After going to see Superman Returns Wednesday night, it dawned on me that comic books will never again be the primary focus of comic book companies like Marvel and DC. That’s not where the money is.
With comic book reader numbers dwindling, and the average age of readers continuing to rise, these companies have had to change their focus to survive financially. Why make up to a dollar on a comic book company when they can make $13 on a t-shirt, or better yet license the likenesses and pocket a big check? It all makes perfect sense to me now.
Before our level of technology increased to the level it is now, we were a captive audience for the publishers. Comic books were at dang near every grocery store or dime store a kid went to. There was profitability in number of books sold, and it bred a love in many readers that continues to this day. Now to get my hands on a comic book, I pretty much have to go to a specialty shop, or better yet, I can go to Marvel.com and read several issues. Why spend the money now?
For publishers to make the almighty dollar, they had to get creative. What better way to spread the story to the masses then a movie? Tie that in with apparel, breakfast cereal, and soda pop, and it is sure to be a festival of money. Screw trying to bring in the comic book! The fanboys are just going to bitch anyway, right? That is the mentality.
From an economic standpoint I can’t argue with them. I know that when my company brainstorms on how to increase profits, we try and go for the least cost option for the most financial gain without ruining our integrity. It only makes sense. Many consumers will happily buy and wear a Superman symbol shirt. It looks cool, and is socially acceptable. They can walk into a Sears, a Hot Topic, or a Wal-Mart and pick up the look without investing too much emotionally and it is financially solid gain for all involved.
The licensing is where the really big bucks can be. With the movie coming out, DC would get with, say Burger King or McDonalds and license the images. With the excitement level of kids wanting a bauble or action figure, it is sure to drive Happy Meal sales, right? Once again, the publisher gets the money up front and moves on, content in their financial gain. Imagine the possibilities! When I went to the grocery store on Tuesday, I saw the following items with Superman’s image: cereal, carbonated beverage, fruit roll-ups, soup, and coloring books. That is just what I remember off the top of my head!
It is the image of the hero that drives the licensing and pushes the sales of the products being sold. I can imagine my very sweet 9 year old nephew seeing Superman on his cereal and being pretty excited that he could grow up strong like this favorite character. It is solid marketing and I can’t fault it. Hell, I think Jim and I bought no less then two items with Superman on it this week, just picking up our normal goods.
At any rate, it is easy to see why a publisher wouldn’t focus on the readers. The money isn’t there for them like it is in other avenues. I don’t have to like it, but I sure can’t fault them. It is a solid business decision, and it keeps people employed. The only thing that really gives me pause it that some of that big money is going to some writer or artist who CAN’T make their deadlines, but you know I will always have a quibble with that!
Comic book companies are trying to make money and that is the American way. Now that I understand that I am not their primary target, I can almost breathe a sigh of relief. It isn’t about me any more. I am a pain in their collective asses. It is all about the profit and financial gain, not us.