The basic concept of a franchise comic is pretty simple. You adapt an existing concept into a comic format and market it to people interest in said concept. What could be simpler? Well if it was so simple, adaptations wouldn’t have the reputation they do. See it turns out that in order to succeed a franchise comic has to dodge a veritable minefield of common problems which range from the marketing to the creative team. So in the second of our little series of articles I thought it’d be fun to check out some of my all-time favourite common pitfalls the franchise comic has to try (and frequently fail at) avoiding.
Beware of spoilers!
If there is one thing the early naughties taught us, it’s that we should be VERY careful about what we wish for. The children of the eighties were hitting their teens and their twenties. Nostalgia called them back to those wonderful franchises of their youth. Surely they would enjoy them as much now as they did then! Well, it turned out that Thundercats was kinda terrible and He-man had all of 6 cells of animation recycled ad infinitum. The rose-tinted glasses fell off with a resounding crash. But the nostalgic affection remained. We still loved our alien cats, and our giant robots, and our western military bizarrely reliant on ninjas. We still wanted to experience those franchises we remember so fondly. And thus the eighties nostalgic reboot was born in full. For a few years, comics based on eighties cartoons were as common as weeds. Not only were comics used as a medium for the revival of your childhood heroes but the companies knew who they were marketing to. A sincere effort was made to make the fans the major audience. This resulted in stories far darker and more mature in tone aimed at us! It was the golden time of our nerdy age.
Or, you know rape. Lots and lots of rape.
Yes, Mr. Gilmore and Wildstorm were told “Mature version of childhood favourite” and heard “ALL THE RAPE”. The first two series put HEAVY focus on the fact that Cheetara spends YEARS chained up in a dungeon and repeatedly raped by the mutants in what are hinted to be exceptionally disturbing ways. She spends most of the second series REALLY hating Lion-O because she thinks he abandoned her to HORRIFIC sexual torture. But our creative juggernaut wasn’t done there, oh no. Another large part of the story is the continuous rape and psychological devolution of Wily Kit and Wily Kat. Yes, Mumm-ra turned both into his concubines and raped them to the point where he actually broke their brains in a very creepy “specialist Japanese medium” kinda way. Kat’s mental trauma leads him to being one of the main antagonists later on. And no, you don’t get a screencap of those panels because they freak me the eff out!
The rather rambling point I’m trying to make is that because of their nature of frequently being adaptations intended to appeal to a nostalgic older audience, franchise comics are often lazily turned into heavy, ultra-violent and deeply disturbing reads which are decidedly unpleasant to read.