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Comic Based Entertainment Media Conglomerates?…

One can’t help but be intrigued by Marvel’s efforts at global domination. While their comic sales have more or less plateaued, they’ve used their brand recognition to branch off into animation and film.  While their animation efforts are somewhat hit-or-miss, they had some success with film. Well, mostly X-Men.

After reviewing what was working, Marvel made an unprecedented move by setting up their own studio. By calling the shots they were now reclaiming their brand. This is what they know and they didn’t want to leave it to various studio politics as to what their characters filmic fates were. Offhand, based on Iron Man and the strategy they’ve presented to start other tentpoles and then merge them into an Avengers film, I’d say they were on the right track. They are playing to their core audience, but making the appeal wide enough to eliminate barriers of entry from the general public.

Now they are trying to globalize their characters appeal. (Global box office is important.) This also impacts global amusement park potential. (Yeah, I miss the days when you could go to Universal Studios and eat at the Marvel Cafe, see their characters and buy merchandise.)

So, where is DC in all of this? Well, you’d think that they would be all over this, what with being owned by Time/Warner. However, that’s the problem. They are right in the middle of, not only studio politics, but corporate politics. They can’t watch out for their properties the way Marvel can now. Sure, they’ve had successes, mostly where Marvel has stumbled, in animation, but The Dark Knight showed that the characters were real cash cows.

But it seems that they lucked out with that. Superman Returns didn’t set the world on fire and there’s constant talk of a reboot. DC/Warners also can’t get it together to even bring Wonder Woman to the screen, let alone the countless second bananas in their universe. There’s no unifying strategy, just a bunch of isolated projects. The right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.

More importantly, in the wake of Watchmen; is there really support for this kind of a business plan? Here’s a project fans have been clamoring for over a 20 year period, yet there was no pleasing anyone. (It was too faithful, it wasn’t faithful enough.) Given the pressures of bringing a big budget ‘R’ rated adaptation to the screen, it did as much as possible to get things right. Yet the box office might hit the break even point after international grosses and DVD sales are brought in. Where’s that Dark Knight support? Was it a one time fluke? Can’t you use Superheroes the way you can other fringe genres as a metaphor to address larger issues/current topics? Was it really the marketing campaign that did all of the work? Do you have to kill a star for that kind of dough? (Well, no, The Crow did very well, but not those kind of numbers.)

I’m afraid comic-oriented movies will end up in the ghetto that their published cousins have made for themselves. With luck, Marvel might smartly produce some non-Superhero properties and end up a mini-major like Lionsgate. Global domination will have to wait.

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