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In an age of dwindling single issue sales, an aging core fan base and characters who don’t always reflect an evolving reader base, can a growing new publisher take advantage of the opportunity and seize market share?
Publishers Weekly sat down with the executives of Lion Forge Comics to answer that question.
“The comics market has shifted and we need to be nimble and take advantage of opportunities as they happen. We’re not bogged down by our history like older companies. You need to be diverse in this market. We don’t have to start a diversity division or create a black imprint. This stuff is in our DNA.”
- David Steward II, Lion Forge CEO
PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT email@example.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.
Why are the sales of Marvel Comics declining?
Is it because of crossover fatigue?
Is it because there are too many titles coming out every month?
Is it the price tag?
Is it because talent is migrating to more creator driven deals?
Or is it because there are too many women and minority characters with their own books?
There might be several different reasons Marvel is struggling right now, but from the outside looking in, diversity is probably the least of their worries. But even if comic book readers didn’t want their icons replaced, the company could have become more inclusive without being heavy handed.
As a comic book reader, a lawyer who specializes in the comic book industry, and a member of a minority group, I see the current push for more inclusive characters as a good idea poorly executed. Instead of focusing on unused characters they already had, Marvel tried to capitalize on the transmedia success of established characters by giving them a diversity makeover.
Instead of building up Valkyrie or Sif, they made Thor a woman.
Captain America becomes a black instead of just focusing more attention on Falcon or giving Black Panther more time to shine.
Iron Man becomes a black woman instead of pushing War Machine.
Hulk becomes Asian instead of just giving more time to characters like Sunfire or Silver Samurai.
The female version of Wolverine replaces the original instead of just building up someone like Lady Deathstrike.
Instead of using Dust or another Muslim character, Ms. Marvel is co-opted.
Spider-Gwen, Gwen Pool both come off as derivative of established characters when stronger characters like White Tiger and Domino could have been given a chance to shine.
I’m sure you get the point by now.
The corporate page of Marvel states that the company has over 8,000 characters. A lot of them are women and minorities, so why not use them? There’s nothing wrong with trying to expand your market by bringing in new readers who want to see themselves reflected in their mythology. The demographics of the market are changing, the characters can change to reflect the world we live in. But diversity, like anything else, can be done wrong. Trying to ride the coattails of your established properties instead of building a fan base for new characters is an exercise in self sabotage. There might be a lot of factors impacting Marvel’s sales, but building an audience for any character takes time, whether you are an independent or one of the biggest publishers in the world. Short cuts and quick fixes may not be the answer, no matter how big you are.
What do you think?
PLEASE NOTE: NEITHER THIS BLOG NOR FOUR CAREERS IN COMICS ARE A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT firstname.lastname@example.org FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.
Last year saw significant changes in the comics market. While the general public focused on transmedia events like Batman v. Superman, Civil War and X-men Apocalypse, the underlying business has shifted financially and creatively.Milton Griepp of ICV2 listed these five events as the most important for comics in the last year:
North American Sales Surpassed One Billion Dollars
DC Takes the Top Market Share with the Launch of Rebirth
Hastings Declares Bankruptcy
March Wins a National Book Award
Lion Forge Pushes Its Way Into the Middle Tier
In addition to all these moves, I’ve noticed a growing trend in my small corner of the comics industry. More and more artists are taking the proactive step to lock in collaboration agreements for their independent comics. As more creative teams are turning to crowdfunding and publishing books on their own, they are also making sure to define all the rights and responsibilities in writing before the book is released (See: All for One and One for All: Collaboration Agreements in Comics). This is the best way to go, since an undefined deal is a recipe for disaster and it’s much harder to hammer out a deal after a book is released and tensions are high.
What comic industry trends have you seen in 2016? What are you expecting in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know before you go back to your masterpiece.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT email@example.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.
Modern comics from the major publishers often revolve around reboots, relaunches and other universe wide "events". Fans have mixed emotions about this phenomenon from a story perspective, but it also impact the numbering and designation of books outside the story.
Benjamin Bailey of Nerdist.com recently wrote a post looking at the impact of comic numbering in comics. As a professional comics creator, it pays for you to consider how your potential fans are introduced to and follow your work. There might be things you can learn or avoid by watching the decisions of the big two
Success in the comics industry requires an understanding of the business, creative, and legal aspects of the medium.
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Gamal Hennessy, Esq.