Most cynical form of advertising

I suspect if DC and Marvel were to publish webcomics and eventually get rid of the print division, save for trade paperback editions and the like, it would have big effects on the publishing industry. It’s as if publishers started offering books for free that they find other ways of making money through advertisements. It could be in the form of live action documentaries but also cartoons.

DC and Marvel might technically do their own cartoon adaptations in-house but when made to advertise products by other companies, especially luxury ones is when the changes begin. Cartoonists being made to advertise products by luxury companies isn’t anything new, some mangaka did it themselves.

It would be surprising if the Flash started endorsing Supreme. A more damning development is if those parent companies started reforming in response to publishing webcomics for good. Disney might merge Marvel entirely with its general publishing division and ditch the film production side.

(It already did this to the television division.)

As for DC, I have a feeling there might come a time when Merck Corporation might buy a fairly stake in it, thus reuniting it with People (as both of them were part of Time Warner). Warner Media proper can still stick to animation but DC may have to spend more time with Merck from then on.

Smaller publishers like Image and Dark Horse might simply transition to being webcomics hosts, albeit backed up by other publishers. I suspect if DC and Marvel were to become webcomics hosts for good, it would affect the publishing industry greatly. Not just by making stuff free.

But also bringing comics significantly closer to online magazine and newspaper territory. Much closer by then. But that would mean publishers might pay film studios to advertise their products, thus resulting in the most cynical form of advertising. It’s as if PBS got paid to adapt Macmillan books into telly, that’s when change begins.

Horrifyingly enough, if DC and WB were to do animated productions again it would also be to advertise products by another company altogether and might form a committee of sorts. This already happened before with comic strips characters advertising food products. This isn’t any different.

Except that rather than having comics be research and development, it’s the film industry that suffers the most from this big change. Now that they’re part of a production committee to advertise books, I have a feeling film might end up as subservient to the publishing industry.

Especially as glorified advertising agencies.

Role Reversal Because of Webcomics

I still think it bears repeating that if the roles between film and comics were to be reversed, it would only be so if webcomics became the norm at DC, Marvel and their ilk. But that would involve having to find ways of making a profit whilst having comics for free. The consequences would be huge and this would even affect prose publishers in general.

What if every book publisher started offering books for free but when figuring out ways of making them profitable, they have film studios to advertise those? One might say that films exist to advertise Harry Potter books and pretty much did the job right. Same with any adaptation of comic strips that the point still holds.

Assuming if DC and Marvel ditched print comics for good and went straight into webcomics, chances are they’ll still find ways of making money. Whilst DC and Marvel have the luxury of having an in-house animation studio of sorts, for smaller publishers they may have to use the production commitee model instead.

Anime already did this since the 1990s, especially with several productions working on and advertising it (or so I think) that it might become the default way of licencing intellectual property. Rather than comics acting as research and development, film studios end up as glorified advertising agencies.

It’s as if a movie studio got paid by the publisher to advertise its books in the form of films and programmes. Studios buying the rights to adapt those media isn’t anything new. The biggest change’s that it would like what Japanese anime have been doing.

You have a committee of studios and publishers working together to produce things to advertise their books and comics with. If DC and Marvel were to switch to webcomics for good, this would have immense ramifications for the entire publishing industry to end up having their books for free online.

Only to pay movie studios to advertise those products that it might also become the most cynical form of advertising and be infomercials taken to a logical conclusion.

Aiming for the youngsters

From what I’ve read, DC’s actively aiming at younger readers with its graphic novel line. DC did try to make efforts at making comics accessible to people, whether if its the Walmart comics or arguably graphic novels. It might not be the first time but one that they’re actively practising and getting it right.

Marvel likely does similar things too. The thing’s that for those wanting to go back to the good old days, DC and Marvel are now aiming for a more practical route. If children can’t be bothered to read an anthology magazine to find the characters and stories they like, just commit to graphic novels instead.

I suspect those wanting DC and Marvel to go back to the old days are in for a rude awakening.

Monopolising the market

If a company has monopolises a certain industry, market or brand it’s going to be highly associated with it, especially with little to no competition. It’s like the thing with Harlequin where they have a near monopoly on the romance market and even bought some of its competitors. DC and Marvel hold a duopoly on superhero stories.

