Comic book movies are bigger than ever, despite the fear a few years ago that the bubble would burst. With the billion dollar successes of “The Avengers,” “Iron Man 3” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” what once was the property of geeks now belongs to the masses. Despite the larger audiences welcoming embrace, the original home of these characters, the comic book, is getting left behind.
That’s not to say comics will die, as artists and writers will always find a home at Marvel, DC Comics, Vertigo and other imprints. Instead, comic books will become even more of a niche genre while geek culture thrives around it. Marvel Studios has been incredibly successful of late, thanks to the “Iron Man” franchise and the incredible success of “The Avengers,” while DC Comics proved Batman could be taken seriously by a mainstream audience even though Batman had been “serious” and “gritty” since the 1980s.
The comic book industry is notoriously difficult to get into -- there's so much information, so much history and very few resources to sort through it all. Marvel and DC Comics both have large crossover stories going on right now -- “Age of Ultron” and “The New 52” respectively -- and because of the multiple tie-ins, a person who may have liked the latest “Iron Man” or “Batman” may have a difficult time jumping into a world they are unsure of. Finding a comic book store may be difficult depending on where you live and that could cause even more problems. Buying a comic is easy enough, thanks to Comic app from Comixology but being comfortable with finding a series while being a newcomer to the genre may still prove difficult.
Marvel and DC have both tried to make the long history of a comic series, such as the decades-long runs of X-Men, Spider-Man or Batman, by introducing crossover series that kills off characters, such as 1985’s “Infinite Crisis” crossover event from DC, or by creating a new world that gives characters a fresh start, such as the creation of the Ultimate universe by Marvel. Despite those attempts, continuity and history will also challenge new readers and it can be intimidating when seeing a double digit, let alone a triple digit, number next to the title.
There could be a solution to the comic industry and that’s in the digital world. As a Reddit discussion mentions, in addition to cost, lack of compelling stories, cheap ploys such as character deaths, the digital platform can make comics accessible. Marvel Unlimited is similar to Spotify where, for a monthly fee or a one-time yearly payment, readers can enjoy unlimited access to the thousands of comics Marvel has published throughout the years.
As for comic book shops, they may face a similar fate as record stores such as Tower Records or Sam Goody. Comic books will not be dead but may be even less relevant despite the fact that characters synonymous with the genre are a part of the everyday conversation.