Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Economics of Comics: Prologue

I was speaking with my father last weekend and mentioned how fun it would be to write a book about the economics of the comic book industry. Yes, you read that correctly – a book about the economics of the comic book industry. Boring you say? Not at all, I riposte! This is big business! How big? Remember when Disney bought Marvel for USD 4 billion? What about the blockbusters about to hit theatres around the world? But did you know that Marvel went bankrupt a decade earlier? This is a very BIG (and interesting) story.

(Okay, okay, calm down, Mark. Don’t start spending the movie royalties yet.)

I was also prompted by a lecture by a journalist who covered the 2008 economic meltdown. As he spoke, he mentioned – booms, busts, and bubbles – all occurrences that have happened to the comics industry – just as they’ve happened to tulips, housing and tech-stocks.

But when I went to the internet, I found scant details. And because of this, I’ll be stepping-up to write it myself. Of course, I’ll be doing this in my spare time, which will be erratic, due to upcoming exams. But, how cool would it be to parlay something like this into a book? A quick check reveals mostly ‘How To...’ texts when the keywords ‘comic book’ and ‘industry’ are entered, so I may have a market. There is one book – Comic Wars – which examined the bankruptcy of Marvel Entertainment, but this reads more like a Gordon Gekko-style Wall Street battle and it only mentions in passing, what I believe to be the most interesting episode of modern comic book history: the speculators boom of the early 90s.

So that’s what you can expect from WGTB in the next little while. For your enjoyment I thought I’d post two contrasting images. The first is the monster itself: X-Men #1 (above). This is still the highest grossing comic of all time, selling an amazing 8.1 million copies in autumn 1991. The second is a clip from Fantastic Four #111 (1971). I took this photo because it shows the X-Men title relegated to a secondary group of comics. Remember, new X-Men stories were stopped in March 1970 only to be brought back in 1975. Look carefully in the bottom left corner and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Quite the juxtaposition, isn’t it? Zero to hero is 16 years! Well, that’s what I'll be writing about in the upcoming series of articles. Farewell for now.

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