Kahani:
Comics are, for the most part, the exact opposite. Not only is there no easy way to find out which are actually the good parts, but it's usually impossible to make any sense of those good parts without having to wade through reams of shit first. Most people just aren't willing to commit to paying every week (or month, or whatever) when they have absolutely no idea what they'll actually be getting. That's really the important word - commitment. People want to be able to pick their entertainment as and when they want; they want to be able to dip in and out, pick out the good parts, and so on. Comics just don't allow that; either you stick with it through good and bad, or you have absolutely no idea what's going on.

I think the more important thing is that just because you like one author doesn't mean your character won't be wrecked by some other author you don't like. You might be reading your book, enjoying what the author is doing with the character, and then suddenly an event comic happens and some supporting character you like is dead because of a plot that was poorly written by an author you don't like in a book you don't read.

I've been reading through back issues of comics and I have to say that event and crossover comics are the worst. "Here, have parts 1, 3, and 5 of this six part story!" If you're reading things as they come out, that's fine - I can just walk over to the rack that has the parts 2, 4, and 6 - but if I'm trying to read through them after the fact I have to interrupt my reading binge to go track down three comics from a series I don't normally read.

I'm fine with characters appearing in storylines in other books, but really an entire plotline should be in the same book for the sake of future readers.

For the vast majority of prospective comic book readers, its not a good idea to go back to the 1960s or 70s origin of the biggest comic book characters. The art and story telling won't be compelling to most contemporary audiences. I started reading Marvel comics in earnest 4 months ago. I tried reading the old 1970s Thor and Silver Surfer, but it was hard getting into the story because of the artwork/print quality. Then I jumped into the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy and had a lot more fun with it. Since then, I just jump back to major events and read from there. Now I'm going through the "Infinity ________" events.

No matter where someone starts reading, there will things that have already happened, but there is so much exposition in the comics that its easy to understand the context.

The problem is that the business interests involved are not just greedy, but also stupid. The daunting prospect of comics is less a matter of the intimidation of an ongoing continuity and backstory, but also the price. When your talking a few bucks PER comic book it adds up rapidly where you can be talking $60 or more for a single story arc, especially if it involves a lot of different titles. Some of the most famous/popular comic story arcs come with a price tag that could have approached hundreds of dollars in it's entirety and that was when it was new. There is some truth to the fact that publishing costs have gone up, but a big part of it is that the guys doing print media got into a certain groove in projecting what their own value and profit margin should be. In a market primed for volume sales, you still see a case where comics are expecting top dollar, and see fairly limited print runs.

One aspect of this is of course the comics shop and book store, which represent the primary stocker of comics. They of course cannot afford to stock tons of comics that might not sell, which of course leads to the problem that someone heading in to pick up a story arc to catch up, or simply just get the latest issue, might run into a "sold out" tab along with the simple fact that there won't be any more of that issue printed, the only option for a hard copy being a secondary sale from the collector's market for even more money. The price of a comic can double or triple in days, especially when speculators run around buying them out. Of course the price can also crash years later, but nobody wants to wait years to hope they can find the comic they want out of a budget bin.

Digital would seem to be the solution, but of course being greedy and stupid the comics industry wants to charge top dollar, a couple bucks an issue, for digital copies, and then pocketing even more profit saved on sales. They argue of course that they do this to be fair to those still involved in selling print comics, but that's actually a fairly small group, and as they sell mostly to collectors who want the physical comics to add to their pile, there really isn't much threat posed to those businesses by the advent of digital. If they priced more reasonably you might very well see more digital impulse buys, if say someone coming out of a movie like "Guardians Of The Galaxy" decides they would like to experience more of that, with low digital prices someone might buy a ton of comics impulsively coming out of a theater or whatever to read on his phone, kindle, or digital device, but that isn't going to happen at a couple of bucks a pop. On the other hand for say ten or 25 cents an issue the sky's the limit, and they can make a lot of money off of volume sales that way.... sales they wouldn't otherwise have at all.

