At this point in the comic-book industry, Marvel and DC Comics have several proven sellers. You know the names — Batman, Spider-Man and all the rest.
These are the characters that always sell well — or at the very least — characters that have the firm committment of their respective companies
Over at Marvel, its 10 top-level characters (and teams) are:
- Iron Man
- Captain America
- Fantastic Four
Over at DC, its 10 top-level characters (and teams) are:
- Wonder Woman
- Green Lantern
- Justice League
- Teen Titans
- Plastic Man
- Captain Marvel
These 20 titles, adding a different title or subtracting another depending on the current market trends, are the titles the two companies should pour their attention and resources on. They should focus on them and build their audience.
If a title can support two versions — a Green Lantern solo title and the Green Lantern Corps team title, for example — then so be it. The more the merrier. But for branding purposes, these core titles are the focus. They guide the company and should, more or less, be in constant production.
Sure, they may not always be good, and the emphasis might not be there, but push them to ride out the storm. This is how you can let Iron Man slide for a while as you ride the excitement of a Punisher bubble. But when that bubble bursts, you still have Iron Man to rebuild.
And, while their sales may rise and fall, your push, as the publisher, is to make sure that these characters and concepts everyone will recognize. These 10 are key to building the Marvel or DC brand.
Sure, the companies can — and absolutely should — work on introducing and strengthening other characters, but these “Top 10” are the focus. These are the ones to push into every media type and exploited in every type of merchandising.
Likewise, it is absolutely vital that the successful properties be used to promote the less successful concepts — both from the core and those still in the experimental phase. The concepts work to leverage one another higher and higher as they gain value. The experimental characters and concepts will then be pulled along for the ride.
Most importantly, Marvel and DC need to always look for ways to maximize a concept’s potential and keep them in constant circulation. If Wonder Woman, for example, fails in one media form — even her own comics — then the Wonder Woman concept should be tried in another format. Once a version clicks, that version should be propagated throughout the rest until that variation begins its own decline. That decline should spark testing on a new version to start the cycle all over again.
To keep the core properties strong, this cycle must be pushed through again and again. The result will create strong brands and fierce loyalties by the consumers.
Likewise, it’s a path that other comic companies can — and should — follow as they work to develop their own brands.
(In fact, Comics on the Brain still wishes the Continuity Comics Universe got another chance. We’d love to see Megalith again.)