Three things have happened, and where they intersect is a fascinating statement on our beloved institution, the comic book. The first is innocent enough:
1. FREE COMIC BOOK DAY COMICS HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED.
Many titles have been announced for 2011’s Free Comic Book Day on May 7th, including a new revamp of Richie Rich, a Geronimo Stilton comic book, Kung Fu Panda, Avatar the Last Airbender and more. Two things to notice is: These are all licensed properties and these are all KIDS titles.
Comic books have slowly slipped from a creative, economic business to a low profit, marketing offshoot. If you have a TV show or videogame you let a company pay you money to make comic books about it. It widens your brand recognition, potentially brings in new audiences and hopefully brings you a cool profit you don’t have to work for.
Free Comic Book Day is always about the kids, as it’s the hope of Retailers that children will want to come back next week to read more of their favorite stories and become loyal customers. At the same time, the bulk of these comics are stories and characters kids are well familiar with.
NONE of these are new titles. Publishers do not believe in the ability of comic books to capture the imagination as well as a videogame, TV or movie. Comics are just good enough to fan the flame and make a low profit.
Alex Ross is the painter and innovator behind Marvels, Kingdome Come and other quality titles. He’s also drowned his reputation through Project Superpowers and countless other hollow nostalgia books. Ross loves the Golden and Silver Ages of comic books. Sometimes he can hit one out of the park reimagining them to new readers…and sometimes?
Pundits are scratching their heads over why Bring the Thunder #1 isn’t a hot seller. Some say it’s because it stars an African American. I don’t think that’s the case. More on this in a minute; Lets get to the third event:
3. THE COURTS HAVE RULED THE KIRBY FAMILY CAN CONTINUE TO LEGALLY TRY TO STOP MARVEL/DISNEY FROM PROFITING OFF OF JACK’S WORK.
Superman is under a quiet reboot due to the success of his original creator’s, Siegel/Schuster, winning a partial lawsuit. Kiby’s heirs have legally won the rite to question Marvel’s copyright on countless Kirby characters, the lifeblood of the comics industry.
Alex Ross’s comic book didn’t sell because it stared a black guy. It was ordered low because it looked like every other book under the sun. Characters like Captain America are starting to get played out…it’s been almost 70 years of superheroes. Further, Companies are realizing the courts are in favor of actually PAYING the creators of these comic books they’ve been speculating on the merchandising rites too forever, so the profit margin is going to ebb. When the profit dips, it’s time to sell. Comic’s big business party will be over real soon. The new comic books coming out on the biggest day to launch new titles of the year? The last cash grab: Tacky kids fair with no substance to try and hook the kiddies one more time. There’s a new sucker born every generation, right?
Comic books run on one fuel: NEW IDEAS. We better fill’er’up or this car is going to be in the breakdown lane real soon.
GET OUT THERE AND BUY/CREATE EXCITING NEW COMIC BOOK IDEAS! Here’s a hint: no more superheroes or sci-fi dramas, no matter what your “Brilliant new twist” might be, k?