Not to mention the whole "comic stigma" inherent in being seen reading comic books. Sort of like the infamous stigma attached to reading "Harry Potter" and how they even invented faux-book sleeves to conceal it for adult readers. Someone isn't likely to get a good reaction if they decide to say show up with half a dozen issues of "Spider Man" to read during their lunch break at work, but on the other hand if it's all on their E-reader or phone, it's not like anyone is going to notice or care. With comic movies getting a general audience, if they want to fully exploit that they need to be able to cater to a general audience and keep an eye on social realities. I doubt "Harry Potter" would have done as well if the businessmen involved hadn't looked at the interest and started coming up with ways for interested adults and older kids to read it without having to deal with stigma.... and let's be honest, even if one argues the Stigma doesn't exist, or "shouldn't be there" people do get self conscious of certain things like this, and at the end of the day people being able to consume the media in comfort (psychologically included) is a big deal.

Drop the prices at least digitally so someone can say pick up the last 100 issues of say "The Avengers" for $10 at the push of a button, and let the volume sales roll in.

MarlaDesat:
Produce "deleted scenes" special comic issues for Arrow and advertise them before the credits of the show.

They did the first part of what you suggested -- the first year Arrow was made, there was an accompanying comic that actually DID show, essentially, "deleted scenes." It showed stuff like Quentin Lance teaching teenaged Laurel and Sara some basic self defense to fend off bullies, Helena Bertinelli receiving fight training in Italy, and some of Diggle's experiences in Afghanistan. It's actually great material, which apparently almost no one ever saw.

The showrunners/DC Comics failed to do the other part of your suggestion -- they did little to nothing to promote the comic. The comic was cancelled for Season 2 because of lack of sales -- even though Arrow's audience, though tiny compared to the audiences of other shows, is massive compared to your average comic book circulation, and even if a 10th of the audience had bought the comic, sales should have been seen as respectable. I don't know what actual sales were but I would presume they were extremely low. I, both an avid comic book reader and an Arrow fan, wasn't even really aware of the comic book until I saw it for sale in trade paperback (and probably by the time the trade was released, the title was already cancelled, as is the case for many new series). The comic wasn't advertised very much, and was very seldom mentioned in reviews or ... anything or anywhere really.

The problem in all of these tie-in cases is marketing, and the problem WITH marketing, I think, is that the production studios/showrunners and comic book companies aren't working together to do that promotion. I would guess, and this is speculation only, that the issue is that even though showrunners/filmmakers consult with the comic book companies to touch base on storylines and such, the showrunners/filmmakers expect the comic book company to foot the advertising bill for their comic book tie-ins. And BECAUSE comic book companies are relatively speaking a much more niche market (a reasonably popular TV show gets at least 4-6 million viewers and very successful shows much higher than that; a reasonably popular comic book sells 40-50,000 copies per issue OTOH), they have a lot less marketing to do that promotion. It strikes me of course that obviously they need to work out a deal where the comic book company shares marketing costs with the studio, and work out a way that both benefit----but even in cases like DC where the comic book is owned by Warner, which also happens to own a TV network and a movie studio, apparently there must be copyright/licensing/budget/generally stupid bureaucracy issues that keeps that from happening, even though if they did make it happen, it would overall earn more profits for the parent company. Or maybe people are just too stupid.

I also agree that trying to get into a new comic can be nebulous and confusing, but there are ways around that. Part of the problem is both of the Big Two need to stop the constant Retcon/Reboot/Crossover wankfest--things which are the source of the worst of comics' impenetrability. These things may boost sales amongst their most hardcore audience members but they loose peripheral customers. I used to read X-Men (as in the comic book that was just called "X-Men" with no Uncanny, etc., but had to drop it after one crossover too many, as I couldn't afford and wasn't interested in the gajillion other titles I would have to buy to understand what was going on, and that even as a lifelong comic book fan I had too much trouble otherwise trying to understand what was going on. I was an avid DC reader for 30 years, but the New 52 lost me, especially with their wishy-washy approach to "rebooting" where only SOME things were restarted and others remained canon, which made it actually HARDER to keep track of what was going on, who knew whom, etc.

Marvel is doing better recently with some of their newest titles where they--GASP--actually don't presume the reader knows everything about the universe and do reasonable levels of exposition within otherwise good storytelling. The recaps they put in front of every issue are especially helpful. (Though I still will never, ever, ever touch an X-title again.) But THEY should also be doing a movie-verse tie-in comic for new fans (an Agents of SHIELD comic covering the backstories of some of the side characters in the show, for example), promoting that, and getting new comic book readers out of it.

 

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