Marvel is not a company to rest on their laurels! The House of Ideas is once again attempting to conquer the audiobook market!
The question is, will it be worth their time and effort?
MARVEL AND DREAMSCAPE MEDIA TEAM UP
I came across this article on the Variety website recently, and it got me going through my comics-related audiobooks. Yes, I do have some of those! More on that in a minute!
First, let’s look at what’s now going on. Here are some of the salient paragraphs from the news story:
Audiobook publisher Dreamscape Media has struck a deal with Marvel Entertainment to distribute a few dozen of the Marvel’s iconic comic books as read‐to‐me style audiobooks. The titles will be made available for sale, and also added to the free library lending app Hoopla, starting in September.
Some of the comic books covered by the agreement include “The Ultimate Spider-Man,” “The Ultimate X-Men,” “X-Men: Codename Wolverine” and “Daredevil: The Man Without Fear,” with works coming from author like David Michelinie, Tony Isabella, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman and Peter David. Around 2 dozen titles are being produced exclusively by Dreamscape Media as part of this collaboration, and an additional 20 titles haven’t been widely distributed before.
“Marvel Entertainment has changed pop culture with its emphasis on character‐driven stories that bring out the superhero in all of us,” said Dreamscape Media publisher Tammy Faxel in a statement released Thursday. “We are proud to collaborate with Marvel Entertainment to give fans a new way to connect with their favorite superheroes.”
Hoopla previously partnered with Marvel to bring 250 comic books to its app, which is available for phones, tablets and smart TVs.
MARVEL’S DESIRE TO CONQUER STORYTELLING
Marvel has long been interested in multi-media presentations of their characters and stories, including motion comics and the like.
The truth is, this isn’t the first time Marvel has worked to make audiobooks available. There are several audiobooks already available through GraphicAudio (“A Movie in Your Mind”) and Audible, for example.
The question in my mind remains, is it worth their time and money?
Granted, DC and other companies have also made audio presentations of their characters, and some of them have been brand-new stories. One I remember in particular was written by Alan Grant and was called, Justice League of America: Batman: The Stone King. It was six hours long and was on six CDs. Guess that last bit of information dates it some.
The problem is, comics are a visual presentation. Many fans buy the books just for the art. It’s only been in recent years that authors have gotten anywhere near the attention they deserve, in my opinion.
It’s kind of like when actors get asked what their characters will be doing in the future. The best answer they can give is often, “Ask the writers.”
With audiobooks based on comics and their characters, it’s an acquired taste to listen to superhero stories solely presented in an audio format. Some love, but it’s tough to compare those numbers to the folks who buy paper copies.
The first time I encountered this was back in the black-and-white Nexus #3, which contained was was called a flexidisc that had been recorded by Mike Baron and Steve Rude, among others. It was a new experience for me!
Of course, Marvel has had serious success with their movies in particular, not so much with their TV shows and even previous audiobooks.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH AUDIOBOOKS
Because I’ve been helping Richard Rivera with Stabbity Bunny, and that includes attending conventions, signings and such, I’ve spent a significant amount of time on the road. We’ve driven to Chicago and New York City from the Orlando area, and that has left us scrambling around the radio as we search for a radio station we can pick up.
One day, Richard heard about and purchased several GraphicAudio audiobooks, including the aforementioned Alan Grant Batman story.
We thought that it would be perfect. We could listen to a story for hours, hoping it would make the time and miles go by more rapidly.
We listened to, and enjoyed, The Stone King. Then he picked up a Spider-Man audio tale. Honestly, I tried to find those discs when I landed on this topic for this column, but I couldn’t find them. I think we may have thrown them away.
Why? Because we found the grasp of the character and particularly his powers to be lacking.
Spidey’s powers seemed to be closer to Daredevil’s radar sense. He could detect people and items around the corner and city blocks away. They didn’t work like Spider Sense at all, usually meaning he detects danger just before it can hurt him.
That development made us worry about the content in the story, and several other inconsistencies from the hero in the comics arose. Finally, we gave up and turned on a local music station.
Now, I know that the abilities of superheroes often change depending on their needs in the particular story their in. For instance, I’ve been reading how Frank Miller is likely to bring back a long-forgotten Superman power to mentally influence others. But there’s only ONE Frank Miller.
The other exceptions to me have been the Harry Potter and Harry Dresden novels. I have bought the audio versions of those tales. Other than those, though, no dice. I just don’t have the time.
SO WHAT ABOUT THESE NEW AUDIOBOOKS?
I’m not all that interested in audio presentations of comics stories, particularly ones already available in printed format. I’m vastly more interested in new stories I haven’t encountered before.
I confess that I’m somewhat puzzled by what is referred to as “read-to-me” audiobooks. Does that mean we get a copy of the comic and the child (and presumably and adult) listen while reading along?
My Mom used to sit between my twin brother and I and read us comics. That was how we knew what the words “invulnerable” and “Batmobile” meant when we hit First Grade. We also had above-average reading skills because she would define what the words meant as well as teach us how the say them along the way.
Because of that, I think this could be a good idea if handled properly with kids. But adults like me who can already read, well, it’s not all that engaging. Still, it could be a valuable tool to help recruit a new generation of comics readers!