Superhuman Marketing Efforts

Battle-scarred Batman by Alex Ross, who's one of the hottest illustrators of the medium.
Battle-scarred Batman by Alex Ross, who’s one of the hottest illustrators of the medium.

(This post serves as my return to blogging after over a 2-year break. Hopefully I can stir up minds on interesting topics.)

Over the summer, I returned to my childhood hobby of collecting comic books after about 3 decades of hiatus. Based on the 45th annual Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide 2015–16, the collectors’ bible, it’s nice to see that some of my comics are now in the double- to triple-digit value, after an initial investment of as low as 35 cents. Anyway, comics then were marketed simpler than today. There was a main title, let’s say Batman, and that main character was published regularly under its own title or two, such as Detective Comics, or even Justice League of America. And all in one type of printed medium. However, these days, for instance, the character of Batman now appears in various titles, predicaments and mediums. For example, in 2006, Batman #655–658, writer Grant Morrison was hired by DC Comics to depict Batman having a son, Damian, stemming from a love affair with an arch nemesis’ daughter. In some specific issues, Damian has taken on the character of Batman. Also, what’s more complex today for collectors, comics will not only have one artist for a specific cover, rather, various artist will render that same cover. This way, the alternate-cover issue will command more value than the regular issue, as it’s termed as a variant cover. Hence, collectors are paying top prices for scarce printed covers. Further, publishers have introduced digital comics viewable on virtual displays. So, the comic characters of today are brand extended to the limit, where publishers are looking for various ways to attract their new target market, and, obviously, increase sales. Also cashing in on fictitious heroes is the Hollywood industry—where a comic book-related film release can gross as much as over $600M, according to data based on The Avengers (2012). Seems the advent of technology, together with clever marketing, have created a healthier comic book industry than in the early years of fandom.