Whatever Happened To Comic Books?

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Three of the top ten movies of 2012 were based on comic books and earned over $1.3 billion at the box office. Yet, somehow, the comic book industry continues to decline – and in an embarrassing way.

This past week came news that – stop me if you heard this before – Peter Parker was going to die. Parker, aka Spider-Man, joins the other iconic heroes to “die” over the last three decades – Superman and Captain America. It’s a lousy stunt designed to end the long-running Amazing Spider-Man and replace it with a brand new #1, Superior Spider-Man. Or some crap.

It’s a short term sales stunt (Peter Parker will be alive by the time Andrew Garfield has to play him in the next Spider-Man movie, trust me), designed to bring mainstream media coverage to comics and will have almost no effect in the long run on comics continual decline. The same thing happened when DC stopped all their comics and rebooted with “The New 52.” In the Superman line, it had the effect of making the character crappier.

At the same time that major media companies are making huge investments in iconic comic properties (Disney bought Marvel, Warner Bros. Owns DC) and seeing huge returns in other media (including games), the source material is suffering.

Marvel and DC are steadfastly interested in pumping out new #1 issues and getting an artificial pop out of them, while the underlying product declines. Its like a company floating new IPOs as the main company flounders. It’s not a sustainable model.

Even worse, it will come back to bite the industry in alternative media. The entire reason The Avengers was such a draw at the movie theater was that it was the realization of 60+ years of engaging comic book mythology. People were invested in Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, etc. because so many grew up with them – not because they killed them off for yet another #1 issue and a temporary infusion of money.

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