That’s not to say this hasn’t been done to other storytelling modes, maybe not to the same extent. As for science fiction there’s Gollancz, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Harper Collins, Orbit Books, Arkham House and if you will, Games Workshop as it also publishes prose books.

I could also say similar things about Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast in relation to fantasy. So there’s a healthy amount of competition but they may also constitute a near disproportionate number of publishers making a lot of those books. Fashion likely does similar things. Around 20% out of 500 companies make a lot of profit.

Many of the luxury conglomerates used to be entirely separate companies. They may have a lot of competitors (perhaps same with their fast fashion counterparts) but when they often risk being bought by either one of them, it’s like they don’t want much competition.

Even if supermarkets/malls may have their own in-house clothing lines and if some fashion companies remain independent whether big or small, same with textile manufacturers but when mergers and buyouts occur in addition to facing increased competition by imported brands that it’s going to be tough to stay afloat.

Let alone on its own that being bought by another or merged’s one of those ways to expand.

Near monopolies

I still think comparing romance novels to superheroes bears weight in that there’s little competition in the same fields as these three hold a near monopoly/duopoly over the market. There are or were superhero publications published by other publishers such as Image and Dark Horse but not too many of these survived in the long run, that’s without being bought by either DC or Marvel. This is likely true for romance.

Harlequin in fact bought some of its competitors (most notably Silhouette and Kimani). Recall how DC bought Charlton, Wildstorm (from Image) and that it was a merger between National Publications and Action Comics. For another matter, Marvel bought Malibu. There might be horror, crime, fantasy and science fiction publishers that did the same, just not to my knowledge.

That’s not to say there’s nary their equivalent of Harlequin or DC and Marvel. The closest would be Tor but there are several more doing the same or similar like Penguin, Gollancz and the like as far as I know. Maybe even the Oxford University Press for classics (romance included). If a publisher has a near-monopoly on the market, the market will be associated with it.

Same with a duopoly.

On romance

As for romance novels, I wouldn’t say they’re bad or good. I don’t read those much so I won’t judge the quality. There could be some romance novels that do depict relationships in a realistic, believable manner with all the consequences. I think somebody pointed out on Mike Duran’s blog that the problem’s due to being overshadowed by a singular publisher.

There are publishers other than Harlequin who do publish romance novels but it doesn’t help that Harlequin’s the biggest publisher who bought other publishers (Mills and Boon, Cora Verlag and Silhouette to name a few) that it’s a near monopoly. The fact that Harper Collins bought Harlequin despite owning Avon (what was one of Harlequin’s competitor) kind of worsens things.

To put it this way DC and Marvel have a near-duopoly on superheroes that even if other publishers do the same genre, it’s either almost always exceptional or briefly. Image used to publish a lot of superhero comics but it turns out to have found its true calling outside of it. Archie Comics also does superhero comics but its bread and butter is Archie Andrews and friends.

The Phantom might count but he’s also a lone example in the newspaper cartoon world, especially since Spider-Man’s part of a bigger brand. If you have publishers having a near-monopoly on such a genre that it’s going to be the first thing to come to mind. For every Jane Austen and any realistic, non-escapist romance novel there’s another one published by Harlequin.

The same person also pointed out about the distribution model. Harlequin novels were formerly distributed through vehicles, longer than other books did. Likewise Marvel and DC tend to dominate the comics specialty shops with non-superhero comics faring better in bookstores. (From personal experience.)

That and market saturation, which Marvel and DC did in the 1990s though they still arguably do to some extent. The parallels aren’t exact but close enough to give an idea of romance publishing.

The future is Chinese

Considering that DC didn’t show up in a convention at this point, though there’s also talks of a DC video game I also think there’s the odd possibility of AT&T (DC’s current owner) trying to figure out a way to effectively market DC Comics characters and brands. I even said that publishers like DC could go the way of Summit Media in the sense of happily going digital for good after having a storied print past.

DC Comics could probably go in that direction, becoming mostly online with print editions being reserved for educational purposes like learning new languages. Another possibility’s that I have a feeling DC Comics might be partly owned by a Chinese company. Especially one that’s going to head west, since somebody else already said that. A rising Chinese company might buy 50% stake in DC and DC could be co-owned.

As strange as it sounds, it does make for an interesting fate that DC might transition to becoming a partly Chinese owned webcomics company.