We are in The Movie Age of Comics! – part 2

This is the 2nd of a 2 part series: We are in The Movie Age Of Comics! (part 1 is here)

The evidence is piling up proving we are in the midst of “The Movie Age of Comics”. There are many signs, not the least of which includes comic book creators routinely being propositioned to option their brand new creator owned comic character rights as movie or TV properties. Those same creators are imagining new characters that would work, not only in comic book form, but are imagining simultaneously for the big screen. Comic fans have embraced the movie age of comics with any news, or rumors of comic character optioning to movie or TV deals, rocketing the same comics in value almost overnight. A definite movie deal and we see things like Guardians of the Galaxy and the 2008 series #1 move from $3.00 per copy to $150.00 per copy faster than we can say Rocket Raccoon! While these facts are compelling evidence that we are in the Movie Age of Comics, we will see shortly how we actually found ourselves in the midst of this “Age”!

In 2000, Marvel hit the big time with the movie “X-Men”, pleasantly surprising long time X-fans and non-comic fans alike. Finally the superhero movie we were waiting for hit the big screen, pitting mutant against mutant, and mutant against non-mutant. Great casting, direction by Brian Singer and stellar performances by several actors made this film stand out in so many ways. Even Hugh Jackman became the defining Wolverine. Movie goers thought so too. The longest running continuing comic character movie franchise was born and with it, ushered in “The Movie Age of Comics”!

With the release of X-Men in 2000, the Movie Age of Comics begins. We see elements of the X-Men movie begin to influence character’s appearance in comics (check out the evolution of Wolverine’s uniform) and the rest of the X-team’s garments.

While X-Men warmed us up, 2002’s “Spider-Man” was a moon shot with one of the largest movie blockbusters of all-time!

Suddenly, comic book properties became movie properties and comic book companies became, not just publishers, but caretakers of the character’s movie franchise. The comic publishing industry changed as comic titles need not be merely good sellers to stay alive. The key was to make sure the character movie property was protected and nurtured for the next Hollywood installment in the franchise.

DC Comic characters got back into the act with 2005’s “Batman Begins” and 2006’s “Superman Returns” the latter with X-Men’s Brian Singer at the helm. But DC Comics has merely stuck with it’s two A-list characters and basically rode the coattails of Marvel’s leadership into the Movie Age of Comics. So for now, we’ll stick to Marvel characters for this post.

Not every movie based on Marvel’s comic characters was a blockbuster, in fact some of the movies and castings stunk out the joint (yes on DVD too)! Daredevil 2003, Hulk 2003, Catwoman 2004, and Ghost Rider 2007, to name a few. It was beginning to look like Marvel Studios’ risk with movies based on their B-List characters was a bad move until Iron Man hit the screen with an unexpected blockbuster in 2008. Casting with Robert Downey Jr in the lead role was a stroke of genius. Suddenly non-comic fans were noticing superheroes beyond the big two!

Now, in 2014, we have a new development floating in rumor-land to demonstrate that we remain truly immersed in the Movie Age of Comics. This bubbles around rights to the characters of the Marvel Universe. All will be clear by the last two paragraphs.

Who owns the rights to these Marvel Comics characters? Let’s be clear, there is a big difference between comic book publishing rights, movie franchise rights and even TV rights. We’ll leave TV rights aside for another discussion. Clearly, Marvel Comics owns the comic book publishing rights to all of their characters, as does DC Comics, end of story. Movie rights are another matter entirely!

Marvel Comics had struggled financially since the 1980s and to survive, they optioned the movie rights to their characters from 1986-1996 until they decided to create Marvel Studios (later purchased by Disney). Major studios who purchased the rights to Marvel characters must make a movie using those characters on a periodic basis, or the rights to that character(s) will revert back to Marvel.

Here are the big ones:

Sony: Spider-Man, Ghost Rider
Fox: X-Men, Daredevil, Fantastic Four
Marvel Studios/ Disney: All the Marvel characters that aren’t directly connected to the immediate universe of the character rights owned by Sony and Fox.

After Sony’s disastrous “Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance” in 2012, I expect Ghost Rider will be the first character to revert to Marvel/Disney in the next few years.

Now we have a rumored scenario where Marvel Comics, is considering suspending publication of any Fantastic Four comic to, as some are stating ”spite Sony”. Since Marvel/Disney does not own the movie rights to Fantastic Four, why caretake and nurture a character for another movie studio’s advantage? Since Spider-Man, X-Men and Daredevil comics all outsell Fantastic Four, there is continued incentive for Marvel Comics to continue publishing the former three but not the latter.

So there we have it. A comic character (Fantastic Four) may temporarily cease publication because Marvel doesn’t own the movie rights. Need we any more evidence that we are in the midst of “The Movie Age of comics”?


One thought on “We are in The Movie Age of Comics! – part 2

  1. Terry Hickey

    Even more so, the comic characters are starting to look a lot like the movie characters (e.g. Nick Fury Jr) and we are starting to really see comic stories, movies and TV series converging on each other with some continuity in story-line, look and feel. Comics are being treated more as extensions of the movies now, not the other way around (likely because the $ is in the movies). I like the name the Movie Age or Digital Age of comics.

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