EL PASO – Six blockbuster movies based on comic books exploded into theaters this summer mirroring people’s discontent with the general state of the world.
In the last seven years the genre has grown from films that appeal to a niche audience to movies that draw the general public. “You see, what they (comics) are, are historical picture books.” Mark Hajunga smiles as he stands at his counter of his store, Comic, Cards & Collectibles. He knows that the proof to his statement lies in the mountains of comics around him.
Every time the world changed so did comics, sometimes even predicting future events. Hajunga explains, “That is why Captain America #1 had Captain America punching Hitler, and that is before we got into the war.” The comic was on sale in December of 1940 almost a whole year before December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Movies have always been boasted as recession proof, but comic books seem to be not only recession proof, they thrive in tuff economic and political times. Brad Wilson, owner of All Star Comics says, “Yeah, the recession has not effected us at all, I think because the military, they get paid twice a month they basically have stability with their job. Maybe like 60%, 65%, of our business is military.”
A little known fact to comic-book-outsiders is that the political and economic climate that gave birth to the comic books was very similar to the one that looms over us today. In 1930s the economy wobbled its way out of the 1920s depression.
“Now Pulps (pulp magazines), they were sold in grocery stores, it was like a paper back but they had some illustration…that took place in the 1920’s but most of them started being more prolific in the 30’s and 40’s. A lot of these companies that were putting out Pulps decided to put out comic books.” Hajunga continues, “And then they come into the comics now which we have, they started publishing those probably in the late 1930’s.” Many printers scrambled to capitalize on the trend, like the owner of two color presses, Max Gaines, who reluctantly published Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster’s Superman in Harry Donnenfeld’s Action Comics, 1938.
In the past 10 years two of the biggest players in comics, DC and Marvel, have made aggressive moves to film, maybe in anticipation of peoples’ need for heroes in trying times. “The movies have definitely helped bring in new customers,” Wilson said. In addition to movies, both the DC and Marvel world have released videogames, cartoons, and animated movies. Ironically, it is these new mediums that have become comic’s biggest competitors. “I try to get my kids to read them (comic books) but they prefer to play with their DS,” Wilson said.
Many in the comic book industry worried that eventually comics will fade into the background as their descendants take their place, but it is undeniable that there is something human about comics that seem to inspire. Hajunga poses a possible answer, “Why do people remember them? Because they are graphic, it is why it keeps its value because comic are based on historical things.”