Believe it or not, the industry is again worrying if we should still be making comics!
Last week, I talked about the release of the slate of DC’s new “Gunn”-iverse of TV shows (both live-action and animated) and feature films.
As always, this prompted the return of the occasional discussion (at least, among the fans I know) as to whether the industry should abandon production and sales of comic books and simply license those characters and properties to people who want to make shows and movies instead. Why go through all that bother and make only a little bit of money when “mass media” like films and TV shows rake in much more than some comics earn in years?
Even if different companies were converting the comics into TV or movies and the businesses that licensed the properties only got a portion of the intake, you would save all that money and time instead of producing the comics (which takes a lot of effort, not to mention the salaries of the creators). You would only have to cash the check from the people who made everything happen that you did not!
I know that we go through all this on a semi-regular basis, and it will likely keep happening as long as people don’t understand one very important principle:
The comics are the launching pad for ALL the “mass media” versions of those properties!
Yes, some people can come up with “new” concepts and stories and turn make them appear on the small and big screens, but that is quite the gamble when you have to start from scratch.
With comics, you already have a fanbase in your corner! You don’t have to work at building a new group of people who will support the characters or ideas! In fact, you often already have the stories you can easily convert from one medium to another.
THE ‘GUNN’-IVERSE ANNOUNCEMENT SOLD COMICS!
What encouraged me most about the entire James Gunn infodump was that it resulted in higher sales of comics trade paperbacks!
The word soon hit the streets that the paper editions of several of the trades the upcoming shows and movies were based on had sold out at Amazon/comiXology! That included Tom Taylor’s Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman and Batman, The Authority, and Booster Gold: Past Imperfect! Even several local comics shops have been selling more copies of those books!
In my mind, this has already made the Gunn-iverse a success… even if the shows and movies don’t make much money at all!
See, to me, it’s great that there are going to be more DC-based programs, but that’s not the important thing! What matters is that more comics are being sold! Hey, maybe Mr. Gunn should announce that just about every trade paperback from DC is going to be turned into a movie or a show! That way even more would get sold! (It would be worth a try!)
Look, each comic book is an example of how to tell the story contained inside on the big or small screen. You can use the panel layouts as direction examples, for instance. Granted, they won’t ALL work, but you could at least start there!
THE ‘WHO’ LESSON
Still, some fans are determined that the production of paper and digital comics should cease immediately in favor of other forms of media.
However, there is at least one lesson to be learned from a similar tale in TV.
“Across the pond,” as they like to say, the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC) has the rights and all that goes with them to a long-lived series called Doctor Who. That program gained an international audience, and the BBC started bringing in money from episodes that aired in the U.S., among other places.
Well, someone at the BBC got the bright idea, or so the story goes, that they should not be wasting all that time and money creating TV episodes. Instead, they had all these people clamoring to make shows featuring their characters and all. Let THEM devote all that effort to production. Oh, and by the way, the BBC will happily take in all the profits (people said)! The creators create, and the BBC doesn’t have to lift a finger—they just earn money!
So, the BBC halted creation of Doctor Who and waited for people to take them up on this oh-so lucrative deal!
They waited. And they waited. And they waited. Turns out that creators also have bills to pay and need to eat meals each day. So Doctor Who sat around gathering dust for years.
Finally, some smart person at the BBC realized that this vital property could actually be making them money if they just went back into production! They had to spend money to make money! (Imagine that!) So, creation of new Who started up, and years later, they’re still making money off of Doctor Who.
In my opinion, the lesson to be learned here is—If you have something that works, don’t mess with it! Really!
How many comics stories have been turned into successful shows and movies? Plenty of them! But the comics were what helped bring them to the big and small screens! Look at Marvel and DC Comics, just to mention two of them! Plenty of other books from Image and other companies have been turned into films and programs!
The big mistake those companies make is that they don’t let people know they are lifting these tales directly from the comics! Man, we need to get better at that, in particular!
But Marvel, DC, and Image (as well as other companies) should not blow up a system that continues to sell at least SOME comics’ trades at times! Then, too, somebody needs to figure out how to use these media events like TV and movies into more comics sales! Anybody have a good idea how to do that?