Posted at 1:30 p.m., April 29, 2016

Comic books fall, rise to fight another day

Superheros make major come-back

Comic book culture has, once again, infiltrated pop-culture. “Deadpool,” “Batman V Superman,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “X-Men” and “Suicide Squad” are some of the biggest and most hyped movies of 2016. A few of them will unquestionably be critical and box office successes, even relatively unknown characters like Rocket Racoon, Groot and the Falcon have become household names.

Comic book fans and nerds everywhere are seeing their childhood dreams come true in many different forms, but as we have seen in the past, comics can become yesterday’s news very quickly.
When comics were first published in the 1930s and ‘40s they were extremely popular. Hundreds-of-thousands of copies were printed. Sometimes popular titles saw millions of copies in circulation. But very few kids held onto their comics. They were passed around classrooms, barracks and locker rooms until they were worn out and discarded. Little did those people know their childhood reading material might one day be prized and considered valuable items.

Cost of a Comic

In the ‘70s and ‘80s comics saw a huge growth in value. In 1974 a copy of Action Comics #1, which contained the first appearance of Superman, could be purchased for around $400. By 1984 that same comic was valued around $5,000. Money-savvy individuals and businesses saw these changes and took note.

According to Sothebys.com, in 1991 Harold M. Anderson purchased a copy of Detective Comics #27, which contained the first appearance of Batman, from Sothebys Auction for the hefty sum of $55,000. This was far above the estimated value of $28,000 and set a record at the time for the most money ever spent on a comic. The comic book bubble slowly began to grow.

At the time large publishers like Marvel and DC did not control the number of copies that were coming off the presses, the distributors did. Who was and wasn’t allowed to sell comics was also controlled by the distributors and before the ‘80s the distributors were very selective about who was allowed to sell their comics. They also circumvented the Comics Code by allowing unapproved individuals to start selling comics for as little as a $300 deposit, but a few distributors became greedy. They expanded rapidly and began producing more and more copies of popular titles and comic book shops grew rapidly. According to MileHighComics.com, the number of comic shops on the planet went from around 800 in 1979 to around 10,000 in 1993. By that point the market was thoroughly saturated.

Animation studios also saw the popularity and jumped onto the wagon. Shows like “Batman: The Animated Series,” “X-Men” and the “Spiderman” animated series helped skyrocket comic books popularity to heights not seen since the ‘40s and ‘50s. This was the beginning of the end for the comics bubble.

Cody Fox

Superheros take a punch

In 1993, things started to go downhill. By expanding output to hundreds of different titles with countless thousands of copies being printed, the distributors oversaturated the market. Combined with rapidly rising prices, this began to drive away customers. Mile High Comics also reported that by the time the bubble was completely wiped away nine out of 10 comic book shops in America were out of business and publisher sales of new titles had dropped by 70 percent. The low sales caused publishers to reduce the number of titles they offered, which meant the shops that were left had much less product to sell.

The used comic book market was also in bad shape. The prices of high-value comics dipped or leveled off and titles worth less than $100 entirely lost their value. The shops that survived had thousands of used copies of single titles that only hard core collectors were interested in buying. Basic economics caught up with the industry, but the small shops were not the only ones suffering. On Dec. 27, 1996, Marvel Comics, the largest and most popular of the large publishers, filed for bankruptcy.

Since the great comic crash things have evened out. In the early 2000s the value of older, rare titles once again began to slowly grow. The market even managed to survive the economic recession of 2008 and superhero movies were about to explode into the mainstream culture once again.

Books make big screen

On April 30, 2008, Robert Downey Jr. wowed audiences and critics with his portrayal of Tony Stark and “Iron Man” quickly became the highest grossing film of the year up to that point. Then on July 18, Heath Ledgers’ dark, anarchist portrayal of the Joker vaulted “The Dark Knight” past “Iron Man’s” earnings that were once thought impossible for the genre. “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man” stood tall as the highest grossing films of 2008 while “Hancock,” another comic book movie, came in a close fourth place.

Fast forward to 2016 and superhero movies are one of the most popular genres that generate vast amounts of profits. In 2015, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was the fourth-highest grossing film. “The Guardians of the Galaxy” went from virtually unknown characters to the biggest movie of 2014 with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in third place. In 2013, “Iron Man 3” was the second-highest grossing film and in 2012 “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” were both top-five earners.

“Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” was recently released to much less than positive reviews but according to Variety it earned $170.1 million over its opening weekend while “Deadpool,” an R-rated movie, was released in February and has become one of the most critically and fan appraised superhero movies to date. “Captain America: Civil War” has been released to critics and media for early viewing and has also received high praise.

Comic book culture, nerd culture, whatever you want to call it, is back and more rooted in popular culture than ever before.

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