Although in the past there have been some really bad comic book-based video games (ask any gamer about Superman 64 or Batman Forever and we’ll tell you), the past few years have seen several amazing comic book-inspired games. Video game developer Rocksteady, and its two Batman games, “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and “Batman: Arkham City,” are the runaway leaders, both in terms of critical reception and sales figures. DC has also found success in partnering with established video game franchises, leading to “Lego Batman,” and “Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes,” as well as “Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe” and the recently released “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” a fighting game that imagines what would happen to the world if Superman went to the dark side.
While Marvel hasn’t released a game that quite matches the success which the Batman Arkham games have found, it has had a number of good ones. “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” and its sequel were both well received, as well as Marvel’s long-standing run of fighting games with game company Capcom, imaginatively titled “Marvel vs. Capcom.” And just as DC is working to catch Marvel’s runaway movie success, Marvel plans to release several new games, including “Lego Marvel Super Heroes” and “Marvel Heroes,” an online game positioned to challenge DC’s online game, “DC Universe Online.”
Starting in the United States in the 1930s, comics have been on the rise and on the decline throughout the decades, but have been a consistent part of our culture. While having spun their characters out to various media, comic companies have continued to tell ambitious stories, sometimes using comics to introduce the backstory behind a new video game or movie.
“With Thanos being the villain of ‘Avengers 2,’ there’s starting to be a push,” said James Lewis, Magazine Specialist with Books-a-Million. “They’re bringing him to the forefront.”
Of course, comic companies hope for crossovers, for someone watching “Iron Man 3” and heading to their local comic shop to check out Iron Man comics. But with hundreds of monthly titles released, where do you start?
How about starting with Free?
Every year, on the first Saturday of May, comic stores across the country host Free Comic Book Day.
“They settled on the date a few years ago,” said Andre Oliver, owner of Valdosta’s Kool Comics. “From a marketing standpoint, it matches up with the first big movie weekend of the year.”
Located on Ashley Street, a few blocks from Downtown Valdosta, Oliver has been running Kool Comics for 11 years, and has been participating in Free Comic Book Day for the majority of them.
“I almost feel a responsibility to do it at this point,” said Oliver. “The Boy Scouts come out every year and my regular customers appreciate it as well. They look forward to it, bring their kids with them.”
In the last decade, Oliver has weathered the economic collapse of 2008 and the subsequent fallout and watched comics take on a more mature story-telling stance.
“But there’s also some great titles for kids: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog,’ ‘My Little Pony,’ ‘Adventure Time.’”
He’s also seen his business grow in the last year, with new customers sometimes coming from people who’ve played the video games or watched the movies.
With the advent of digital comic sales that can deliver straight to your tablet or smartphone, some people are predicting the end of the paper comic, but Oliver disagrees.
“With a comic book, you own it. You can hold it. Just like with any business, as long as the companies put out new and interesting products, business will continue to grow.”
Free Comic Book Day is 11 a.m.-4 p.m., May 4. And while you’re there, browse the rest of the store. Kool Comics’ back stock, which offers more than 15,000 comics, is 50 percent off in celebration.