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Movies Make Marvelous Comics

Why Doesn’t Marvel Make Comics Based on their Movies?

By Chad Derdowski     March 16, 2011


Comicscape Goes Hulk on the Industry
© Robert Trate

 

When DC announced plans for a series of original graphic novels featuring revamped versions of their most iconic heroes back in late 2009, Comicscape was all ears, and the Earth-One project killed more than two birds with one stone. Or at least, it will, if anything other than the Superman OGN is ever released.
Earth-One gave creators like J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis the chance to do an out-of-continuity update on Superman’s beginnings and (presuming he isn’t too busy being the Chief Creative Officer at DC) will eventually give Geoff Johns the same opportunity with Batman, teaming him with perennial favorite Gary Frank on art duties. It presents an opportunity for non-comic readers to experience the medium and the genre of superheroes without 75 years of confusing backstory, allowing them to start from scratch and read a complete story in one handy volume, rather than jumping into a periodical publication somewhere in the middle of a much larger tale. It gives the folks working at bookstores something easy to point people to when they come in asking for an easily accessible superhero book and of course, it gives us, the fanboys and girls, something fresh and exciting to complain about. So everybody wins, right? It’s sort of like Marvel’s Ultimate line, but in our humble opinion, better. Which begs the question, “When is Marvel going to follow suit?”
Not-So-Ultimate
In a sense, Marvel already did it with the previously mentioned Ultimate line, which was intended to give readers that fresh start without a backlog of continuity. And to a great extent, it worked, though it didn’t take too long before the Ultimate line became bogged down in its own continuity. And these days, it seems like Marvel is ready to cut their losses and just kill the whole damn universe off. But that’s neither here nor there. The big differences between Ultimate and Earth One, in our eyes, are the format and treatment. 
Earth One has been treated as an event and with the Superman book selling out and making headlines, it garnered a lot of mainstream attention for DC. And while you and I love our monthly books and our weekly trips to the comic shop, the average joe isn’t going to search online for a local comic shop after seeing the Thor movie only to shell out three bucks for 10 minutes of entertainment and they’re certainly not going to go back in 30 days for more. And even if they do, the first time the guy behind the counter informs them that the book shipped late, they’re done. That’s a potential reader who will instead stick with repeated viewings of a superhero flick on DVD.
But buying an original graphic novel, with a complete story, is a lot like buying a book. There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with reading a story that actually has a beginning, middle and end, rather than going back month after month for a whole bunch of middles. Of course, you and I both know that a bunch of middles can be really sweet too, but that’s their loss, right? The average joe doesn’t always see it that way and if you want to try to convince them otherwise, we wish you the best of luck. God knows we have enough trouble convincing ourselves sometimes. Anyway, we think there’s a pretty simple way for Marvel to gain new readers as well as grab some headlines and it doesn’t even involve killing off another character every few months. Lets continue, shall we?
The Marvel Movieverse
In the past, Marvel has made a lot of money with movie adaptations and the continuing adventures of said movie adaptations. Remember the Star Wars comic? The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones? How about Machine Man? He was a spin-off of Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey, as hard as that may be to believe. It seems as though Marvel has an additional cash cow sitting right under their collective noses: Marvel Studios has been self-producing films for a while now and building not only a group of franchises, they’ve been building an on-screen universe much like the one we see on the printed page. Why not reverse-engineer the process and turn the Marvel film universe into its own imprint?
We’re not talking about several series’ of monthly comics here; we’re thinking that Marvel could imitate DC’s Earth One books by releasing two to four original graphic novels per year, set in the same universe that has been established in the Marvel films. Fans of the movies can walk into a bookstore more-or-less blind, ask for a “Marvel Movie Comic” and receive a story that features the exact same character they just saw in the theater, not a different guy under Cap’s mask or a red Hulk. They’ll get a complete story too, not 22 pages that starts in the middle of the action and ends with a cliffhanger or worse yet, just features 22 pages of Tony Stark in a board meeting with a bunch of stiffs. 
Obviously, there are some potential problems. Much like Marvel’s old Star Wars comic, the creators’ hands will be tied by the fact that the movies will dictate what they can and can’t do in a story, but we’re thinking that the two-OGNs-per-year release schedule will help combat that somewhat. And hey, it’s not like you can’t tell a Hulk story that doesn’t have huge reprecussions on the film universe or a Captain America tale in which he thwarts some Nazi spies and doesn’t meet up with Tony Stark’s dad. These stories don’t have to be mini-movies, major events, sequels or prequels. In fact, we don’t want them to be! The intent here is to try to hook new readers who enjoy the films and want to get the chance to get a little more of what they love. But here’s the hook: if the stories are good and the art is good… then maybe there’s a chance they’ll check out the real Marvel Universe too.
And before you fire off a rant in the comment section, we know. We know that every Marvel comic should serve as an easy introduction to the Marvel U and new readers shouldn’t have to be spoonfed. But since that isn’t happening, we’re offering this as a potential solution. Will it work? Who knows? It can’t be any less successful at bringing in new readers than what Marvel is doing now, can it?
Are the iAvengers the Answer?
Marvel recently offered an eight-part digital comic series that serves as a prequel to the Captain America: First Avenger film for free download. Written by Fred Van Lente and featuring art by Luke Ross, Neil Edwards and Richard Isanove, the comic fleshes out some of the story and characters in the movie. It also serves as a great advertisement for the movie and an easy introduction to one of Marvel’s top characters. By placing it squarely in the “Marvel Movieverse”, it also ensures there’s no confusion among non-Marvel Zombies when the film is released. The guy in the comic is the same guy as the one in the movie. Hey… that’s a lot like what we’re suggesting, isn’t it?
And maybe going digital is the best way to do this? After all, we’re not looking at appealing to those of us who have 17 longboxes full of back issues in our closets; this plan is intended to appeal to the casual fan. The folks who don’t make the weekly trek to the comic shop and don’t care about history. We’re trying to appeal to the folks who want to read stories about the characters they saw in the movies. While we don’t see print going away any time soon, we’d be fools to dismiss digital comics. And if a Marvel movie can’t get people into comic shops, maybe it can get them into an Apple Store? As long as they’re buying comics, we don’t care.
We’ve already got the 616 universe, the Ultimate universe and the Marvel Adventures line, as well as a handful of non-continuity titles. A new imprint based on the Marvel film universe could potentially be a huge success and introduce a whole new demographic to the joy of sequential art. Superhero movies couldn’t exist without the source material but they do way bigger business. Maybe it’s time to capitalize on that success and turn it around to benefit the medium.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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mikemc2 3/16/2011 3:37:28 AM

