While Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 is playing in the theaters, I’ve been reading with interest three recent articles about Marvel taking their characters into other forms of media.
These included Marvel expanding its digital comics service, Marvel releasing an audio drama focused on Wolverine, and the House of Ideas creating an animation franchise focusing on “the next generation of Marvel heroes, such as Spider-Gwen and Squirrel Girl.
Never let it be said that Marvel will ever rest on its laurels!
THEY’RE STILL GOING TO MAKE COMICS
I’ve noticed people reviving the discussion as to whether Marvel will cease production of printed comics rise during the same time period. Let me once again say, that’s not going to happen. Comics will continue to be the underpinning of the Marvel Universe for years to come, in my opinion.
But this does raise an interesting question: Could Marvel go strictly digital?
This has potential because the cost of printing continues to rise. If you sell a digital version of the same comic at $3.99, you’ve brought in a goodly amount more money, especially if it’s through your own digital service. (Comixology and other services take about half the income of each issue sold, by the way, so they cut into the profits.)
Again, I don’t think this is likely because Marvel continues to dominate local comics shops. If the House of Ideas pulled out, it would mean the end of most of the stores that specialize in comics and likely huge changes to those that survive. I think the negative reaction would bite into any digital sales – at least, for now.
However, again Marvel is taking on a big-name company – the aforementioned Comixology, mostly – this time with their digital comics service. It’s reminiscent of how, rather than appear in the Diamond Previews catalog, Marvel has made their own monthly previews publication. On some levels, it makes sense to try and keep their fans away from other comics, but I have yet to come across a fan who gets the Marvel Previews and does NOT also pick up the Diamond Previews. In fact, nearly every store simply inserts the Marvel publication in the Diamond one and sell them together at one price. Still, they must feel they’re having some success, though, because they continue to produce it each month.
WILL COMICS FANS BUY OTHER FORMS OF STORYTELLING?
I’ve mentioned previously that there are fans of comics who want their heroes to stay in the comics. They won’t watch shows with them or buy anything else that have them. I think that’s a small group, though.
It’s just like the fans of Star Trek and other shows who will NOT buy comics featuring the franchises they love. Some call it a “purity” thing, that this is how they enjoy things, and they’re not going to change that because they wouldn’t be as high quality. In the end, it’s their choice.
I come down on the other side. If I enjoy a franchise or a character, I’ll explore other forms of storytelling.
Granted, they don’t always work.
A friend of mine and I were driving to a far-away convention, so we took along a Spider-Man audio series to bide the time. We started listening to it, but we were more and more chagrined when the story of the Web Crawler was changed in many ways. His origin seemed revamped, his powers were different, and how he functioned seemed far away from the basic hero we’d known for years.
When his Spider-Sense could detect villains city blocks away, we stopped. That wasn’t Spider-Man. It was some psychic guy who occasionally had spider-like powers.
So color me intrigued when this Wolverine audio drama comes out. To me, Wolverine is a visual character in that fans want to see him hack and slash his way through the bad guys. They’re going to have to make those sound effects very convincing in order to keep the attention to those listening.
An animated series of shorts and a film also fascinates me. It almost sounds like DC Super Hero Girls, which I first came across in a series of shorts online. Now you can catch them all together in episodes of films on Boomerang on cable, but I nearly gave up on the franchise when I had to find the correct sequence of shorts. Then, you had to wait for more episodes to come out, and I just didn’t have the time to keep up with it all.
Still, it’s proven to be quite the big hit, and I’m sure Marvel has taken notice. Add to that the fact that DC has been very successful in direct-to-disc movies, something else I’m sure Marvel hasn’t missed.
I do expect some of the bigger names to pop up now and again in these stories. After all, Spider-Man is still way more popular than Spider-Gwen, and just knowing he’s going to show up at all will attract fans of the Web Crawler who may not be as enamored of SG. We’ll see.
On some levels, the acquisition of Marvel by Disney was a perfect marriage.
Disney is one of those companies that seriously goes after anyone who uses their characters without their consent – meaning, they do not pay for the privilege.
I remember a child care center who had Disney heroes painted on their walls to please their clients. When the House of Mouse learned about it, they sued them because they were not paying Disney for the rights to use their characters. The place had to paint over those images in order to avoid a huge fine.
To me, it’s no secret that Marvel is similar in that they have also gone after folks who have formulated characters who are just too close to theirs – especially if they become popular.
Also, Marvel certainly wouldn’t mind eliminating the competition in the comics industry. Several times, they’ve tried to flood the market with so many books that fans of the House of Ideas simply wouldn’t be able to even think about buying something other than their products.
To date, that hasn’t worked, thankfully.
Does this mean I won’t be interested in these various expansions in other forms of media featuring Marvel folks? No, I’m intrigued. It’ll depend on how these things turn out as to whether I’ll invest in them or not. Does this mean the sales of Marvel comics will decline as a result? Ultimately, I don’t think so. Often these kinds of storytelling end up directing folks back to comics instead of away from them. At least, that’s what I hope happens, anyway.