Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett looks at the sales implications of the Black Panther movie, Archie’s Mighty Crusaders, and shares the Benji reboot trailer.

Now being a middle-aged, middle-class white guy I, realize I’m not really qualified to speak with any kind of authority about what it’s like to be relegated to the fringes of American pop culture, when not systematically being omitted from it altogether.  The same way I don’t have either the experience or authority to write about how it must feel when that suddenly changes.  For that I’d recommend reading the Buzzfeed piece, “The Stories Being Shared On Twitter About ‘Black Panther’ Will Make You Emotional.”

However, I can and will write about “‘Black Panther’ poised to maul the competition at the box office and usher Marvel Studios into the future”, a piece that was on the CNBC website.  In particular, its opening bullet points:

"Marvel's Black Panther is tracking for a $150 million Presidents Day weekend opening, taking aim at October and holiday records."

"The buzz around the movie is further challenging conventional wisdom about minority representation in Hollywood, and comes after Wonder Woman blew away expectations last year."

"The Black Panther character could lead Disney's Marvel franchise into the future, as core Avengers members hang up their masks."

Also of interest was the statement, "A study by marketing tech firm Amobee indicates it's the most anticipated movie of 2018;" as well as this quote from Amobee principal brand analyst Jonathan Cohen, "Much like Wonder Women before it, Black Panther allows a segment of the audience that had previously been woefully under-represented on-screen to finally see themselves front and center in a superhero movie."

To me, all that breaks down like this.  Being a Marvel movie, and if all of the rave reviews are to be believed - a particularly good one, Black Panther most likely was already going to be a hit. But to be that anticipated and reach that predicted $150 million mark, Black Panther had to also appeal to an under-represented audience segment.  One which wanted to see something that they’ve never seen before on the big screen; a black superhero from a technologically advanced African nation.  My point being, Marvel and Disney have just proven you can increase revenues by successfully marketing your product to an untapped market.

I'm convinced what can be done for the screen, can be done for the page. Allow me to present into evidence this article from the Bleeding Cool website, “Black Panther is Topping Amazon Comics Sales.”  I’m guessing they’re going to sell a lot of collections, and it’s entirely possible (maybe even likely) a lot of them will predominantly be sold to people who’ve never read a Black Panther comic before.  Or any comic for that matter.

If you’re asking “what about us,” I know movies based on comic books historically have never had much (if any) effect on the sales of the comics they’re based on.  While it’s not likely the movie will have any immediate effect on sales of individual issues of the Black Panther comic, that doesn’t mean sales can't go up.  Having copies of the free Black Panther -- Start Here sampler available, as well as copies of the Black Panther trades, in your stores certainly couldn't hurt.

What else can be learned from the Black Panther movie?  Dismiss and demean superheroes all you want, but the truth is they still mean something and have a purpose beyond moving merchandise.  And that “Diversity Doesn’t Sell” stuff from last year has been pretty definitively debunked.  Retailers and publishers will just have to do a better job trying to tap into that untapped market.

Naturally, I’ll be seeing Black Panther this week.  As previously established, I’ve more or less reached superhero movie burnout, but having actually been around when the character made his first appearance in Fantastic Four #52, I feel like I have something of a vested interest in seeing this one. Plus, the movie is a textbook example of something I’ve never seen before, by which I mostly mean the wonders of Wakanda.  I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if an unexpected consequence of the Black Panther movie is an explosion of Afrofuturism* in movies, TV and of course comics.

One last thing on this subject: if Black Panther is the hit that everyone expects it to be, how long before DC Comics starts promoting their character Bronze Tiger?

While still on the subject of superheroes, Mighty Crusaders #3 from Archie is shipping this week and while it’s certainly true that no one, reader or retailer, ever really “needs” another superhero team book, I have to confess I’m becoming increasingly fond of this one.  Admittedly there’s nothing particularly game-changing about it, but Ian Flynn and Kelsey Shannon & Ryan Jampole sure know how to tell a solid superhero story.

Finally, last year while writing about the fortunes of the ‘wonder dog’ genre on both the page and screen (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--The Comic Book Dog Show”) I mentioned there was a reboot in the works for 70s cinematic dog star Benji.  Well Netflix has just released the first trailer, embedded below.

* According to the online Oxford Living Dictionaries, Afrofuturism is “a movement in literature, music, art, etc., featuring futuristic or science fiction themes which incorporate elements of black history and culture.”  It’s never been particularly mainstream even in the world of science fiction literature but then, neither was cyberpunk or steampunk twenty years ago.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of