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Why Do Comics Promote Movies And Not The Other Way Around?

CBR logo CBR 9/3/2022 Ashley Land
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Since the birth of the MCU, comic book movies have proven to be one of the most profitable directions in Hollywood history. Between the MCU and DCEU, superhero movies have raked in tens of billions of dollars, while comic books have seen sales slumps. Yet the wisdom in the larger publishing industry continues to be for floppies to promote movies and not the other way around.

When the MCU debuted in 2008 with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, it was off to a shaky start. The two movies combined grossed below one billion dollars, box office draws that would be considered flops in today's MCU world. The franchise has slowly but surely seen its value as a movie universe, as well as the value of its inspirational source material and characters, soar to consistent heights considered unthinkable before. During this time, however, comics have seen little gain in sales related to the movies.


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In fact, despite far larger revenues, a much larger audience and better placement in foreign markets, the cinematic universes have spent less time and money promoting comics than comics have promoting movies. Indeed, readers will typically see promotional images for movies and TV shows take up even double page spreads in a comic. But the readers are undoubtedly more aware of these movies than moviegoers are aware of current events in comics. While there are many fans who miss the end of the original raging Hulk in the MCU, they may be unaware of events like the ongoing Marvel "Hulk vs Thor: Banner War" event.

Although we have seen some attempts to market comics with movies, such as Matt Reeves' attempt while promoting The Batman, these efforts have been the exception to the rule. Even with DC's release of Black Adam trades to coincide with the movie, this has been trying to sell itself using a movie, rather than a movie trying to help sell comics. Few excited moviegoers are aware that they can pick up a current ongoing Black Adam limited series or that the movie even has a slew of prequel one-shots dedicated to individual characters.


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The reality is that there are far more moviegoers unaware of events in current comics than the other way around, both as a percentage and in absolute numbers. Although movies may spike general interest in a character, it's still unknown whether that leads to long-term retention of new readers or just a temporary sales boost. Some TV/movie projects even have ongoing projects tied directly in with story, as has been the case with Harley Quinn: The Animated Series and the comic continuation of Batman the Animated Series.

In years gone by, fans of these heroes were almost forced to turn to the comics to see their adventures. But with the huge proliferation of superhero projects on TV, younger fans haven't been given a reason to turn to comics - and the movies show little interest in doing so. With multiple post-credit scenes being the norm, fans and comic creators alike have questioned how easy it would be to place a small ad for comics before or after the main movie. And with each movie studio being owned by the same company as their respective publisher, that wouldn't be at all difficult.


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If comic books are able to take up two or even three pages in a single floppy to advertise movies fans are all aware of, it stands to reason movies should be able to make room for comics. Some have suggested the likes of selling relevant trade paperbacks in movie theaters, while others point to opening ads as a place for comics. Regardless, it makes little sense that the smaller companies appear to be aiding the larger ones, when sales and revenue suggest the opposite would make more sense. And it doesn't hurt that many movies have incredibly clear inspiration, such as Zack Snyder's Justice League clearly borrowing from the New 52 title.

It seems like an obvious sales strategy for the big two to go in this direction. A simple video of the stars and directors discussing current comic book events and titles -- and where to find them -- would lead to a migration of some fans into stores to pick up their first floppy. With such a large platform and having benefited so much from the comics, it would be simple marketing sense for the movies to bolster the comics and help ensure a steady flow of new stories to come.


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