Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Why No New Heroes?

A few days ago I pointed out most of the Marvel comics being published today date back to the early 1960s. This was not the case in the 1970s through the 1990s. What happened?

I think that there are three main factors. The first is that comics have been in a slump for years. They are now aimed at an 18+ year old audience. This group is more comfortable with established titles.

Second, there is a lot more editorial control than there used to be. The impulse is to mitigate risk. Instead of launching a new title, they prefer to bring back old titles or to rework existing titles. The big things at Marvel right now are the Ultimates and the House of M. Both feature familiar heroes in different situations and both are retreads of earlier works.

Finally, the writers and artists are reluctant to give away their new characters. Marv Wolfman and Len Wein, creators of Blade, Swamp Thing, and the New X-Men (including Wolverine and Storm) had to sue to get any royalties from the movies based on their works. In contrast, the creators of Spawn and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are rich. The creator of the Tick managed to get work producing TV shows (he was co-producer on Angel).

Given the number of movies based on comic books, even obscure ones, the odds of hitting the jackpot from an independent production are pretty good compared with the odds of getting anything for creating a new character for Marvel.

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