Comic book movies that sell comics

Apparently there’s an article out there about how comic book movies never sell comics, which is so obviously wrong as to make me too lazy to find the link again. Some comic book movies sell comics. Here’s my formula for figuring out which ones will do so:

1) It must be a property civilians were not already aware of in its comic book form prior to the release of the film

2) The number of books available to be sold must be limited in number–one movie/one book is best, but a number in the single digits will do

3) The movie and the book must have a clear relationship in terms of tone and content that’s easy for civilians to detect

4) The book must be well-regarded enough in comics circles for civilians’ comics-savvy friends and comics-interested journalists to be likely to recommend it

Hence the movie-spurred sales of Ghost World, Watchmen, Hellboy, Sin City, 300. I expect the rebranded American Splendor collection and Persepolis got a healthy bounce too.

Of course this is pretty much a roundabout way of saying “Big Two shared-universe superhero movies don’t sell comics.” There are too many books to choose from, the companies very rarely get behind one or two as the book to get if you liked the movie (Marvel always churns out some miniseries featuring the villain, but that doesn’t count), and most people have long made up their minds as to whether or not they’re interested in buying (say) Spider-Man or Superman or Hulk comics.

The big exception is Batman. That’s because it fulfills 2 1/2 to 3 of my criteria: It flops on point 1, but 2) there actually are a relatively small number of Batman books that DC seems to push when those movies come out (and which moreover have a track record as perennial sellers in comic shops and bookstores), and 3) they actually do jibe the content of the films, and 4) comics people really like them–The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, and now Joker.

3 Responses to Comic book movies that sell comics

  1. Kiel Phegley says:

    I think the real test of all this hemming and hawing about whether or not DC or Marvel superhero stories proper will ever be able to match up to things like Watchmen and 300 will come whenever Marvel gets an Avengers movie going, the corresponding book being the first two volumes of Millar and Hitch on Ultimates.

    And maybe there’s a chance Fraction’s Iron Man stuff could break out a little next summer, but my guess is that Marvel will flood the market with more things like Marvel Adventures digests and old Bob Layton stories for anyone to really realize how much the new Invincible Iron Man book synchs up with the new movies. Every time a mainstream superhero character has a movie out, every Borders and Barnes & Noble I walk into has a whole table full of general Spider-Man product out for sale from actual trades to sticker books to the coffee table books DK puts out. It hurts the chances for any one story getting traction.

    But Ultimates? Yeah, I think they might be able to pull that one off.

  2. shags says:

    I think DC definitely has the upper hand when it comes to tying in established books to their movies. They work on establishing these books in the general market so when it comes time for the movie to be released, there’s already a history of sales.

    Marvel seems to just start a new series or mini-series when a new movie comes out, without much emphasis on previous work.

  3. Leigh Walton says:

    Of course, because Marvel is Marvel, the key books that Kiel mentions for the upcoming AVENGERS movie do not have the word AVENGERS anywhere on them.

    In fact they studiously avoided the word AVENGERS (which was indeed a pretty dirty word in 2002).

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