The future could be one that sees Marvel and DC no longer publishing comics, at least according to one writer. Bob Layton is best known for his Iron Man run but also worked on Hercules and co-created characters like Scott Lang and Ghost, who appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp, which just arrived in theaters. It's this very successful business model of turning these characters into the subjects of movies and TV shows that leads Layton to believe that, eventually, Disney and Warner Bros., the companies that are ultimately in control of Marvel and DC respectively, will leave comic book publishing behind.
Not only did Bob Layton work for Marvel Comics quite a bit, but he also co-founded Valiant Comics with the legendary Jim Shooter. So this isn't just some nobody shooting off an unfounded opinion. At the same time, he doesn't work directly with Disney or Warner Bros., but he still thinks that the much more profitable movie and TV model will spell the death of comic books as we know them. Here's what he had to say in a recent interview.
"Yeah, because Marvel now is about the brand, not about the characters anymore. Everything's that Marvel brand, you know? I don't think it's the same thing, it's like artists are taking front and center on a lot of books and it was never that way. I mean, most of the guys who grew up, they only found out I did the book in retrospect, they were just reading it every month because they couldn't wait for the next issue, and that's the way it should be, shouldn't be about us, we shouldn't overshadow the characters or the story. But they're at such a point where sales are so low too that anything sells a book. That's part of the problem to me, being on the inside and having been a businessman in the industry. I saw the writing on the walls, it's an unsustainable business model. You can't keep going on."
Looking at Disney specifically, they have billions in revenue coming in from the movie and TV side of things, in addition to other merchandising. As for the publishing side of Marvel Comics, sales have been in decline and prices continue to rise. Whatever profits are made from books centered on their biggest heroes and other big titles like Star Wars comics are still a drop in the bucket, relatively speaking. Bob Layton continued, explaining that someone is eventually going to look at these diminishing returns and make a business-minded decision.
"Sooner or later Marvel or DC, Warner Bros. or Disney will look at the publishing arm as diminishing returns. Both of them have the largest reprint libraries in the world. I mean, think about, when's the last time you saw a Mickey Mouse comic? Mickey Mouse is the most popular character globally, most known character. They don't make comics of Mickey Mouse anymore. Once you climb the rungs of the ladder and become part of the lexicon, you push the ladder off, you're on top. All this other stuff, Iron Man sells what, 20,000 copies a month or something? You think they're even making a profit off that? And the price keeps going up. Now we're competing with Netflix. When comics hit $7, they're dead, because it's just cheaper to get a Netflix subscription and watch all the Marvel stuff in the cinematic universe. So as I said, 10 years ago I saw the writing on the wall. And not that I don't love comics, I do."
He punctuated the point by adding, "it's an unsustainable business model. This industry hasn't changed in 75 years. We're still putting out this pamphlet that you have to encase in plastic so it doesn't rot." Stil, even if Bob Layton is right, it may be a long time before this happens. DC just made a big push for comics by including a digital library of DC Comics titles as part of their DC Universe subscription service. Marvel also has Marvel Unlimited which offers a subscription service for digital comics. Is this just a cynical way of looking at things? Or will new comic books from the biggest publishers ultimately fall by the wayside? It's a sad thought, however, it's hard not to see where Layton is coming from. This news comes to us courtesy of AIPT.