Whether you’re a life-long fan of comics or just have a passing interest, mark your calendars: Free Comic Book Day, the day that comic stores across the country offer a selection of free titles, is May 4.
Far from the comic companies of yesteryear, comic companies today (Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc.) are far-flung media enterprises, encompassing comics, novels, graphic novels, movies, TV shows and video games. Comics are big business and with any big business, it can be overwhelming to talk about it all at once. So let’s break it down.
Movies & TV
In December of 1996, Marvel Comics filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
In August 2009, Disney bought Marvel Comics for four billion dollars.
What happened between 1996 and 2009?
Well, it’s complicated, but to simplify: The movies happened.
After the success of the X-Men and Spiderman movie trilogies, Marvel decided to get into the movie business for itself. While movie companies had been trying for decades to adapt comics for isolated movies, Marvel decided to try adapting its entire fictional universe, producing what it called Phase One. Consisting of the first two Iron Man movies, “Thor,” “The Incredible Hulk,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” Marvel’s gamble paid off in the release of “The Avengers,” which became the third highest grossing film of all time, only behind the one-two James Cameron punch of “Avatar” and “Titanic.” Currently, Marvel movies as a whole represent the most successful movie brand of all time, raking in more than five billion.
And they’re not alone. DC, the other big comic company, had a huge hit in the recent Batman trilogy, something they look to continue with the new Superman movie coming out this summer. Rumors abound that DC is now copying Marvel’s plan, using “Superman” to launch into its own extended universe.
On the TV side, both companies have released a plethora of animated shows, but up til now, DC was the only one to have any success with a live-action show, with “Smallville” having run for 10 seasons and this season’s “Arrow” being renewed for season two. Marvel is prepping a show titled “Agents of SHIELD,” which focuses on the agents of Marvel’s top-secret international espionage and law-enforcement agency.