Friday, August 21, 2009

Marvel acquires Marvelman: Has anything like this ever worked out well before? Part 3

Go here for Part 1, and here for Part 2.

This time I hope to explain why I think that there may be opportunity costs involved in investing in these new acquisitions and that in order for them to work in their new settings these concepts must have some unique or exceptionally strong qualities that complement the existing library into which they are being placed, which unfortunately has rarely been the case.

First off: Captain Marvel/Shazam. I think it's a given at this point that the similarities between Superman and Captain Marvel are such that as long as they own both the whole "Shazam Family" will be surplus to requirements at DC.

Ive already conceded that the money DC paid to buy the Fawcett characters in the 1970s must have been paid back many times over by now by the returns from the various comics, TV shows, cartoons etc. But would the company have made that money anyway without the character?

Who can say that, without Shazam/Captain Marvel, the money that was invested to launch those products would not have been put to better use on Superman or even another, more unique DC property like say Green Lantern? DC has never lacked for concepts - surely one of them could have generated a higher return? after all none of those Shazam products were runaway successes.

Over the last year, DC has acquired the rights to three different sets of old superhero properties - the Milestone, MLJ and THUNDER Agents characters. I cant see that I see the logic in any of these moves.

The company already has an excess of characters - are these concepts so unique that they add something significantly valuable to their library? I have enjoyed stories about characters from all three lines in the past, but I think that's a testament to the work of the various creative teams rather than any unique properties inherent in these concepts.

For example, what stories can you tell about Hardware that you cannot tell with Steel instead? couldn't you use the ideas from the Shield revamp on a new version of the Americommando or one of the other many patriotic trademarks DC owns? is the THUNDER Agents such a unique concept to justify all this investment, when DC already has strong properties like Suicide Squad that they haven't been able to get right?

There has never been, to my knowledge, significant demand out there for any of these concepts to return. There may be a market for reprinting the old material, but even the acclaimed THUNDER Agents stuff has probably only a niche audience at best.

Why is Marvelman different? well chiefly because the concept continues to be in demand, independent of nostalgia. There is an aura of prestige around the whole property that comes from the caliber of talent have worked on it, making Marvelman the most credible candidate to fill the "Superman distaff" role in Marvel's catalogue. Also that quality work, by creators with proven crossover appeal, makes the potential audience for the Marvelman back catalogue wide and deep.


  1. This is something like the third or fourth time I've seen Marvelman referred to as a "distaff" version of Superman or Captain Marvel. Is there some new definition of the word that I don't know (and, checking quickly, that on-line dictionaries don't seem to have caught up with yet)? Because I'm pretty sure Marvelman is a dude, and he doesn't spin wool. Ersatz, maybe, fits better what you're trying to say.

  2. Thunder Agents is a worthwhile property for, if nothing else, the right to reprint the gorgeous Wallace Wood artwork.

  3. With Miracleman Marvel has his Watchmen.
    If they can release the Moore and Gaiman material is gonna be a perennial seller.
    It does not matter what thay do after.
    Ok,it matters but not as much.

  4. I thought Captain Marvel was one of the (many) best things about the bwahaha Justice League.