It’s become a truism of the current comics era that a movie or TV show based on a comics property will only spark big book sales if there is a clear and defined book that ties in closely with the movie or TV show. Thus big sales for things like 300, SCOTT PILGRIM, WATCHMEN, KICK-ASS, WALKING DEAD, and so on. We’ll call it the Naruto Effect, since Naruto manga sales surged upwards when it was broadcast on the Cartoon Network.
The Naruto Effect is problematic for Marvel and DC because most of their movies are based on comics that are up to issue #500 or so. JUmping on one of these old-timers is like jumping on a moving train from a cliffside. Even a collection is not that definitive, as every book — Batman, Spider-Man, Hellblazer — has dozens of volumes to choose from. In fact Marvel has, in the past, pretty much given up on having a graphic novel tie in to their very successful movies for just this reason.
However, there can be “spin-off” sales hits. The last one we can think of was The Joker gn by Azzarello and Bermejo which sold gangbusters in the year THE DARK KNIGHT came out — the book had nothing to do with the movie, but the dark, adult portrayal of he Joker felt a bit like the movie, and people may have sought it out because of that. (It was also a pretty good book on its own.)
The next Marvel movie is THOR, opening May 5, which has the usual jumping on point problems. However, it appears that one book may be having a “spin-off” Naruto Effect, namely the Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus just out this month. At 1192 pages for $125, this is no impulse purchase — however it’s already at #9 in the Amazon GN bestseller’s list and an impressive #559 in books overall.
Now we all know Amazon’s sales rankings are easy to game, and the different between the #100 book and the #1000 book might be just a copy or two. Still, even at the discounted price of $73.03, that’s a pretty nice piece of change. And the movie hasn’t even opened yet, and the book hasn’t officially shipped yet.
It helps, of course, that Simonson’s Thor work is assured, lively storytelling that stands the test of time, and is reckoned as one of the most definitive runs on Thor.
Hype for the Thor movie is entering its peak phase, so we’ll see how the Thor books track.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.