The portrayal of comic book legends Batman by actor Michael Keaton in 1989 and Spider-Man by Tobey Maguire in 2002 helped to spur comic book sales around the country.
With a new and lesser-known crop of actors and superheroes swooping into the nation's movie theaters this summer, local comic book stores aren't expecting a heroic spike in new enthusiasts to match the action at the box office.
"It's a very small bump," Paul Rogers, the general manager for Augusta Book Exchange at 1650 Gordon Highway, said about sales. "We do see some but it's not as big as most people would think."
From behind a counter laden with comic book versions of Stephen King novels such as The Stand and The Dark Tower, in addition to hand-painted miniatures of Warhammer 40000 space marines, Rogers said the movies do more to draw former comic book readers back into the fold than to garner new devotees.
"Back when the Keaton Batman came out, there was a decent bump," he said. "But really, since then, sales of comic books because of movies have gone down." It's not for lack of trying on the part of the comic companies and stores. Recently, Marvel released several easily accessible miniseries comics based on the character of Thor, whose movie debuted atop the box office last week. Still, sales have been disappointing, according to Roxanne Starr, a manager at Oxford Comics and Games in Atlanta.
"They saturated the market with Thor ," she said.
Most of her new shoppers have expressed interest in comics starring the Green Lantern, a hero or list of heroes wielding a ring that grants them super abilities over the physical world based upon the strength of their willpower. A movie based about the DC Comics character and starring Ryan Reynolds is set to be released June 17, to be followed by a new film starring Chris Evans as Marvel's Captain America on July 22.
The Green Lantern's branching storylines and bevy of characters bearing that name, however, make it less appealing as some heroes, limiting its appeal. People who are new to comics often have trouble reading and understanding the medium itself, Starr said.
"They pretty much have to spend over 100 bucks just to understand the latest issue of Green Lantern, " she said. "Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern -- all that stuff coming out at the same time and people are more concerned right now with holding on to their money for the movies rather than come in here and buy comic books."
At Augusta Book Exchange' store on Bobby Jones Expressway, salesman Matt Roberts said many customers thought this summer's films wouldn't do well at the box office. He pointed to Thor's recent success as proof of the public's appetite for superhero characters. Recently, his store held a comics giveaway day to draw in new readers. Thor was one of the most asked-for comics, Roberts said.
"I'm expecting within the next few weeks more people will be coming in looking for these books," he said.