My longboxes have actually been in storage for nearly 10-years .. but I get it.  Good article Chad.  And I agree, that makes sense and potentially creates more fans / readers of the comics.

jedibanner 3/16/2011 5:16:38 AM

No no no no no no no annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd no...Digital is NOT the best way to do this, in fact, it will further anhililate the aspect of comic readers and fans alike.

Yes I've ranted about this before but it's so true now more then never.

Kids these days don't all go digital and kids today all have heard who the main characters are at the big two comic companies. Not everyone owns an Ipad and not everyone wants to own one. And for those who do own one, they already own comics and knows the characters so it's not really attracting ''new'' readers into the medium.

THe idea itself that Marvel go do Graphic Novel in reboot could be something interesting but, keep it in novel format, not digital.

That's my 2 cents.

Interesting idea Chad (other then the digital, HA).

Wiseguy 3/16/2011 5:27:26 AM

Meh, sounds like an ok idea. Not trying to pooh pooh your piece Chad but trades rule the marketplace anyway. If anyone is actually really interested enough to the degree of going to the bookstore they'd want the "true" character's story and they'd pick up a trade. I know people that never read LOTR, but after the film they went out and got the books to get the "real" characters and story. Maybe the analogy isn't perfect but I think it translates in that people want to see the real thing, its real origin.  People wanting to know about vampires aren't going to pick-up a Twilight book they're going for Stoker's.

Another thing, the Earth One stuff gets some props but let's not make more than it is. It's basically just another "else-world" story which DC has been doing forever, no different. They had already tried to do their "ultimate universe" with the "All Star" banner, now it's Earth One which btw is a terrible name since it can now be confused with the original Earth One.

Anyway I personally didn't like this E-1 Superman and neither did quite a few others. Still the major thing that sets it apart and where Marvel for some reason refuses to go is that it is a true graphic novel, an original story in one book. Marvel used to this back in the 80's with the oversized format and I use to eat it up. DC still does it and to good results. If Marvel started pushing actual g.n. as major stories within or out of continuity this would help bring new people in IMO. Like E-1 I think the average joe that bought the book is because it was a stand alone story, no need to come back again and again

That's a lot of rambling, sorry. Bottom line IMO is that continuity isn't what keeps people from comics. It's the 22 pages at a time of a never ending soap opera. Stand alone stories in graphic novel format is the way to bring them in, continuity won't be a deterrent as long as the story is contained in 1 book

cheekymonkey 3/16/2011 5:55:19 AM

And that's the problem, containing a story in one book.  I know I get tired of enjoying a series, then having to buy three other series to four panels of a continues story. The big boys, Batman, Spider-man, etc all have multiple books per month that make it very expensive to keep up with.  I'd rather buy a trade than spend a lot of dough trying to keep up with Big Time or the entire Bats story.

