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Comic Book IP Farming

“Over the past few decades, comic books have become Hollywood’s most reliable well for source material. It’s easy to see why — not only is comics one the most vibrant storytelling mediums in the world, but the books themselves offer built-in storyboarding, providing writers and directors a visual template on which to build a film.”

-TechCrunch (2017)

Somewhere between not quite an industry secret and not common knowledge is the gap where all the most fascinating pieces of information sleep. For comic books one such not-so-secret is the concept and practice of IP farming. I think it can be best summarised as “The creation of an intellectual property with the sole, or explicit purpose of adapting that property for another medium. And or selling off, leasing, licensing the right to produce that IP to a larger company that can maximise the revenue/profit of it.”

Hoping to stand out in a crowded market dominated by the corporate giants DC Comics and Marvel Comics, smaller publishers are adopting new business strategies to better compete.

-NyTimes (2019)

With the outstanding success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the film and TV adaption by Disney of Marvel comic books such as The Avengers, Spider-Man, Ironman, Thor, and many other. The proof of concept went above and beyond predicted levels of success with the movies individual raking in billions of dollars at the box offices. Similarly, Warner Bros. has seen persistent success with its tv and animated series/film adaptions of DC Comics IP, the likes of The Flash, Superman (Smallville), Green Arrow, the Teen Titans, and even obscure titles such as Doom Patrol see some the highest rating that TV has witnessed to date.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that smaller indie publishers and creator-owned comic book creators would want even a thin slice of that massive money cycle. Some would argue that DC and Marvel comics have the size and longevity to pull off these adaption deals with enough power to leverage themselves into good deals – that smaller creators don’t have that kind of ground to stand on. But there are enough success stories to create a viable benchmark for many to flock to. Series adaptation such as Umbrella Academy on Netflix, reporting that the series reached “45 million households in its first four weeks“.

All the foundation laid out in front of us gives the perfect through ball for creators to begin to tailor their work towards adaption. Churning out shorter more digestible comic runs and plots, hinged on the idea of future production costs. Thinking that the high sci-fi/fantasy will have less of a chance than a comic that is more grounded in reality. Choosing potential profits over the integrity of the story.

Now the question is: “Is IP Farming a bad thing?” with most things in the world. It’s debatable.

On the one hand, it is just another methodology for Maximizing Your Comic Revenue that is in all fairness a viable business model for creators to make the most out of what they’ve created. Where the reverse is also viable in monetizing the script needed for a comic book. It is simply just another medium to express the same ideas. Think Shakespearean theater created for a book or film.

On the other hand, placing a limit on storytelling robs the world of the rich entertainment of someone’s creativity. There are no new ideas under the sun, however in the world of fiction we are free from the mundane chains of grounded thinking. Some of the greatest leaps in science and technology were crafted not by physicists or mathematicians but by dreamers and artists and poets. It’s a grand disservice to collective human race. Boundless storytelling is the feast on which our souls aspire to consume, the thing that makes us human beyond our biological needs.

In the end, philosophy doesn’t put food on our plates, but the food would be tasteless without it.


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