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Licensing BOOM!

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In the world of modern day comic books, licensed properties are a way for smaller publishers to gain some attention in the crowded marketplace. Devil’s Due established themselves through their agreement with Hasbro to publish comics based on Transformers and G.I. Joe. These licenses are now at IDW, who also hold rights to Star Trek, Doctor Who and Angel, not to mention comic strip collection of Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie and, in October, Bloom County (Yay!).

Dark Horse built itself into a major player with its Alien, Predator, Terminator and Star Wars adaptations. Indie darling Fantagraphics pads its bottom line with artistically designed collections of Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, and Popeye comic strips.

But licensed properties aren’t always cheap for comic publishers, so playing the licensing game could be risky for some smaller publishers. Dreamwave held licenses to the Transformers and various video game titles, but had to face bankruptcy. The Dabel Brothers, who built their name on adapting authors such as Orson Scott Card, Laurell K. Hamilton, and George R.R. Martin, struggled financially, eventually selling their licensing rights to Marvel. Both of these cases surely had to do with the companies having to meet the high price licensers charged for their properties.

BOOM! Studios is no stranger to the licensing game. They have published titles based on the TV shows Eureka and Farscape and have adapted the popular role-playing game Warhammer into comics. But the publisher is about to jump start into a new era of licensing with one of the most historic names in pop culture—Disney. Two Disney properties, The Incredibles and The Muppet Show, hit stores shelves in comic book form tomorrow.

Disney has been licensing its animated features to comic books for almost as long as there have been comic books. They first licensed a comic book adaptation of their stable in 1940, with Western Publications. This relationship lasted almost 45 years and the company, through its many incarnations, adapted almost everything Disney put out during that time.

After Western went out of business, the Disney license went to Gladstone for a few years, before Disney tried to start their own comics publishing firm. Disney Comics only lasted a few years. Marvel Comics published comics based on Disney’s popular films and TV shows of the 1980s and 1990s, after which the rights to Mickey, Donald, and Uncle Scrooge went back to Gladstone—which was renamed Gemstone Publishing.

Gemstone still has the rights to publish comics based on Disney properties even today, but Disney realized that its stable of characters was big enough to survive licensing by more than one company. That’s why BOOM! is able to publish its Disney books. Their licensing agreement only pertains to the Disney Pixar universe and the Jim Henson characters Disney bought in 2004.

Having only limited access to a certain number of a licensor’s properties might seem like a bad idea. But BOOM! Studios received some of Disney’s most lucrative properties.

Pixar has reinvigorated Disney as an animation studio. Its CGI spectaculars are box office sensations and critical darlings. But the most comic book friendly of all Pixar films would have to be The Incredibles.   The film featuring a family of superheroes is a natural fit for the comic book medium, and it is only natural that it is joining Cars in the early wave of adaptations.

And if you were growing up in the late 1970s, odds are you were heavily influenced by The Muppet Show. Jim Henson’s Sesame Street spin-off help shaped the consciousness of an entire generation. Even though episodes haven’t been aired on television since 2001, its lasting popularity is bound to make this series a hit.

Yes, licensed properties are a risky proposition. But BOOM! Studios has a great selection of properties to work with—ones with appeal to both young and old. This could be a time where a licensing agreement could pay off big time.

Also out this week:

Dark Avengers: Elektra #1:

You would think that having come back from the dead after being stabbed through the heart would make anything that came after that much easier to bear. You might be right. But that doesn’t make adjusting to life after you have been kidnapped by aliens, replaced by a doppelganger, and experimented on while your replacement makes a shambles out of your life a walk in the park.

That is what Elektra is facing now. Her Skrull imitator has made a lot of people angry in the time Elektra has been away. These people are looking for payback and targeting the returned Elektra. The struggle to clear her name could be one of the bloodiest battles of her life. The question is: is she up for it?