As for Superman E-1, I liked the beginning few chapters, but the alien ending was a bit much and kind of soured me on it.  And just to show my frugality, I checked it out from a library.  Had I liked it, I would have bought it to enjoy and share with my kids. 

One comic that I've bought lately because they wrap things up fairly quickly is Red Robin.  Each issue (or two part) can stand on it's own, the art is good, and since it is a secondary Bat character, the connection to the Bat world is minor.  Plus, $3 an issue is better than $4.

LocoLobo73 3/16/2011 8:03:33 AM

wow is that what you guys think is the problem, the real problem is that comic books are not readly available like they use to be, with Comicbook stores realy showing up everywhere in the 90's and most major retailers pulling them off their shelves you cant go anywhere and buy comics unless you find a comic book shop. Thats a problem, you use to be able to go into book stores and buy comics also , but now all you find is graphic Novels. I personally have gone digital, I live in BFE now and there is nt a comicbook store near me so Ive taken to the digital media. Im not the collector I use to be now im moreof a fan, I read my titles and i can carry them where ever I want on my phone. its not ideal, but I also dont have my wife complaining that I am taking up an entire closet to comics.

Oh and by the WISE, i really liked Earth One, felt it was the best Superman story I have read in years.

As far as a Marvel Movie verse, its an cool idea, and with Marvel going for this major Movie cross over it might work well as away to fill in the blanks, If I were Marvel, I would do free comicbook day to coincide with a Movie launch and provide the theaters with free giveaways of the comic at the movies. 5 page mini issues available at the theaters that just give a breif filler story that covers the gaps sold for a dollar at each show would be cool to think about that, the are making money off the movie selling a mini issue and getting the crowd further involved in your comic books

mike10 3/16/2011 9:52:09 AM

  I never liked the idea of needing batteries or power to read a book. I think digital is a horrible idea, I like to collect books and comics and like having book shelves full of them. Sadly comics have been pricing me out of the market so i've been waiting for graphic novels to come out and they usually have extra artwork and/or story anyway and they look good on a shelf.

shac2846 3/16/2011 11:25:54 AM

 I feel the same way you guys do. But have any of you ever checked out the elfquest website. They have all of the comics uploaded to their site and you can read it for free. Once I did that it made me realize that outside of the major publishers digital is a great way to discover new stuff. 

littlemikey979 3/16/2011 2:47:57 PM

I don't know if digital is the way to go or not but I think the idea is great. When someone sees Thor and doesn't read comics the first thought is not going to be if they can download some comics on the way home. Unless, Marvel starts putting digital comic trailers before their movies and not just on DVD/Blu disc. But anyways, I think you are right Chad, Marvel is missing out on alot of sales it could pick up and maybe new readers as well.

All they have to do is create GNs that tie in with the Marvel Movie Universe. Make then 3 or 4 parts long. Sell part one before the movie comes out everywhere, and get better placement at bookstores, I hate having to search way in the back for the comic section everytime I go to a new Barnes & Noble. Have the other parts available, ON TIME, after the movie is out and be sure to include other character as well. And don't charge an arm and a leg for the GNs either. Offer the first part for free at theaters as long as someone buys 3-4 tickets. Or offer a meal-deal type thing, get the (bagged)comic/GN, popcorn, and soda for one price. They need to be realistic in pricing and only charge what someone would really pay for one. Then do the same for every other comic movie they make. 

Chad you need to go work for Marvel and get that company's head on straight. I know people tend to dwell on the one thing of your articles that they do not agree with but your ideas are usually pretty good.

 

Dazzler 3/16/2011 4:17:25 PM

I collect all Marvel.  I would go digital for DC if the price was right and keep the paper Marvel comics. 

ChadDerdowski 3/16/2011 8:25:02 PM

Thanks for the comments, everyone.  Lots of food for thought here - some I agree with and some I do not, but I always appreciate the feedback.  The point of the article wasn't supposed to be about digital comics (that was more of an afterthought) but I understand that it's a hot button topic and people want to discuss it.

Wiseguy and LocoLobo - I think that you're both at least a little bit right.  While I love my monthly comics and my weekly trips to the comic shop, there are many cases in which I'd much rather have a full-length story in my hands than a serialized one.  And Lobo, you can find comics in a bookstore - just not very many of them.  But it certainly ain't the days of drugstores and 7-11's, when it seemed as though you could find comics everywhere, is it?  

But if I can get back on topic, in regards to the Marvel Movieverse... I didn't even mention the X-Men.  Love 'em or hate 'em, the X-Movies have created their own continuity that is totally separate from the traditional Marvel U.  While we might complain about the way they play hard-and-fast with the rules, it seems foolish to me to not capitalize on the world they've created onscreen by creating an X-Movieverse of comics solely based on the continuity of the films. 

Why not?

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