This article was originally published on our parent site for the book publishing industry, Publishing Trends.
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Superhero movies – and to an extent TV shows – are one of the biggest trends in entertainment of recent years. But success on the screen doesn’t guarantee comic book sales. To better analyze the correlation, I took a look at the trade paperback sales of two comic books for two of the most popular superhero films in 2016 so far: Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War, both of which happened to be Marvel titles. In addition, I reviewed what some industry professionals have said on the subject.
The Deadpool movie grossed over $132 million during its opening weekend and over $778 million in theaters worldwide since its release in mid-February 2016. Deadpool Volume 1: Dead Presidents (trade paperback collection of issues 1-6, ISBN 9780785166801) has sold 32,269 copies since its release date of June 11, 2013. Deadpool Volume 8: All Good Things (the trade paperback collection of issues 41-44, ISBN 9780785192442) was published closest to the movie’s theater release and sold 5,772 copies since coming out on June 1, 2015.
I took a look at their sales on Nielsen Bookscan before and after the movie’s release, by looking at their sales during its first week available, the week after the trailer premiered in September, during the film’s first week in theaters, and when the movie was released on DVD. With Vol. 1, I saw a slight upward tick in sales during the week of the movie’s release in theaters, but the number was nowhere near its initial sales week. With Vol. 8, the sales’ rise and fall seem to reflect the movie’s prevalence in media at the time.
Why don’t more movie fans decide to pick up the comic? A big part of the problem, according to Ian Warren on Comic Book Daily, is the vast universes don’t always match up. For example, “the movie Iron Man cherry-picked the most fun, glamorous, dynamic elements of the 60s-80s,” Warren said. So when fans tried to shift from the movie franchise to the comic, they found a completely different Iron Man from the Robert Downey Jr. version.
This isn’t a problem limited to the films, but extends to cartoons as well, where storylines and characters from the comic books don’t always match up with the ones that make people fall in love with the universe on the screen.
On top of this, Warren feels “DC and Marvel don’t make it easy for new readers. Their broad sweeping storylines can be daunting to a new reader for sure.” And even more annoyingly for new readers, “the writers champion existing readers by making stories about incidents from years ago without any thought about trying to garner a new audience.”