Last month, a crossover for the ages took place, as the worlds of economics and superheroes collided within one of my favorite podcasts. The hosts of NPR’s Planet Money decided they wanted to understand the value of superhero intellectual property, so they set out to buy themselves a superhero.
Look, I can “report” comic book “news,” too.
Earlier this year, I laid out how Marvel Comics could streamline its monthly superhero line to just 12 books. This “What If?” scenario involved not just thinning Marvel’s superhero line, but completely rethinking how the company could and should deliver comics to readers. Most of us who want mainstream superhero comics to attract new readers know that the monthly, 20-page, $3.99 periodical has just not been getting the job done. If the Big Two superhero publishers want to increase their books’ audiences, I posited, something big needed to change.
Part of my plan was to condense several of Marvel’s “families” of titles into one, core monthly anthology. Rather than paying $12 a month to follow Iron Man, War Machine, and Rescue, Iron Man fans would be able to pick up one $5-7 book featuring all three of those characters. That way, the Marvel Universe would not contract substantially, fans would get more story for their money, and each character’s stories could eventually be split off into separate (monthly) digital series and trade paperbacks – so those who really want to read about just War Machine could do that if they liked.
I’d planned to follow up on my Marvel article by creating a “reduced” DC Universe before the end of the year … but then DC Comics beat me to it:
In the early 2010s, Image Comics launched a plethora of kick-ass, hype-generating monthly comics series, written by a murderers’ row of writers pulled from Marvel and DC. Those series, including but not limited to East of West, Lazarus, Sex Criminals, The Wicked + The Divine, and Bitch Planet, quickly became the books I was most excited to buy each month (or every six months, for those I bought in trades).
At the time of this writing, most of those early 2010s Image hits have either ended, gone on hiatus, or shifted to irregular release schedules. And while I love plenty of Image’s current output, as a whole, those series are not generating the same amount of hype or sales (maybe arguable, but I looked – compare Image’s market share from 2014 and 2019) as Image’s early 2010s line-up.
So where did that heat Image Comics had at the start of last decade go? Well, in the 2020s, there’s another indie publisher that’s pumping out hit after hit written by some of Marvel and DC’s current top writers – and that’s BOOM! Studios.
For various reasons, it’s been tough to enjoy reading or talking about comic books recently. So this week – little to no comics talk. Instead, here are some non-comics-reading ways you can spend your free time, if you’re looking to step away from comics for a while. (For those looking for comics talk, I’ll hopefully have some for you in a couple weeks.)