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How would you save comics?


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we've kinda had this thread, but despite comic properties being bigger/more prevalent then ever, sales continue to dwindle & with a few efforts aside, new audiences aren't being found. the way i see it: 

 

- constant relaunches/creative team shifts (and confusing numbering/etc)

- pacing that's clearly written for trades 

- too many books get announced and die by early order #'s before even getting a trade out

- likewise, an awful lot of canned regular series should have been mimi or maxi series 

- books only found in specialty shops (thanks diamond) 

 

are all factors in bringing us here, but more than anything? we live in a time where people pay $15 bucks or so a month to have access to stream thousands of hours of TV/movies, across all genres. music is likewise streamable on the cheap, games can be less than $10 on digital platforms like steam or PSN...but we're still asking people to drive across town to small, often weird stores and pay $4 for 22 pages of story. i honestly don't think that price/format would work if it was somehow sold everywhere. 

 

i used to think different approaches could do it: let trams just write trades, but maybe sell them on cheaper paper or something. let titles be allowed time off if a creative team doesn't have anything for it that month, etc. i still think breaking such rules could help, but I'm having a hard time nor seeing a future of digital steaming & only printing for big trades/special events (or maybe on demand?), because again, the characters are hotter than ever but the medium is continually doing worse.

 

what do you guys think?

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Better advertising? You'd think they wouldn't need it, but throwing up an ad or trailer before a big comic book movie would be cool.

 

 

I dunno alot about this industry stuff, but when dealing with these used comics I have come to see how fucking expensive this shit is. 

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1. No more single issues - Single issues were meant to be a disposable medium, it was the industry's lack of willingness to reprint back-issues that made the few surviving copies of golden and silver age comics have value.  Single issues are hard to store and the art of writing a single issue that's enjoyable outside of a trade is dying.  Instead of 6 22-page issues of a comic that get released over six months in a trade we just release one 132-page book every six moths.  Stagger them so there's always a book coming out every month.

 

2. Get rid of Diamond and review the business plan.  The comic store business plan is notoriously bad for the comic store and though the publisher experiences initial success from it that only works so long as comic stores stay in business.  The current model is entirely dependent on pre-orders and comics absorb 100% of the loss on the front end.  This is further exacerbated by Diamond, the ONE company that distrubutes comics being an awful rinky-dink operation that robs both the publisher and the store for their shitty sub-par service.  Allow stores to sell unsold merchandise back to the publisher like the regular book industry does, market more to big box stores and gas stations.  People like me living in areas far away from cities got into comics because they were carried in Wal-Marts and Kum and Go (yes I know, I didn't name it) and when they stopped carrying them was when I stopped buying them and even after that I only ever bought at Borders or Hastings or Barnes and Noble because comic shops were rare THEN.  Get every comic on the shelves of Wal-Mart and Target and they'll sell, especially if you charge $10-20 for a 132-page story.

 

3. Let writers finish their stories.  How often do you start getting into a book only for it to get cancelled?  It's rare you see a case like Dan Slott's Spider-man, Fraction's Hawkeye, Palmiotti and Grey's Jonah Hex.  Allow the authors a chance to finish their stories because if you cancel mid-run it devalues the issues that came before because the story isn't going to have resolution.

 

4. Fix digital.  Get every single back issue online, make reading lists for new readers and curate the books so if a person needs to have read another issue prior to the one they're on then there's a link they can click to go back and do so.

 

5. Print-on-Demand.  Omnibuses are great but we're at the whims of the publisher on these and it's annoying when they'll release Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 1 and then Volume 4 and never go back and print volumes 2 and 3.  Allow the customer to pick which issues they want, their binding, their cover and I think fans will pay for it.

 

6. Stop catering to speculators.  I know, speculators are big business but they're really just taking money out of the company's pockets by buying up product and hoarding it until they can flip it at a better price.  Creating manufactured shortages only creates a rift between the actual consumer and and publisher.

