Hollywood’s new craving for comic continuity

This year saw a few major events happen to the comic industry, however, only one truly deals with the future of the business of comics: Disney bought Marvel Entertainment.

“Disney will ruin Marvel somehow.” No, it won’t. Disney bought Marvel because it wanted Marvel like they were some endless supply of supermodels on top of a cocaine mountain. You don’t buy the cocaine mountain then force it to be more like black-tar heroin – you don’t get how drugs work. Right now, the business of comic books, or graphic novels (if you’re uptight), is in movies, and comics are the drug that Hollywood both currently craves and needs the most, inspiration-wise.

They’re making an Avengers film. Think about that for a second: Marvel Studios has actually taken the comic creative/business tactic of creating continuity within a series by making multi-million dollar financed films all lead to a crossover film. When has this ever been done within Hollywood? That’s like James Bond teaming up with Indiana Jones to fight Darth Vader – something over the top and costly that only a finite group of people would enjoy. Then again, the biggest movies are those that are inherently nerdy, case in point being that two of the top three grossing films of all time are Avatar and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The rest of the top 10 are Harry Potter films, cartoons, or Batman.

This is why Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion back on New Year’s Eve. They want their well (their entire canon) of ideas, and Marvel wants to make money. When it comes to merchandising, superheroes are some of the easiest things to make into cheap crap to be sold, which satisfies Disney like a... well, cocaine mountain. On the other side of the coin (or mountain), you have Marvel Entertainment, which gets all the wonderful resources Disney can provide. The collective nerd hard-on, for example, seems focused on the possibility of Pixar making Marvel movies.

This is how the two biggest comic companies will make money – by making movies. DC, owned by Warner Brothers, is set to release a superhero movie every year though Warner Brothers once the studio is done with the Harry Potter franchise. It means a steady goal for DC and the promise of a summer blockbuster for Warner every year.

Ultimately, what if it turns out that this Avengers film is really successful? Not just the movie, but the formula of continuity in which characters from other movies will find each other in crossover films. I don’t care if it’s good. The idea alone requires a minimum of chrome-plated balls to pull off. If it is financially successful, then we could see this have a much greater effect on action and sci-fi films in the future.

The idea of continuity in a collection of independently made (creatively speaking) films, all connected to one another in various ways, is not that far-fetched of a scenario. Film franchises could be expanded creatively to span over multiple films, all with their own characters. There would be no great stress on a single group of actors over the course of three films released in six years. Instead, there would be an ensemble cast spread over three films released within three years of each other.  

The Avengers, from a film-goer’s stand point, is no different than The Expendables: both feature a cast of individuals easily recognizable for their close love affair with violence. Don’t deny that you saw The Expendables wholly based on the cast. The trailers gave nothing away as to what the plot was or who these characters were exactly: just that a group of people known for bloodlust were making explosions happen in a country that wasn’t America. The difference between the two is that the Avengers is a collection of characters that people care about. The cast is replaceable as long as the characters are still there. The Avengers, for example, will feature the Hulk as played by Mark Ruffalo because apparently Edward Norton (who played the Hulk not longer than two years ago) is a bit of a douche.

Disney and Warner Brothers could eventually be the suppliers of the sweetness Hollywood craves, getting studios addicted to continuity and comic-style crossover films where we finally get to see Freddy Krueger fight a Predator, or the women from Sex and the City fight to the death with the High School Musical kids. 

//Sam MacDonald

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