Going underground: Horror, sci-fi and comic book IP “growing commercial potential for mainstream retail”

Horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book IP are no longer the murmurings of underground followings, but the basis of vast commercial potential in the licensing space, if current trends are to be considered.

These pockets of pop culture have been gaining momentum in licensing terms over the last number of years, gaining greater traction on the mainstream scene. They are now poised to take a greater share of the licensing market, owing to the global growth of audiences and appetite on an international scale.

This year’s Licensing Expo played host to a large number of brands that straddle the pop culture markets, from the likes of Funimation, Crunchyroll and Viz Media – each fuelling the flames of the global anime and manga scene – and more Western-oriented comic book companies like Dark Horse Comics, to big monster movie franchises such as Universal’s Monsters and Toho’s Godzilla.

Later this year, 20th Century Fox – now part of the Walt Disney Company, of course – will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of its sci-fi horror classic, Alien. It is already ramping up the activity around the event, tapping a plethora of names on the pop culture scene, including the gift and collectables specialist, Fanattik.

In line with the growth of the pop culture licensing space, and the growing global demand from audiences brought up within that scene, Fanattik predicts that this will be a “huge year for the Alien franchise,” as it readies for the big anniversary this November.

“As soon as we informed the retail trade about this license, they started asking s for 40th anniversary product, so we have already created exclusives and have healthy pre-orders for the bulk of our range arriving in June,” said Anthony Marks, managing director at Fanattik.

“Even if you park the 40th anniversary and the fact that the brand promotes Alien Day annually in April, you still have an existing multi-generational fan base looking for quality gifts and collectables. Horror and science fiction are a growing area, so we see this brand belong one of the strongest performers in our portfolio.”

Celebrated for its heritage, as well as its impact and reflection of cultural and societal discourse, publishers, licensees, and retailers are turning to the rich history of pop culture and classic sci-fi, fantasy and comic book IP, and it would appear that the broadening vision of the scene, has also opened more eyes to areas such as anime and manga, too.

“Events like Comic Cons and new distribution channels have made it easier to reach fans, and more mainstream retailers are showing increased interest in genres such as comics, sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and manga; recognising their commercial potential,” said Ian Downes, owner of Start Licensing.

Start Licensing has just picked up the rights to 2000 AD and Judge Dredd, comic-book classics that already are making an impact on the licensed gifting space, most recently via a partnership with Beer Buddies.

“Beer Buddies is a good example of a licensee creating a product to suit the market and responding to fan interest,” added Downes. “There seems to be a growing interest in licensing from the comic category. Comics like 2000 AD and characters like Judge Dredd have a great following and a rich heritage.

“Licensees are recognising this and finding new ways of reaching these fans.”

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