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i like a lot of it - ditching diamond, working on a full digital catalog (i long for the day when new books are found there too, not 4-6 months later) but that last one..you're asking the industry to stop poaching its (granted, diminishing) pool of whales. we both know industries centered around catering to said group are in danger (see: anime) but it may be the tallest order of the bunch 

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While there's a lot of good points here, I think we should also face the fact that comics, like Network TV, succeeded for a long time only because of lack of competing options for consumers.

We had no cinematic color adventures in the actual cinema. So we read Avengers to see a full-scale alien invasion in all its wonder. Now the digital art revolution has made such stories easy to put on screen and do them justice.

 

And overall the competition from GOOD media is sooo much more. I often choose to read a novel when I could be reading a comic. Or to browse youtube vids. My nephews and niece (age ten and under) enjoy comics, but would rather binge watch animated Justice League characters on screen for hours.

 

And that's not even mentioning how much time gets suctioned off by things like Minecraft or Fortnite.

 

My take is that the comics industry is destined to be a smaller share of the entertainment pie no matter how they innovate on price or delivery. Or how high they keep the quality.

 

But I also think that the people who enjoy comics are gonna be better off than ever because small press is a real thing now. Creators can pursue personal passion projects and have them come out high quality because the economics and tech of creating art and then actually printing or publishing online are more in favor of the creator than ever. Self-publiished comics don't have to be sketchy black and white xeroxes stapled together in your basement and packaged in a plastic school folder to give it some style and cred.

 

I'm being anecdotal but I visited 5 comic stores in Toronto during my last vacation and the shelves were full of new stuff coming out from non-traditional publishers that were telling tales from all kinds of points of view in all kinds of genres. I would have honestly spent 2 grand on impulse buy trades if I didn't have to budget for weight in my suitcase.

 

(And I took pics to get many of those on Amazon for my library)

 

Comics may go back to being a niche like before WW2 and that's okay. Or maybe Disney and the movie money will keep them more visible than ever...but I don't think sales is the sole metric to measure the strength of the industry right now. 

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no, i definitely didn't mean to imply that sales were a metric of quality - again, lots of good books get the axe before getting a chance to shine, because of this broken model.  and fair points on smaller press/etc, i'm simply speaking on the major superhero ones that clearly can't keep trucking along with high price points, market confusion & few vendors forever. 

 

whenever they do break free, i imagine that'll be good for everyone - but markets don't always adapt very neatly.  for instance, with music, there's a much larger playing field that can find its audience now (with an abundance of new sounds & great/varied producers as well), but it's also a great deal harder for said musicians to viably make a living with the format being essentially devalued to peanuts.

 

platforms like comixology have to be great for some indies, but much like steam, it's also going to be harder to promote/stand out from an ever-increasing catalog too.  you're right that with dinsey & WB backing them, the major franchises will likely stay subsidized in some format or another, but i hope labels like dark horse & image/etc still find a way to provide creator-owned (in the latter's case) books for the excellent talent usually exiting the mainstream comics industry, for similar reasons to the ones addressed here.  

 

meant to add to baytor's post:

 

Quote

 

Get every comic on the shelves of Wal-Mart and Target and they'll sell, especially if you charge $10-20 for a 132-page story.

 

 

 

 

yeah, people have said for years we should consider aping the shonen/etc manga anthology market that way...cheaper stock, but way more bang for your buck & by moving away from single issues, you don't get as much concern for floppy beat-up reader copies perpetually left on the circular racks in the day, too. 

 

7 hours ago, Bindusara said:

 

yes and no - i should really read this more, but archie comes up in these conversations and it strikes me as such an anomaly, because they literally have to have some sweetheart deal with grocery stores/etc to stay up by the registers like that.  it is worth noting that i've started to see avengers type reprints in that section in recent years too though, i'd be interested in seeing if they've had much success in the YA market 

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yes and no - i should really read this more, but archie comes up in these conversations and it strikes me as such an anomaly, because they literally have to have some sweetheart deal with grocery stores/etc to stay up by the registers like that.  it is worth noting that i've started to see avengers type reprints in that section in recent years too though, i'd be interested in seeing if they've had much success in the YA market 

 

Marvel actually cut a deal with Archie to distribute certain titles in grocery stores as digests etc fairly recently - and DC now has a line of Walmart TPBs at a reduced rate (cheaper paper) to promote their bigger titles like Batman etc. 

