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In the wake of the lackluster performance of Disney’s John Carter movie at the box office earlier this month, cartoonist Evan Dorkin uses that sometimes-comic character to look back on his home medium and ask what would be the comics equivalent. Phrasing it as only he can, Dorkin asks in a blog post, “What are the ‘Holy shit, we spent a lot of money and published this comic book and no one bit’ titles out there?”
While Dorkin notes that comics makes only a small percentage of what the movie industry makes every year, he does stress that most comics have trouble breaking even. His question is which ones had an exorbitant budget that the publisher didn’t recoup in the slightest.
In the long and engaging post, Dorkin describes superhero comics akin to B-movies, saying, “There’s a built-in audience and the publishers generally know what they’re gonna get when they put something out. And by and large, they don’t fork over a ton of dough to the creators or spend a wad on pre-production figuring out what they’re doing.”
Another point I’d add to Dorkin’s question that makes finding an answer even more difficult is how secretive comic publishers are about their budgets and sales figures compared to to movie studios. While publishers are quick to shoot off press releases about comics “selling out,” no major publishing house releases figures the way movie box office figures are put on display every week. Because the general public and even the journalists covering the industry don’t have accurate figures about the money spent and the money earned on a comic, only the publishers know–and they’re not telling. But that’s an entirely separate discussion.
In the comments section, some of Dorkin’s readers chime in with potential examples like the 90s Valiant/Image crossover Deathmate, DC’s War Of The Gods crossover and certain publishers as a whole like Crossgen and Tekno. What do you think?