Thursday, 4 November 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #626: Will Legendary Pictures Create Legendary Comics?

Welcome to the show folks...

Well the movies and comics world got just a little bigger today with the announcement that big money film-financier and producer Legendary Pictures is starting Legendary Comics.

I can see why Legendary would want to get into
the comics biz. They regularly co-produce big budget blockbusters with Warner Brothers. They see how much their partner makes on films like The Dark Knight and want some of those sweet comic book greenbacks for themselves with properties where they have a serious ownership stake.

Their plan is for former IDW Comics editor Bob Schreck to work with some big name creators to produce between four to six graphic novels a year, sell them to the geeks, and then use their success with the geeks to sell these same properties to Hollywood as movies or television shows.

In theory it sounds like a wonderful new business model that will revitalize the troubled comics business that is coping with sales shrinking in inverse proportion to their cultural influence.

Remember, I said those magic words:
In theory.

In theory,
communism works, as a wise man once said.

You see, they've got a wonderful new model for making comics, and good luck with all that, but there's no real plan to
sell those comics.

You see, the past is literally littered with dead comic book companies that tried to create a new business model when it came to
making comics, but no solution to the industry's most fundamental problem.


Sure, they'll go to see the movie, or watch the cartoon on television, but to go out and buy an actual copy of a comic book just isn't done by enough kids to bode well for the future of the medium.

I know I'm probably going to be repeating myself here, but it looks like I have to if anyone's going to learn anything. The reason the kids aren't getting into comics is because COMICS ARE TOO DAMN HARD.

Now allow me to explain that rash generalization...

1. Comics are hard to get. To get new
readers you have to get the books out there, on store shelves to catch the eye of curious kids. When I was a kid, you could get comics in almost every store on tall metal spinner racks. Nowadays you have to go and find a specialty comics store. The problem is that those kinds of stores aren't as easy to find as they used to be. The nearest one to me is about 3 hours away.

2. Comics are hard to stock. Mainstream stores don't like to carry the monthly issues. They don't fit in among the larger format magazines, they damage easily and the profit margin per issue is too thin to make it worth their while. The bigger collected editions and graphic novels are easier to stock, but they cost too much to woo a kid, who would rather spend that sort of major-to-a-kid money for two or three graphic novels on one big ass video game.

3. Comics are too hard to get into. Ever pick up a comic book character that you haven't read in a long while? It's like trying to translate a Sanskrit text that phonetically written in Cuneiform, even if you're familiar with either the language or the alphabet in question, unless you're an expert on both you're still not going to have a clue what the hell is going on. the major comic companies literally have decades of convoluted continuity that even they don't understand anymore, so how can they expect new readers to do it.

I guess a telling illustration was this recently passed Halloween. I had three kids come to my door dressed as the Marvel comics character Wolverine. I'd say something like: "Look, it's Wolverine," and the kids would look at me as if I started speaking in tongues, not having a clue who I was talking about. They either just grabbed the outfit because it was colorful and crazy looking with plastic claws, or their parent slapped it on them.

Now you're probably wondering why I'm putting so much emphasis on getting kids to read comics, well the answer is simple.

The audience for comics is getting older, getting smaller, and pretty much already taken. They have their favorite publisher's, characters, and titles, and many of them just ignore interlopers like the upcoming Legendary Comics as just another short lived attempt at sucking money out of them.

Those old fans are not going to get invested in characters and stories that the fans know will be unceremoniously cut down the millisecond they look like their going to cost their parent company any serious coin.

For a new publisher to make it beyond a few short term projects, they need to find a way to attract new readers. To do that they need to woo the kids away from their gadgets and games and shell out some coin for an affordable entertainment alternative that will set fire to their imaginations, and make them want to be the fans of tomorrow.

Because if they don't, then they, and the rest of the industry, are not going to see that tomorrow.


  1. Here's an idea for the comics companies.

    Skip the pulp and make your comic an Ipad/Iphone/other app.

    For the record, I don't own an Ipad or any other apple product. Hell, I don't even own a smartphone. My cell phone makes phone calls, that's it.

    But that IS the future. Make it something that your Ipad or Iphone or Droid or whatever downloads automatically, assuming you've paid your subscription fee.

    Just a thought from a guy who reads a LOT of web comics daily.


  2. Skip the pulp and make your comic an Ipad/Iphone/other app.

    No problem there, except perhaps sorting through the 6 billion web comics out there on the intartubes so the readers can find and download your books.

    On the other hand, you can create an entire comic universe and get the books into the comic stores for the RV rental cost of a mainstream movie. In addition, you can use each copy as an advertising flier for your movies.

    So if X movie company wants a tax write off of, say, $200k/yr and with a decent advertising return on investment, starting a comics line is not a bad way to go about it.