Harry Who?

By | Friday, July 13, 2007 Leave a Comment
So, you may have heard something about this Harry Potter character that's had a few books and movies about him. Kind of a wizard in training thing. Goes up against a big, bad villain that killed his parents and is out to conquer the world or something. I think there's a new movie coming out this week, and a new book a week or two afterwards.

Personally, I don't care for it. I read the first book and was summarily unimpressed. Seemed like pretty flat characters and a standard plot. The wording was simple in a banal sort of way, and the "inventiveness" of the wizard school just didn't strike me as that particularly clever. I didn't bother reading any of the other books. The Wife has dragged me to all the movies -- usually on opening nights -- and each movie has gotten progressively worse from a storytelling perspective. The last one was simply unfollowable unless you had already read the book.

That said, though, I recognize that the Harry Potter franchise is not aimed at me in the first place. I don't understand the allure it has, but I generally chalk it up into the no-harm-no-foul category. And, hey, if it gets people to read, so much the better.

What I personally appreciate about the Harry Potter stories, though, is how they've helped the comic book industry.

"What the heck are you smoking, Sean? They've never made a Harry Potter comic book!"

True. But look at the overall Harry Potter story. A young kid is raised in a humble environment, only to suddenly realize that he has great power. Given his background, he realizes/understands that his powers should be used for the forces of good. Or, if you will, he understands that "With great power comes great responsibility."

The Harry Potter stories follow a largely typical set of plots that are not at all unusual to superhero comic books. If a child started reading the books when they were first published -- as many did -- they would have been in high school when they were introduced to the about-the-same-age-as-them Peter Parker in the Spider-Man movie. I'm sure it's not by accident that Tobey Maguire, who was chosen to play Spider-Man, could pass for the older brother of Daniel Radcliffe, who had by then already played Harry Potter.

I will credit marvel with taking advantage of Harry's popularity (whether by accident or design I'll leave up to you to judge) and the timing of Ultimate Spider-Man could not have been much better. It provided an excellent bridge from Potter to Spider-Man to comics in general. Now, whether or not, people actually followed that path, I don't know. But sales numbers seem to bear that out, as more people began looking for more Spider-Man material and more comic material in general.

Now, it could entirely be that the similar increases in popularity were entirely coincidental, and not necessarily related. A prime argument for that thinking is simply that there are no Harry Potter comics to make that bridge, and the novel to movie to movie to comic bridge is a long and tenuous one at best. Another argument could be that no one else, to my knowledge, has ever made that connection, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the smartest guy when it comes to comic book marketing trends.

In any event, I'm going to be dragged into the movie theater soon with hundreds of annoying children in yellow and red scares, and probably dragged to the bookstore in the middle of the night a week or two later whenever it is that they release the next Harry Potter tome. I'd love to see kids get that excited about a comic franchise, but I suppose we'll have to make do for now with whatever spillover we can get.
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