Zeb Wells (W), Clay Mann (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Oracle #1:

Barbara Gordon might not be of her right mind now. The disbanding of the Birds of Prey, and the role she played in it, has affected her greatly. Has she gone so far over the edge that she will let an innocent girl die? Even the daughter of her arch nemesis Calculator? Considering the Anti-Life Equation is the only thing that could save her, that might just be what Barbara needs to do.

Fans hoping for Barbara Gordon starring in a solo book probably also hoped for her to be wearing a cape and cowl at the same time. But this series, which ties into the Batman: Battle for the Cowl epic, might still feature Barbara as Oracle and not Batgirl, but it will bring her closer to the Batman universe. Which is a positive sign for all you Batgirl lovers out there.

  Kevin VanHook (W), Don Kramer (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Stitch:

Toy Story shows one tale of the secret life of toys when you are not around. But that was a bittersweet, yet bright, story of friendship and camaraderie. What if the truth is much darker? And what would happen if the toys in question aren’t being played with any more and are relegated to the attic.

That is delved into here. This graphic novel shows the hidden society that results from this kind of isolation, the hierarchy that exists, and the cruel treatment of the rag doll in this set up. This isn’t Toy Story—it’s Toy Story as it would have been if it was directed by Tim Burton. If you like your fairy tales grim and dark, then this one is for you.

Tommy Kovac (W/A), Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics, $10.95. Original Graphic Novel.

Wolverine Saga:

In case you didn’t know, or forgot in all the Watchmen hype, Wolverine has a movie coming out. Marvel didn’t forget, and over the next two months is releasing a deluge of Wolverine products on the unsuspecting comic buying public. It will be impossible to swing a dead cat in a comic book store without hitting a new Wolverine comic book.

But one of the most valuable books for new Wolvie readers doesn’t cost a dime. The Clawed Canuck is getting his own “saga” issue. These one-shots give a recap of the character’s origin and history in the idea of bringing new readers up to speed. So, if your non-comic fan friends are looking forward to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this might be the perfect gift for them.

Michael Hoskin (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, FREE. One-Shot.

IndianaJones and the Tomb of the Gods #4:

Indiana Jones has always had an advantage over the Nazis. He’s always been on about an equal footing when it came to brawn, but it was Indy’s smarts that always gave him the edge. But that might be all over. Nazi scientist Dr. Frederich Von Hassell is more than a match for Indy’s intellect. And that might tip the race for the secret behind the Tomb of the Gods over to the bad guys’ side!

There was 19 years between the third and fourth installments of the Indiana Jones film franchise and for a while it looked like it might be as long between third and fourth issues of this series. This issue was supposed to be released way back in September of 2008. That’s the kind of lateness which bodes ill for ever seeing Indy in the comic pages ever again.  

Rob Williams (W), Bart Sears (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

Top 10 Special #1:

Usually, when a lawyer has a client that pleads guilty, it makes it easier for them. They’ll have less work, less time taken away from their schedule, but still get the same pay scale. But what if the defendant pleading guilty really isn’t? That is what Girl Two is facing. She believes her client is innocent of the murder he is being charged with. But, if that is the case, why is he willing to face the death penalty for a crime he didn’t commit?

Wildstorm once again returns to the America’s Best Universe to romp through the playground Alan Moore created. It’s a credit to Moore’s creativity that a plot that would seem at home on Law & Order could make for what seems to be an exciting comic book as well!

Zander Cannon (W), Da Xiong (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $2.99. Special.

X-Infernus #4:

The final battle for Illyana’s soul is here. And the X-Men have to face a foe more terrifying than any they’ve ever faced—themselves. It’s a battle they have no hope of winning but must not lose. Because it’s not just Illyana’s salvation they are fighting for, it’s their own. If they lose, limbo will claim them for its own.

If the solicitation for the upcoming New Mutants series is any indication, the X-Men will be successful, because Illyana is looking pretty spry and non-demonic on the cover to the first issue of that new series. But don’t let the lack of suspense stop you from picking this one up. If you are looking forward to the reunited New Mutants, it all starts here.

C.B. Cebulski (W), Giuseppe Camuncoli (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY and is expecting his first child with his wife Jennifer. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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