You hear this sort of question all the time as it relates to professional sports, the idea that if you had to start a new franchise with just one star, who would you choose? Only this time, we're doing it comic-book style:
I started thinking about this in relation to "Invincible" and "Hellboy", both characters that were completely unknown but who eventually staked out an entire comic book line of very successful follow-on characters. But few of us have the raw creative power of a Kirkman or Mignola, so it seems like it'd be better to start out with a known commodity.
The question is, which known commodity? Let's explore the options:
- Wolverine: Logan's proven that he can power a company; I would be that Wolverine-related titles have been responsible for an enormous percentage of Marvel's properties over the last 30 years. Of course, in part that's because virtually every Marvel property has featured Wolverine in one wayr another. Still, readers can relate to him. He can be hurt (for a little while, anyway) just like the rest of us, he's got problems fitting in like a lot of us geeks do, he's been ostracized and outcast, and he doesn't bathe all that often. All key, relatable parts of the core comic book demographic. And yet, he kicks ass. He can get the girl when he needs to. He's got a mysterious past that can hook in a lot of potential story lines. And he's proven that while he can work in a larger cast, he doesn't need them, which is important for a flagship character upon whom you relay for spawning spin-offs.
- Batman: On the one hand, clearly Batman is enormously popular, so you've got a huge built-in audience. And he's popular in a lot of different media, so you're guaranteed a hefty chunk of non-comics revenue, always a nice thing when starting a new company. The creative challenge is, no Robin, no Catwoman, no Joker, no Rogues' Gallery. Just Batman and whatever else you can come up with. And at the end of the day, without all that history, he's just another run-of-the-mill billionaire who dresses up in tights to fight crime.
- Superman: Unlike Batman, no one gives a rat's ass about Superman's Rogues' Gallery. So you can't have Brainiac or Toy Man, big freaking whoop. Those guys are all chumps just looking for innovative ways to get their butts kicked by Superman anyway. In fact, I sometimes think Superman would be a way better character if you could shuck all his cumbersome historical baggage. In terms of building a whole comic book line around him, his incredible array of powers leave you a lot of opportunities. You can do space-based fare, traditional adventure stories, slugfest super hero standards, and pretty much anything else you can think of. And while Hollywood hasn't been able to figure out how to make a decent Superman movie after the original two, he has a long history of success in other media, much like Batman.
- Spider-Man: A relatable character concept that teens will always feel close to, an actually existing home town full of millions of potential customers, and a proven track record of multimedia success. Still, spiders are icky.
- Iron Man: Like Superman, there's no one else in the entire Iron Man comic book franchise you couldn't do without. You've got a rich guy in a suit of high-tech armor, you're set -- invent as many other characters as you need, you've still got a rich guy in a suit of high-tech armor blasting the crap out of things and getting beat on like a gong. Good times. However, he's never had the die-hard comic book base you'd like if you're founding a whole company on his shoulders.
- None, you'd make your own founding character: Like I said, few of us have Kirkman or Mignola's pure creative mojo, but the temptation to do something completely unfettered by anyone else's vision or history is very, very tempting.
If you answer "none", please let us know in the comments what kind of character and stories you'd do. I think that'd be great to hear!
If you go with an established character, tell us what sorts of stories you see them involved in at your new company and how you'd change their history around to make sense, what you'd replace their established supporting cast with, etc.
For me, I'd probably go with Wolverine. I could see doing some really awesome adventures with the basic concept of "Unkillable amnesiac with claws". Yeah, that works ...