It seems that everyone is talking about Marvel these days.
Iron Man, The X-Men, The Avengers, once upon a time these characters were only found in the pages of a medium that was traditionally seen as the preserve of socially awkward eight to fifteen year old boys. Now the comic industry has found a new and highly profitable home on the silver screen, and our characters have gone from being geek to chic.
The latest Marvel film, Avengers Assemble released in the UK in April 2012, was the end product of a clever marketing strategy which brought together a number of successful revival superhero films into one giant super superhero movie. Even the cast they managed to assemble, Robert Downey Jnr, Samuel L Jackson and Scarlett Johansson to name but a few - was super. Big Hollywood names were seen wearing capes, spandex, eye patches and super-suits made of metal. So have comic book characters grown up and abandoned their roots? Are today’s media savvy youth even buying traditional paper and ink comics anymore?
Paul Forrester, 36, Graphic Designer for the Croydon based comic book shop A Place in Space denies this is the case, and says that demand has risen for comic books in the last 10 years.
“Comic shops are less intimidating to walk into now,” he said.
He also emphasised the importance of the internet to comic book popularity. Online sales for A Place in Space account for a large part of the shops profit, and despite recently opening a second shop across the road, he said they could easily operate the whole business from a warehouse somewhere and just sell online.
Mr Forrester also believes that the advent of the internet has also helped shift the demographic of comic book buyers. No longer is it just young boys buying titles, but an increasing amount of women are now taking part. He judges that the female to male customer ratio is nearer an equal 50/50 split. Now women don’t even need to walk into a comic shop to read or place an order, the pressure, imagined or otherwise, is officially off and they can now browse new titles online at their leisure.
The ‘big three’ comic book producers; Marvel, DC Entertainment and Image comics, who together control nearly 80% of the market, have been doing their part to widen their appeal and improve their image. Character costumes are being redesigned to be more realistic, female characters in particular are now not sporting such gravity and weather defying outfits and complex storylines are being wiped and started anew to cater for new audiences.
The fertile grounds of the comic book story are now even being pre-examined and reserved for future T.V and film use. There is even a worldwide Free Comic Book Day initiative every year on the first Saturday of May, which pulls new audiences in.
The biggest selling comic of 2012 was issue number 100 of an Image Comics title called The Walking Dead, (which incidentally has spawned its own hit T.V show of the same name.) It sold 353,200 copies in North America alone. Even more successful was a Marvel comic of The Amazing Spiderman in January 2009, which celebrated President Obama's inauguration, selling over 500,000 copies and becoming the best selling comic of the 21st Century.
Big purchase numbers means big money; in fact in 2012, comic book sales were up just over 14% from the previous year.
“Comic books are a good verbal medium, with ongoing storylines which mixes books with an unlimited budget,” added Mr Forrester.
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