Waiting to X-hale

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Fox studios won't be the only ones worrying about the success of the X-Men movie. Many in the comic book industry, where the X-Men began, are holding their breath.

"On the one hand, I secretly hope it tanks," Eric Reynolds, director of publicity at Fantagraphics Books, a prestigious publisher of non-super-hero comic books, says. "On the other hand, I hope it does well because there is the potential for trickle-down."

Marvel Entertainment Group, publisher of the original X-Men comic series, and coproducer of the movie, has only just recently come out of bankruptcy and still carries a large amount of debt. How much the company depends on the success of the movie to carry it along is unclear.

And what's good for Marvel is more or less good for the industry. Marvel has long held the largest market share of comics, and comic sales have been sluggish for the last 10 years. Many comic book retailers now rely on ancillary products to stay in business and have invested heavily in the merchandise surrounding the X-Men movie. If they can't sell their X-Men stuff they may have to cut their losses by buying fewer comics all around.

Historically, however, a successful comic-based movie has had little effect on comic book sales. "Mostly consumers just buy the toy or the T-shirt," Eric Reynolds says.

Some are just hoping a successful X-Men movie would boost morale in the industry. But that depends on what segment of the industry you ask. Publishers of non-super-hero comic titles, like Fantagraphics, have a problem with perpetuating the public association of comics and adolescent male power fantasies.

After seeing the movie, I would say that any concerns can be put to rest. It will do fine. The film is just like the comic: a committee creation that has more to do with the parent corporation's marketing synergy than artistic energy.