Underrated: The Impact Of Comic Book Television Shows And Movies
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: the impact of comic book TV shows and movies (outside of the Big Two).
Last week I reran a column for Underrated about The Death Defying Doctor Mirage as I had lost track of time Saturday morning, when I usually write the column, because I was watching the four episodes of The Boys on Amazon Prime that I had left after slowly picking away at the series during the week.
It was then I realized that adaptations of comic books in an episodic format are strangely underrated. Even the comic book movies, to some extent, also fall under that umbrella. Now, to be clear when I say these things are underrated, my tongue is not in my cheek; I am well aware that comic book movies are a multi billion dollar industry, and that some of those films are critical darlings – and rightly so. But I’m not talking about the movies per se, but rather their impact on comics. Not how the comics change over time to better reflect the movies, because that does happen, but rather the impact that the movies and television shows have in driving people to comic shops.
Without the comics obviously these shows and movies wouldn’t exist in the same way (if at all). I mean you may end up with something like Heroes (remember that show from the mid-2000’s?), but there’d be no real guarantee that it’d take off. No, without the comics there’d be no live action adaptations.
But it’s not just a one way street.
I see it first hand when working at my LCS that the shows do drive purchases of the trades. To a lesser extent the floppies also sell, but in my experience that tends to be what people assume to be the key issues more than anything else; not always, and obviously it’s going to be different in different shops. It’s also important to note that the majority of the shows that push the comics aren’t always the ones I expected; shows like Doom Patrol and others that are also based on lesser known properties tend to generate more interest than the big ticket superhero movies. Personally, I think that’s because we all know who Batman, Spider-Man et al are, but even among comic book fans, few have read things like The Boys, Happy and Umbrella Academy.
It’s those adaptations that seem to have the higher impact on people wanting to circle back to the comics. Whether that’s because the people asking are already readers of comics, just not those comics, or because the idea of a smaller world to discover is less intimidating that trying to find your way into the X-Men (though the last few movies haven’t been great), the Avengers or Shazam comics.
The older a property, the more chance you’ve got at picking up a crappy story.
Now this two way street I’m seeing may be a localized trend. Your shop may have noticed something entirely different; maybe your shop has seen a surge of Avengers comics after folks have experienced the MCU, or maybe there was a sudden rush for Shazam books. Maybe the impact of the adaptations hasn’t been felt in your shop, and that sucks.
The impact of comics on television and cinema is undeniable. But there is a feedback from movie goers and others who binge Daredevil back to comicdom. It’s a small, and often underrated trend, but it is there. It’s turning the folks who wander in to a shop for the first or second time on to their new favourite book that’s the real challenge (though if you’re passionate about comics and can articulate that well, it shouldn’t be a huge hurdle).
Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else next week.