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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dust Off Your Capes

Hail ye Spiderman, Superman, Batman. Time to dust off your capes and come out and play. Super heroes, and acting like one, have long been a running theme in The Media Guy Struggles. Connecting with your favorite hero just go easier.

I know that few of you realize, but August 28, is the second annual celebration of International Read A Comic in Public Day. So grab your favorite comic or graphic novel and grab a spot in the park with your kids. Some of you are now wondering—perhaps you already Googled—what a graphic novel might be. Graphic novels and collected editions came into vogue following Marvel Comics’ emergence from bankruptcy in the mid-90’s when they shifted focus away from single issues sold in the direct market to these specialty items sold through mass-market bookstores.

While you’re sitting there saying, “Media Guy! Take off those nerdy Clark Kent goggles and see the forest among the trees…comic books are for booger-eaters living at mom’s house.”

Au contraire, comics are bank and generate copious revenue for both the independent publishers and the big boys. Now with the intellectual property firmly entrenched into our movie going experience, the sky is the limit for what kinds of revenues will be generated. The major economic shift occurred in 1997 when New Line optioned the rights to make Blade. You remember pre-jailed, IRS-hating Wesley Snipes portraying the obscure vampire-hunter character from the 1970s, right? The 1998 movie was a hit bringing in $125+ million and when X-Men was released in 2000 grossing almost $300 million, it was on like Donkey Kong (whoops, do I have to pay Nintendo for saying that?)

The Blade and X-Men series showed that smaller comic properties could open films and sell DVDs. They revived the superhero film genre almost instantly opening the door for Spider-Man’s $800 million dollar payday.

Recently, The Walt Disney Company proved just how far comics have come with their $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Comics and all of their intellectual property. Even Donald Trump would agree that comics aren’t nerdy any longer.

On a side note, the thing about this media I find ironic is the term “book” in the “comic book.” When we speak of books, we imagine verbose narratives with grand words and deep Lawrence Durrell-like thinking. It’s about the words, right? Comic books are just the opposite. Their narratives are all about the pictures telling the story with minimal words. They are the ultimate “a picture is worth a thousand words” medium. Words aren’t completely dismissed, but a great deal of the word’s value rests in the typography and unique tradition hand-lettering.

In the advertising world, we build copy points first and visuals second. In the comics world often an entire story is composed visually and then text is added in response to those images. From an Ad Man perspective, this is a bizarre was to work, but originally the most successful comics were created in this exact manner.

So, short story long, grab your capes and nerdy glasses and come out on August 28th with your favorites. Leave your secret identity at home; there’s no need to hide.