Smaller publishers are coming up with new business models in order to ride the wave of popularity that has been driven by big-screen adaptations of comic book heroes.

The giants of the genre, DC and Marvel, have been quick to pick up the boost in comic book sales created by the migration of their characters from page to screen in phenomenally successful movies. ‘Avengers: Endgame’, the 22nd instalment in Marvel’s movie franchise, which burst on to the big screen recently, took $2bn in under two weeks.

‘The Walking Dead’, a hit for AMC is based on an Image Comics series. And Netflix is streaming ‘The Umbrella Academy’, about a dysfunctional family of heroes from Dark Horse Comics, along with ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’, centred on a teenage witch from Archie Comics.

These big screen versions have had a welcome effect on a venerable printed medium, with sales of comic books up by $80m last year.

Smaller publishers are keen to get on the act, with a comic book character franchise capable of being monetised across multiple platforms, including movies and PC and mobile games.

The latest example, The New York Times reported, is the merger of independent publishers Lion Forge and Oni Press. The companies say the move will strengthen their respective libraries of original comics and help them leverage characters across other media.

Other publishers are looking to direct-to-consumer sales, long-form stories (“binge-able”, as the NYT says), as well as financially incentivising creators.

The growing market is a lure to new publishers to enter. Last year, sales of comics in the US and Canada reached $1.095bn, according to estimates by ICV2, an online publication covering pop culture, and Comichron, a resource for research into comics.

Despite the slim odds of big success, small players are still drawn to the industry in the hope of creating a multiplatform franchise. But it’s tough, Milton Griepp, the chief executive of ICV2, told the NYT.

“I think people keep trying because it’s like any other entertainment business: the odds of success are low, but the payoffs are big.

“There’s even the bigger dream, which is somebody goes to the Avengers movie and says, ‘I want to create the universe that 50 years from now is the biggest spectacle in entertainment,’” Griepp added. “That’s why people keep doing it.”

Sourced from The New York Times; additional content by WARC staff