Dear Sir Richard Branson and Gotham Chopra: I think we need to talk about your superhero habit. I was reading that your company, Virgin Comics, has just employed aging icon Stan Lee to create a new line of superhero books, just days after the publisher announced that it would be releasing Superbia, a series about superheroes in suburbia, and... well, two thoughts come to mind. First off, between this and the other Stan Lee announcement last week, is everyone just giving Stan this much work right now because they're worried that, otherwise, he might die before they can cash in on his name? Secondly, I think it's time we staged an intervention for the two of you.
Don't get me wrong, I know what you're trying to do. Everyone seems to like those superhero comics - Only a handful of titles in the March 2008 top 100 comics aren't superhero books, after all - and you're just like everyone else: You just want to be loved. But announcing two new superhero projects within days of each other only feels good right now. When the sales figures come in, you'll see: All that attention? They're just being polite. No-one really wants to read your superhero books.
Now, now. Don't cry. I'm saying this for your own good. Look at that top 100 list again for a second. Sure, it's superheroes up the wazoo, but only four of those superhero titles come from a company that doesn't have the words "Marvel" or "DC" in their name. The third most popular comic publisher of last month didn't get that not-as-impressive-as-you'd-want-it-to-be title with men in tights; Dark Horse got there by paying ridiculous amounts of money to Joss Whedon and George Lucas, respectively, for their Buffy, Serenity and Star Wars comics (The third most popular superhero publisher is Image, with a massive 3.86% of the market).
It's not as if other publishers haven't tried to break Marvel and DC's stranglehold on the superhero market in the past — Image did a very good job in the '90s - but those attempts tend to be successful only when there's some kind of name recognition, and that's something that Virgin is pretty much completely lacking (Well, outside of Jenna Jameson and Ed Burns, but that's not really what I mean). Yes, I know that everyone knows about Stan Lee, but there's something else that everyone knows about Stan... That he's not done anything worthwhile for decades. You only have to look at Stripperella and Who Wants To Be A Superhero to see that.
You're just throwing your money away, gentlemen. And, sure, Sir Richard - You're used to that by now (Hey, I've tasted Virgin Cola), but there's no need to rush into it so eagerly this time. Maybe there's some Hollywood money or something you can scare up by selling the rights and make some scratch back before everyone wises up. Or perhaps you can convince Stan that he's got Alzheimer's and imagined the whole thing. Just, please: Don't do anymore superhero comics. It's not a good idea, and you'll just hurt everyone involved.
Just say no.
Lee to create superheroes for Virgin [Variety]