Ian Downes from Start Licensing gives his view on comics and licenses

One of my fondest childhood memories was reading comics. I was lucky that my school used to get free comics from a local publishing firm, and as such we had a good supply to pick from. Back in the 1970s, the comic market was a little different than what it is today. In brief, there were more comics that generated original content compared to today, with the majority of children's comics based on popular licensed characters. Of course, children's media consumption was different, and there was less competition. My comic reading consisted of sports-oriented titles like Tiger and Scorcher - my early heroes included the fabulously named Hot Shot Hamish and Skid Solo. From time to time, my comic supply was topped up with humour-based titles like Beano, Dandy and Whizzer and Chips. Marvel superhero titles were also popular.

Shuttle forward to today, and the rich legacy of comics and comic art is having an impact on the licensing market, with the disciplines becoming key themes. A good indication of this is the growing success of Comic Con, a consumer event that attracts myriad visitors to venues like London's ExCeL. The show celebrates pop culture with a great emphasis on comics and comic characters. For example, at last year's London Comic Con, there was a dedicated area for Marvel Comics that featured a range of products on sale from Marvel's licensees.

Smart licensees such as Half Moon Bay, Funko, Danilo and Lagoon Games have recognised the commercial appeal of comic characters, particularly to more mature consumers - people like me who want to dip nostalgically into their childhood memories and celebrate their comic heroes. Companies such as Half Moon Bay develop comic art ranges encompassing products like mugs, notebooks and glassware. They are strong contenders for self-purchase but also ideal gifting products. Licensees have also got better at offering retailers displays such as FSDUs and clip strips for effective in-store promotion. Outside of this, comics and comic art are doing well in areas like screen prints, canvases and wall art. In my own work with Start Licensing, we have recently worked with Horace Panter to develop a Beano-inspired pop art range. French comic character Asterix, meanwhile, has starred in his own exhibition at London's Jewish Museum, which features original comic art and page. These kind of activities drive consumer interest and help create the momentum needed to maintain a trend.

Another indicator of the commercial value of comics is the fact that companies such as Rebellion are updating classic comic characters like Roy of the Rovers for a 21st-century audience. Rebellion has also recognised the legacy value in Roy of the Rovers and has launched a classic comic style guide, which ties in with Roy's 65th anniversary next year. Comics were once rather ephemeral but are now growing in popularity - there is a healthy market in buying and selling original comics. This nod to nostalgia creates a good commercial opportunity for gift retailers, and comic art products have strong consumer appeal and also allow retailers to create eye-catching displays. It is worth getting up in your loft or looking under your bed to unearth those comics you kept. It will rekindle an interest and also inspire you to include comic-related products in your shop. There are quite a few like-minded people out there.

For more information visit startlicensing.co.uk

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