Making movies featuring comic-book characters is part of
studios' increasing reliance on franchises and properties that come
with audiences that are already sold, it's presumed, on that
franchise or property. People who have read comic books featuring
Thor, for instance, are considered likely to come to the
But is there a reverse effect? Could all these comic-book movies
turn non-readers into comic buyers? That's certainly part of what
Marvel and DC have in mind.
Some tactics both Marvel and DC have employed before, and will
probably trot out again this superhero-heavy summer, include:
Jumping-on Points: There's so much history with
superhero characters that non-readers complain it's impossible to
just buy an issue off the shelves and know what's going on. So the
publishers will heavily promote certain issues this summer as a
"perfect jumping-on point for new readers" -- one not part of a
12-issue story arc and not dependent on plot points first
introduced 30+ years ago.
New or Limited Series: Probably the
most-popular tactic employed, this achieves the same goal as the
above but in an even more substantial way, providing new or casual
buyers an easy point of entry into a character's mythology. Often
these new series will pit the hero of the movie against,
conveniently, the villain he's facing in the film.
Collections: Why sell a single issue when you
can sell someone a collection of a half-dozen issues connected by a
single story arc? Particularly popular for how they translate to
mainstream book stores, trade paperback collections can act as ways
for people to catch up on a character or characters in one fell
swoop and hopefully get a large enough sample that they're hooked.
Bonus points for collections that use the word "Origin," which is
especially attractive among new buyers.
Retconning: Short for "retroactive continuity,"
this is where the history of the character in question gets a bit
of a revamp, usually so that it's more in line with what's
introduced in the movie. So if the character was originally the
prisoner of some Cold War bad guys, his back story will be subtly
altered so that he was a prisoner of the current world's bad guys.
Other parts of the character's origin or history may also be played
with so that someone familiar mostly with the film version isn't
presented a whole new mythology in the books.
Big Event: Have a character about to appear in
a major motion picture? All of a sudden he or she is going to be
involved in an event that involves his death, his assent to power,
or something similarly splashy. This is especially important to do
with perceived "second-tier" characters who don't have major
recognition outside comics readers.
This summer, with its plethora of comics-based movies, will show
just how intertwined the two worlds are and how each media serves
as a promotional platform for the other.