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yeah, i literally just read about the latter - man that sounds good, i'd love to know how those efforts were doing.  the marvel digest one i picked up seemed cool, but - and maybe it was just that one? - some of the stories they ran felt like they were mid-arc reprints, which is cool but i don't know how casually approachable they are.  i wanna look into it more, because they seem like the best bet to keep major superhero comics printed. 

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I don't think we ought to worry about the renumeration issue. It's part of the self-policing mechanism to control quality now that the entry barriers to art production are so low. 

 

I deal with the same issue as an indie novelist. Because of things like Amazon self-publishing and soundcloud and cheap digital movie cameras etc, people who want to put art out there can do so.

And a lot of it is crap.

 

The gatekeepers are fading away and nothing is restraining the influx of enthusiastic but substandard producers, certainly not their lack of talent. That sounds harsh, but the fact is 90% of any art form is crap and it needs a sorting system. By volume there's more GOOD stuff out there than ever too but something has to restrain the stuff people don't want so we can get to what we do like.

 

I think the way to make money as an artist in comics is the long tail phenomenon. We're never going back to an industry where 100 creators at 3 companies make all the money or where the top 100 books were 95% of sales.

 

Nowadays, you find a niche with under-served but passionate fans (like say feminist witches or fighter plane melodrama or furry highschool romance) and you exploit it. If your stuff happens to have mass-market appeal, then congrats, you're one of the lucky one-in-a-million who can get rich off your stuff. And the people who can't make money quit and leave more for the other creators working in the realistic end of the profit spectrum. 

 

You may say I'm being harsh, but the problem originates from the way modern tech has lowered entry costs and that's a permanent, irrevocable change. As much as we'd like every ambitious modern creator to live off their art, there just isn't enough money in the consumer pool to distribute to all the incoming artists and still account for taste and consumer preference. 

 

 

 

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god, you could apply that gatekeepers comment to so many of my examples here: music, steam, etc. 

 

worse yet, platforms like apple have entire scenes dedicated to gaming their systems to get noticed - i don't really know what an actual merit-based rating/recommendation format would look like, but i don't know that I've yet seen one.

 

another example: there's so many more people the current squirrel girl book would appeal to.

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New characters please. 

 

 

OK, maybe this statement holds up, but you can at least try, if they let you, if you want to. That's a big if, comic characters have gone on to make billions of dollars for their owners, how many of their creators have really got what they deserved from all that? But they can still try, if they have publishers that allow them. I'm not deep into Marvel mythos (and I think it might be time for DC to go take a dirt nap) but how often do they bring in new characters, and how often do those new characters return? I remember Dust and that birdlike dude during Grant Morrison's X Men run, but honestly if they turned out to actually be from the 60's I wouldn't be surprised. 

 

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it's tricky - new characters show up (Kamala's one of the brightest in recent years), but work-for-hire means that when you do awesome stuff like revise bucky as the winter soldier & they make a whole captain america movie out of it, you don't see a dime.  

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For me, I think Baytor hit it out the park with number 1. I'm still relatively toe-dipping with comics, and I feel that relative value for money helps. I like that the walking dead comics would do this (albeit while still doing the weekly issue or so) for every story arc or thereabouts. It helped give more of a natural rhythm to what I was reading.

 

I think, for me anyway, there's that much choice out there its almost intimidating as to what to go for in terms of picking up something new, or dipping into something old. Its like introducing someone who knows nothing about beer to a gigantic bottle shop full of all the good stuff. They won't know what they want.

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