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In the last decade, comics have gone from a niche market to a global phenomenon. Two companies have been major players in driving this popularity, Marvel and DC.
Home to the likes of Spider-Man and Batman, respectively; these giants of industry have used numerous Content Marketing techniques to push comics, and the culture surrounding comics, into the mainstream. Let’s take a look at how they’ve managed this feat, and how your businesses can learn from this.
Let’s start where both these companies started out, with comics. Both Marvel and DC have been publishing comics since the 1930s. In that time, they’ve spawned various iterations of their popular characters, launched countless wide-scale events and collected numerous books into trade paperback and hardback editions.
So how have they managed to keep readers interested all these years?
People love stories. Whether you’re sitting in the pub with friends, chilling around the water cooler or just relaxing at home with loved ones, we tell stories to entertain, enthral and build relationships.
What DC and Marvel have done is build these stories over a long period of time. Whether you’re a fan of their popular characters, or you’re into the slightly more surreal, less common additions, every character in comics has a wealth of history and back story to explore and build upon.
The majority of comic book stories are character driven. Readers become enamoured with these characters as they watch them grow, develop and overcome obstacles. And whilst sometimes histories or back stories may be seemingly refreshed or altered for storytelling purposes (looking at you One More Day), the writers are usually able to build upon any changes and successfully incorporate this into the character’s story.
To quote Uncle Ben, “With great power, comes great responsibility”, and with great content comes great talent.
Because they became known for releasing amazing stories, the comic book giants were able to attract some of most skilled artists and writers within the industry. The likes of Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns are all renowned names within comics, and each have them have had a hand in shaping the characters we know and love today.
Some of these people have even gone on to have a larger role in the companies as a whole, becoming Producers, Editors and Heads Of Departments.
Even a great story can test your interest at times, so how do you shake things up, and get people to stand up and take notice again? Large scale events, that’s how.
Recent examples include the upcoming Convergence and Secret Wars events from DC and Marvel respectively. Each event includes nearly every current publication from these companies in some way or another, and each promises to shake up the status quo with universe-changing stories.
These events take years to plan and execute well, with all the comics in between slowly building up to, and acting as promotion, for each story.
These companies aren’t just producing great comics though. They’re also utilising numerous other channels to help push their characters and products into the mainstream. This includes film and television.
It’s in this case that Marvel have a huge advantage over DC – consistency, across the board. Whereas DC’s multiple mediums are seemingly unconnected, Marvel have connected their content through several different approaches (some subtle, others not so much).
For example, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night film trilogy showcases a very different Batman to the depiction in the comic books.
Sometimes, the strategy of keeping your various forms of content separate from each other works well.
DC have actively stated that their TV and Film universes are unconnected for example, allowing them to essentially split test audience reception by following through with different themes and stories in each medium.
On the other hand, connecting your content can sometimes work in favour of your brand and your audience.
When Marvel revamped their comics with their ‘Ultimate’ line, many of the books were written to be more accessible to readers, reflecting popular public perceptions of the characters. ‘The Ultimates’, as an example, was an overhauled version of the Avengers, Marvel’s mightiest group of heroes.
The book featured (slightly) more grounded versions of characters, and was, for all intents and purposes, written to be easily adapted to film (a common habit of the book’s author, Mark Miller).
Comics have an incredibly passionate and dedicated fan base, and it’s growing every day. Whilst you might not have such a vocal crowd surrounding your brand, you still need to consider the emotional attachments of your audience.
Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer at DC, sums it up nicely:
“If you’ve read The Flash comic and see the show, it’s not the exact same, but it’s an adaptation that’s celebrating it. I think that’s the key word: celebration. If we can execute this emotionally, he can wear a red costume with little wings on his outfit and you’ll buy into it.”
Let’s take a look at what we’ve learnt so far:
For more information on how your brand can make the most out of Content Marketing, contact a member of the Koozai team today.
Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Spider-Man: One More Day
Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of DC vs. Marvel
Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Batman Dark Knight Rises
Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of The Flash