Um... Yarr?

By | Monday, April 30, 2007 1 comment
Okay, I'm a pirate-appreciating kind of guy, but I have to say that I'm a little confused by Marvel's recent announcement about putting out illustrated versions of classic stories like Treasure Island. Now don't get me wrong; I think the originals are all great stories and I think the comic format can lure readers into the stories, which will get them to reading the original novels. Lofty aspirations, certainly, but noble ones.

Which is why I'm not sure why Marvel's doing this.

Marvel's a publicly-traded company which reports to their shareholders. Profit is a key driving factor in what they do. It's in Marvel's best interests to tell the best stories they can, so that more people will buy their product and increase those profits, but it's still a profit-driven market. (This isn't a commentary on Marvel in that regard; nearly every comic book publisher runs with the same basic premise -- if it doesn't look like a product will be profitable at some level, it won't get published.) The industry has repeatedly proven that retellings of classic stories simply will not sell very well. The old Classics Illustrated only worked because they kept publishing the same stories over and over again for decades, and were able to recoup their initial cash outlays over a long period. Marvel doesn't work like that, and will effectively only get money within the first month or two of the comics' publication.

Plus, we've already seen several retellings of the various stories Marvel's trying to do. Offhand, I know of at least four different versions of Treasure Island that were published previously -- one of which by Marvel!

I'm not saying that any of these are masterpieces in the same way the original novel was, and I'm not suggesting that there's not a better interpretation that could be done in the comic format. In fact, given the creators involved, I don't doubt that these will be the best versions of the stories in comic format yet published. But I don't think it'll sell particularly well, and I'm curious what sort of projections Marvel's looking at with these. It'll definitely be interesting to see the sales numbers on these once they come in.
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Tim Hamilton said...

I liked MY version!