'Death of Spider-man' continues media's spotlight on comics
Published: Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 00:06
Marvel Comics released the final issue of its long-running title "Ultimate Spider-man" last Wednesday, and the mainstream media made a point to cover its occurrence.
The Associated Press ran, "The lights are going out for Peter Parker, the high school student bitten by a radioactive spider whose wall-crawling and web-slinging antics have made him a touchstone of Marvel Comics' universe of heroes and villains."
The final issue marked the conclusion of Marvel's "Death of Spider-Man" story line. A tale in which, obviously, Spider-Man dies.
Despite the forefront title and the stories published by the AP, USAToday, and the New York Post, Gary Loring, of Gary's Comics and More located in Morgantown, noted that the specific issue sold less than a typical issue of "Ultimate Spider-Man."
As for reasoning, Loring cites the specific issue's packaging as an inhibitor. "Ultmate Spider-Man No. 160" came wrapped in a collectable plastic bag that inhibited customers from viewing the comic's contents.
"There were a few people who came in and were interested," Loring said. "But once they saw it was sealed and couldn't see the actual book, people passed on it."
While the plastic wrapped comic inspires thoughts of "pristine" and "mint condition," terms that are believed to excite comic book readers, the technique is one with a poor history. DC Comics' "Death of Superman," another comic with a forefront title, famously made use of the plastic bag in the mid-1990s. The event, because of its gimmicky nature, made the bag aesthetic a strong, negative memory for most readers.
Loring noted that he would not remove the bag because he felt he would be tampering with the product.
Other than the bag, Loring hinted at overuse of comic book deaths to be a factor in the low interest in "Death of Spider-Man"
"Back when death in comics meant something, there was hype," Loring said.
Such hype accompanied 2007's "Captain America No. 25." At the time, Marvel Comics published its crossover event "Civil War," and as a way to unofficially cap off the important story line the patriotic hero, Captain America, was shot dead in his own book.
Due to an early leak of the comic's contents, it's connection to a preexisting plot line, and a hardcore media blitz, "Captain America No. 25" sold very well and pushed many outsiders into comic stores for the first time.
Ever since, Marvel, and to a lesser extent DC Comics, has been after a follow-up performance by killing such characters as the X-Men's Nightcrawler and Johnny Storm, the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four.
"Generally the average costumer cares about a character's death if they are already reading that character's book," Loring said. "I could see outside people coming into shops, but the advertising on these things needs to be better."
Advertising for comic books is ultimately pretty weak. Instances like "Death of Spider-Man" will pick up the mainstream press, but as for grassroots marketing from the actual publishers, the output is thin. Comics are mainly promoted within their own circles.
They only receive widespread attention when publishers play the death card.
According to Joey Aulisio, co-host of The Chemical Box podcast, this type of spotlight on comics will only, if not already, grow old.
"I don't believe it's done much good, and I think it's only going to start seeming desperate to people outside of comics," Aulisio said.
"The message the media presents appears to be ‘Hey, look at us (comics). We're still relevant,' and I don't think they are persuading anyone" Aulisio added.
But, comics should receive the attention of mainstream media. At least, that is the opinion of WVU senior and occasional comics reader Stephen Hoops who feels comics are "a worthy form of entertainment."
Hoops also finds mainstream coverage a possible persuasion tactic in the department of selling comics.
"I absolutely feel encouraged to check out a specific book. Especially when the story discusses something pretty drastic or new," Hoops said.
Death does not necessarily fall under Hoop's list of "drastic or new," though.
"The media seems to cover the most arbitrary things these days, so what might be valuable to one will be worthless to another," Hoops said, "As for character deaths, it seems a little pointless because there are so many versions of one character."
"It's like one character will die, but in another comic, the character still exists. It's almost like they're out of context," Hoops added.
In all of this, though, Hoops suggests that the media should cover more of the hard work put into creating comics.
"We treasure storytellers in America, so why not appreciate folks who write and draw all the time to present our modern-day mythology?" Hoops asked.