The Middle Ground #67 | Double Duty
I’m kind of fascinated by Ardden Co-President Brendan Deneen’s comments at Comic Book Resources about sharing the Flash Gordon license with Dynamite Entertainment, if only because I’ve been wondering about “shared” licenses for a while.
For those who haven’t seen Deneen’s comments, he told CBR’s Kiel Phegley, “[T]o have someone else come along and start publishing the same character while we’re in the middle of our run … yeah, it stings. It kind of feels like someone stabbing you in the back. Sure, they’re technically ‘allowed’ to do this but that doesn’t make it any less lame on their part.” And … well, I can kind of see his point, on one hand; to have a recognizable brand as your central book is kind of a big deal for any publisher, nevermind a smaller one, and to see that enticement to readers go from being an exclusive thing to something being shared with a larger publisher … Well, that’s really got to suck.
Thing is, Dynamite should be very sympathetic to Deneen’s situation, seeing as Dynamite has seen John Carter of Mars suddenly become a Marvel property now that Disney is starting to put its promotional weight behind their Carter movie next year, even though there are currently three Carter series available from Dynamite. Of course, Dynamite isn’t the only publisher to share John with Marvel; I was surprised to see this in Marvel’s most recent round of solicitations:
JOHN CARTER, WARLORD OF MARS OMNIBUS HC
Written by MARV WOLFMAN, CHRIS CLAREMONT, PETER B. GILLIS, BILL MANTLO & ALAN WEISS
Penciled by GIL KANE, DAVE COCKRUM, CARMINE INFANTINO, WALTER SIMONSON, ROSS ANDRU, ERNIE COLON, FRANK MILLER, MIKE VOSBURG, LARRY HAMA, SAL BUSCEMA, ERNIE CHAN & ALAN WEISS
Covers by ALAN DAVIS & GIL KANE
Marvel’s top talents of the 1970s take on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ savage swordsman of Barsoom! John Carter, a hunted soldier on the Western frontier, is transported to an alien world filled with six-armed aliens, sinister super-science and the love of his life, the incomparable Dejah Thoris! A must-have science-fiction epic in the Mighty Marvel Manner! Collecting JOHN CARTER, WARLORD OF MARS #1-28 and ANNUAL #1-3.
Why was I surprised? Because this is exactly the same material as a collection Dark Horse put out this past February. The differences are in terms of format; Marvel’s is a full-color oversize hardcover for $99.99, Dark Horse’s is an “Essentials”-style black and white paperback for $29.99 (Hint: Save yourself the 70 bucks and get the DH version; the color probably isn’t that good).
Thing is, though, I’m not sure whether or not sharing franchises is necessarily a bad thing. Yes, I know that brand loyalty definitely affects initial purchasing, perhaps, but what’s to say that someone buying Dynamite’s Flash Gordon isn’t going to decide that they want to read more about the character and jump over onto the Ardden books? Or, for that matter, that fans of Flash, Carter (or The Phantom, which Dynamite shared with Moonstone for awhile, as far as I remember? The golden age superheroes featured in Project Superpowers, Terra Obscura and Savage Dragon, as well) would even care – or notice? – which publisher the stories came from, as long as they were good.
In a weird way, sharing licenses forces publishers to up their game: It’s not enough to only rely on name recognition, now you also have to do the best books out there featuring those characters. When you look at it like that, you almost end up wishing that even more characters and licenses could be shared between publishers…