Oh yeah? Then where are all of LB’s shows? Where’s the justice? Huh? Huh?
by Brian Steinberg
Has your favorite TV show been canceled, gotten stuck in repeats or gone off the air for a long hiatus? You might find solace at your local comicbook store.
The racks these days are still filled with comics about Batman and Captain America, but they also contain their fair share of four-color titles about “Star Trek” and “My Pretty Pony.” IDW Publishing recently re-started a series about Fox’s “24,” in tandem with the network’s new limited series, “24: Live Another Day.” In March, Lion Forge Comics launched a digital comic about an old favorite, NBC’s “Miami Vice,” the latest in a series of comicbook partnerships with the Peacock. The company also produces digital comics based on old series like “Saved by the Bell,” “Punky Brewster” and “Airwolf.”
Networks have long adopted popular comicbook tales for the smallscreen, as made plain by series that range from 1978’s “The Incredible Hulk” to 2001’s “Smallville” to next season’s debuts of the Batman-inspired “Gotham” on Fox and “The Flash” on the CW. But the networks have also recognized that comics can do more than inspire. They can also help keep a veteran property out of mothballs.
“Publishing today is very much a key driver for television properties,” says Liz Kalodner, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Consumer Products. “There is just a tremendous amount of flexibility. What it really offers us is an opportunity for fans, in a world that they know with characters they love.” Canceled shows can live on in the pages of a comicbook. Check out a popular series about “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” which offered up new “seasons” of the show.
The comics are just one of dozens of forays by the networks into licensed products. This industry has been part of the TV business for decades, taking the form of T-shirts and lunchboxes among other items. In 2014 licensing efforts carry new weight: networks and studios are placing more emphasis on the revenue they can generate from sales of their programming not only into syndication, but to overseas outlets and to streaming-video sites like Netflix and Amazon. Keeping current and canceled TV programs in the public eye is a means of stoking demand for the content.
The goods also have worth in and of themselves. During a recent conference call with investors, Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman suggested that economic stabilization in Europe and new opportunities for retail in developing foreign countries created a good market for products related to such Viacom properties as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
For comicbook publishers, the chance to tell stories about recognizable TV characters can be quite a boon. “We launched the company with a few of our own original titles, and we wanted to do something to engage audiences with something they were very familiar with,” says Dave Steward, chief executive of Lion Forge. While others were snapping up current properties, Steward said, “we found this group of properties that have very high recognition,” but were best recalled by fans who had already grown up, and who might share the characters with their own kids. “It was a great opportunity to explore a new avenue.”