View Full Version : The Fear of Comics going Corporate

GregMO ROberts
10-21-2010, 05:35 AM
Last week, Warner Brothers CEO Barry Meyer released a statement concerning their upcoming slate of comic book-related film (and other media) franchises. With The Dark Knight an enormous success in 2008, the upcoming Green Lantern movie’s hype starting to build, and Harry Potter set to conclude in 2011, WB is understandably taking a serious look at the dollar signs within its own corporate structure. The retooling of DC Comics into DC Entertainment last year was the first step in this process, essentially configuring the publisher to internally have a hand in all multimedia adaptations of its characters. Namely, gigantic summer blockbuster mega-hits.

We’ve gotten teases here and there; Green Lantern sequel talk, discussions about getting The Flash off the ground, rumors of the “Batman 3” villain and the announcement of Christopher Nolan’s involvement on the Superman reboot. At this point, it’s all in good fun. Fodder for the forum trolls to debate endlessly about why something will work or why something else is shit. As we know, none of those opinions truly matter in the grand scheme of things, as we will all go and see whatever drivel gets pumped to our theaters, regardless.

But what about the comics? Joe Movie-goer is much more easily manipulated than Joe (or Jane!) Comic-geek. With Marvel Entertainment on a similar gravy train to financial nirvana with their epic movie schedule throughout the next few years, we’ve already seen the effect of the films on the books themselves. While publishers have always done their best to market their movie star characters in conjunction with a film release, things have been taken to a new level in the last few years. Look at Marvel’s handling of Iron Man. Invincible Iron Man was launched the same month as the film, only months after positioning Tony Stark to become the centerpiece to the entire Marvel Universe. In addition, there were multiple mini-series starring the character at the time, and even Invincible Iron Man had a cast starring characters that had hardly been seen in recent years, only there to draw in fans of the film.

Iron Man 2 got even more nuts with a motion comic, even more mini-series, and a heavier focus on War Machine and Black Widow -- both of whom appear in the movie. It’s blatantly obvious marketing, but somehow it still works, due mostly to our inherent love of these characters despite how forcibly marketed they may be. We can see the same effect happening now with Thor. Matt Fraction (coincidentally, the writer of Invincible Iron Man and all around awesome dude) is launching a new era on the Thor series, along with a renewed shift in focus to the God of Thunder throughout the Marvel U. First Siege, and now onto a multitude of mini-series and specials.

DC Entertainment will undoubtedly take a similar approach in terms of marketing, but my hope is that they won’t mindlessly rape the properties they are promoting in hopes of crossover sales. Though they’ve had their share of wrongs in the past (see the ongoing rumors of Watchmen sequels/spinoffs), they’ve always respected their properties and the medium they come from. Case in point: in the midst of The Dark Knight madness, DC was promoting a story called Batman RIP, and soon after, Bruce Wayne was being killed in Final Crisis. They could have easily done the opposite and completely changed the story to make sure Bruce was front and center (oh, and ALIVE) to enhance ticket or DVD sales. Instead, they held to their faith in their creators and let a great story be told.

Marvel, on the other hand, has always seemed to simply throw everything at a wall to see what sticks. Remember Kevin Smith’s Daredevil/Bullseye: The Target that came out around the time of the Daredevil film? Of course not, because issue #2 still hasn’t come out, even 7 years later. Or what about Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas? That’s still waiting on issue #3. Since 2008. They’ll even pump out variant covers featuring any given “hot” character to try and up the collectability of a certain issue. Iron Man by Design? Deadpool being on every freakin’ cover of every freakin’ book? At this point, Marvel has even cashed in on the vampire craze with a similar scheme.

Point is, with the WB CEO making an announcement announcing their coming announcement, specifically referencing Harry Potter’s looming end as a lucrative cash cow, it’s quite clear that the corporation recognizes the value of the DC properties on the big screen and other platforms. Warner Bros. as a parent company has always seemed to leave DC well enough alone when it came to the actual publications, but with the corporate restructuring, who knows if that will change? Let’s face it: big companies don’t concern themselves with quality, just results and profit.

Time will tell if WB takes on an active role in the overseeing of the comics we hold near and dear, but I’m going to get optimistic here and say that the folks at WB know what got these properties to be lucrative in the first place, and that’s allowing the company to tell the stories they want to tell without (much) outside influence. Once this elusive schedule is revealed, we’ll see if DC is taking a page out of Marvel’s book to try and replicate their projected success with the “shared universe” (read: massive cross-promotion), or are going to truly try to tell the best stories they can tell.

Source: Joey Esposito @ Craveonline