Originally published on Ohhh Dis!
The current state of the comic book industry is….potentially exciting, but mostly puzzling.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression in writing this, so bear with me. I love comics. No, let me say that again. I really love comics. They’ve always been a huge part of my life, from Sunday paper strips to superhero stories to Japanese manga and zines. They’ve shaped my outlook, evolved my artwork, and created a network of irreplaceable friends in my life. I love the business of comics. I love the discussion and curation of comics. Nothing’s perfect, though, right? That’s what keeps us working toward the next goal, bettering ourselves and each other, and that is my intention in sharing these thoughts with you.
There’s a lot of intriguing new ideas presented to us in comics these days; the fact that independent publications are making their way up to holding a sizable chunk of the total comic book market is one such example, but even in your big-hitter Marvel and DC stories, you’re seeing classic characters settled into modern settings and new faces representing the next generation of readers. There’s new universes being discovered and married together, new villains being introduced in legendary comic titles, and there’s certainly no shortage of crossover events, tie-in books, and incentive variants. Well, those last three things are actually not that great. In fact, they’re the bane of comic retailers and sometimes collectors, so then why in the world are publishers and distributors actually pushing these marketing nightmares? This begs further questions towards very real problems with the industry; why are comic creators being forced off social media platforms because of death threats? Why is there such a demand for certain types of books with so little product to supply it? How can small businesses like comic shops survive during financial crises? With so much diversity and accessibility to comics, why is the industry struggling?
One of the challenges and prospects of the modern market is that we have readers of all ages and dispositions who are interested in comics. We can thank the success of Raimi’s Spider-Man kicking off a serious resurgence of interest, though the last decade’s worth of fandom is owed to the Marvel and DC’s cinematic universes duking it out in theaters, driving new readership towards the origins of those films. This invites people into the world of comic books that might have never even tried to crack one open before, and that includes a lot of younger bookworms looking to see both the classics that introduced the characters they love, and to find reflections of themselves in the heroes we love and the new ones we’re discovering. This new generation of comic readers is an active, progressive bunch, and sometimes that onslaught of change doesn’t sit well with everyone (you’ll hear a lot of bashing of ‘SJW’s, and we’ll get to that).
Fans who have been involved in the collecting community and have been following comics since a young age (most typically from the Silver Age and forward), have come to expect a certain consistency in the books and characters they love, and with very few exceptions, many of those titular heroes have really gone off the rails from who they were to evolve into what Marvel or DC thinks people might want to read. There’s a lot of young readers out there who really dig the new directions, but the numbers produced in sales are not really showing that across the board, only at select shops with the right surrounding demographic. So first, you have a struggle between generations of readers, but you also have the battle of telling stories that writers want to tell versus pandering to what fans tell you they want to see happen. That’s a muddy discussion for another time, but suffice it to say there’s a lot of indecision and uncertainty in what steps should be taken by publishers, and a lot of argument between older and younger readers in what should be involved in new stories. The only things publishers seem to feel they can try are things they’ve done before that worked as at least temporary solutions, but not thinking in the long-term is what seriously harmed the industry before. So what do they do? What do WE do, as readers? As shop employees? What are our roles as fans?
How do you remedy such a tricky situation when so much of artist, writer, and reader’s experiences are subjective?
Stay tuned for 5 Ways To Save The Comic Book Industry