Comic book culture has never been bigger. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest grossing movie franchise of all-time, with fourteen movies making over $11 billion worldwide, and contrary to expectations the superhero movie bubble would burst, the likes of the X-Men are finding new ways to evolve with Deadpool and Logan. Things are equally as prosperous on the small screen thanks to a wide range of shows catering to all tastes; Marvel’s Netflix series go dark and gritty, while DC’s Arrowverse embraces the in print continuity, and now Legion has added a psychedelic element to the mix.
The one thing that isn’t receiving a boom is the comic books themselves. Bar major events like DC’s recent Rebirth, sales are typically low, and even when there’s not a dip are still a far cry from the Golden and Silver Age (or even the late-1980s explosion) that made so many of the icons currently dominating the multiplex. Clearly the big screen success hasn’t been parlayed into print sales. Marvel are now setting out to change that.
Marvel has announced that it intends to start advertising their products before movies and on TV in the hope of “exciting and mobilizing TV & Film fans into local comic book shops and retailers“.
The start of the initiative will come with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which will run with an advert for upcoming event Secret Empire (and potentially other runs), and will be reportedly followed up by TV spots set to air on ABC and other, unannounced networks featuring promotion and interviews about the event and the new X-Men titles.
This is altogether a more synergized approach to the various branches of Marvel Entertainment than we’ve seen recently. In 2015, the movie studios was moved under the command of Disney CEO Bob Iger, rather than Marvel’s Ike Perlmutter, and it’s become widely accepted that the print stories are in many ways are serving as a proving ground for new movies – there’s been rampant experimentation with new versions of iconic heroes (such as a young, female Iron Man) that appear to be explicitly preparing for the departure of big name actors. The new enterprise sees things running more harmonious, with Disney using all the tools at its disposable (they own the ABC network) to push Marvel’s original, underperforming output.
Comic sales have never recovered from the burst of the speculator bubble in the 1990s (where collectors bought multiple copies of landmark issues hoping to sell them on later, only to discover the rules of supply and demand made them almost worthless) and so far the movies have only been able to increase their notoriety without actually impacting sales. This new initiative hopes to push audiences to check out comic shops, and will presumably at the very least increase public awareness of the print side of the Marvel Universe.