Comic Books Incorporated

How the Business of Comics Became

the Business of Hollywood

Comic Books Incorporated tells the story of the US comic book industry. In recent years, the medium has dominated the film and television landscape and has come to define contemporary corporate transmedia production. But before moving to the center of mainstream popular culture, comic books spent half a century wielding their influence from the margins and in-between spaces of the entertainment business.

This book argues that the best way to understand this dynamic and influential history is through political economic analysis and an examination of material details of production. This entails a focus on industrial infrastructure, and a closer look at aspects of our media environment that often lack public visibility--including distribution, copyright and contract law, organizational networks, and financing. An interest in the details of these systems yields a very different kind of narrative about what comic books are and how they came to be.

The story begins with the inception of comic book publishing in the 1930s, when comics were a reviled, disorganized, and lowbrow mass medium. Focusing on critical moments in the industry’s evolution—market crashes, corporate takeovers, upheavals in distribution, and financial transformations—it shows how industry structures and everyday business practices contained the medium's growth and gave it shape. The story ends in the early 2000s, once Hollywood had fully incorporated comic book properties and comic book strategies into its business models. Comic books had transformed into the heavily exploited, exceedingly corporate, and highly esteemed niche art form we know so well today.