Superheroes and comic books are everywhere these days. Hollywood has been clamoring to pick up the rights to any comic book property they can. Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion dollars. Fox is doing everything they can to retain the movie rights to the X-Men, Daredevil and Fantastic Four. Even television is in the comic book game with Smallville having just finished ten seasons and soon we'll see shows based on Powers, 100 Bullets and The Incredible Hulk as well as animated series based on Spider-Man and Batman.
Despite all the attention comic books and superhero characters are getting, comic book sales are low. Yesterday Sara touched on the fact that movies and the big comic book events are not helping to increase sales. She even sited the fact that May's sales were down over the previous year even though a movie based on Thor was relatively successful in theaters.
If more and more people are becoming aware of the different comic book characters thanks to all the movies and television shows, how come more people aren't buying comics?== TEASER ==
I brought up the main reason on our podcast on June 3. If someone goes to see a comic book movie and does want to start reading comics based on the characters, what comic should they read? Take X-Men: First Class, for example. For all the new or returning X-Men fans seeing that film, there isn't a comic they could pick up that has characters similar to what they saw on the big screen. There is no X-Men comic taking place in the 60s. Characters like Angel Salvadore, Azazel, Darwin and even Havok are not appearing in any comics (although Havok should be returning shortly and Darwin was recently in X-Factor).
James McAvoy did a good job as Professor X but people might wonder why he's bald in the comics. Michael Fassbender was great as Magneto but now is an old man who hasn't really been doing a whole lot since moving to the X-Men's island and home of Utopia.
What about The Dark Knight? When that was in theaters, Bruce Wayne was dead and wasn't even Batman. Most people should know the story of Batman from past movies and animated shows but after the movie, they would have no idea what was going, coming in halfway through the direction Grant Morrison's was taking Bruce. Harvey Dent died in the movie and how come there's no mention of Rachel Dawes in any comics if she was so close to Bruce?
Green Lantern did pretty well this past weekend. Even though there were movie prequel comics, if someone new to Green Lantern tried picking up any comic from the regular series, they would have absolutely no idea what was going on. The comics in the midst of the War of the Green Lanterns plus the fact that there are several other colored Lantern Corps. There's also the fact that the Hal Jordan on the big screen is a bit snarkier than the one in the comics.
What Green Lantern did do well was have an actual ad for comics (trade paperbacks) at the very end of the movie. People should know that there is a comic but why not remind them. But even that isn't enough. One of the comics storyline being advertised was Secret Origin. I was pretty surprised that they didn't try sticking closer to this updated origin of Hal Jordan and the other characters in the movie.
What about Blu-rays and DVDs? If people are buying comic book movies after (most likely) having seen them in theaters, that shows they are willing to spend a little more money on the character. There's always previews for other movies, often somewhat related to the specific movie. What aren't included are any trailers or ads for comic books? We have seen publishers like Marvel and BOOM! make trailers for their comics. This could be another way to encourage viewers to learn more about the characters they obviously have an interest in. Sometimes we'll get a virtual comic in the special features but even that doesn't try selling new issues.
The main thing is there isn't a comic for those that just know the characters from the movies. Movies will never 100% faithfully adapt comics and we will always have this divide between the two. We sometimes see minor changes where characters start to appear as the Hollywood actors playing them but that's about the extent we have. There simply is no easy convenient way for movie-goers to jump into comics. With the rate storylines change month to month, even if the publishers and Hollywood tried working together more closely, the comic book versions are likely to have gone through a major change like death or a different costume before the new reader can even make it to a comic shop.
There's always the possibility that some new readers will be found after a movie hits theaters but no one should count on a mass exodus from theaters to comic shops. The existing comic book storylines can't and shouldn't be compromised or watered down in order to accommodate the possibility of new readers. More comics that are new-reader friendly and have a tie to the movie universe could be a solution. But would new readers be okay with what most of us think are high prices (but we're sort of used to it)? There's also the commitment. Would a new reader be willing to venture to a comic shop every week or are they content with leaving the theater and not worrying about the characters until a sequel is released?
There are sometimes movie tie-in comics but unfortunately they comics often lack substance and feel rushed. Marvel had originally announced a movie universe line of comics but there hasn't been any word of it since. It would just be too much of a gamble in the hopes that new readers would find them. Comic shops couldn't be sure of how many copies to order since they would have no idea how many new readers would walk in off the street.
Comic book movies may bring in new readers but it won't be enough to make a notable difference.