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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Success of DC’s New 52 is a cover for the same old business in the Comic Book industry

Many in the comic book industry are rejoicing over the initial sales numbers of the DC Comics new 52 relaunch. Some books have sold 100,000 copies and have been reprinted three or four times , and others are completely sold out People are coming into comic book stores and shop owners are limiting sales to one per copy in some areas.

Dan Didio and Jim Lee and Bob Harras are patting themselves on the back.

But I wouldn’t call it a success.

More like a band-aid on a bullet wound.

Marvel had the same initial success in 1996 with its Heroes Reborn reboot. And again in 1997 with its Heroes Return reboot. But by 2001 numbers had plummeted back to the 50,000-70,000 levels because the initial creative teams had left those titles and a series of inexperienced secondary teams took over the titles without editorial guidance.

The speculators may come for a moment and inflate the sales numbers for those new #1 issues, but they aren’t going to stay to sustain that growth. No one is going to keep paying $3.00- $4.00 for 32-page comic books six months from now. Nor are they going to continue shelling out $155.48 every month for 52 plus titles a year from now.

Didio, Lee and Harras may be patting themselves on the back, and many of the fans may be rejoicing.

But Shawn knows it’s just the same old denial in a new costume with a brand new #1 stuck on it. That success everyone is bragging about is just a smokescreen just like the DC Comics relaunch.

Didio, Lee and Harras fiddle while DC burns creatively.

And Shawn can smell the game run on gullible comic fans stinkin’ like vomit.

This latest DC comic book relaunch does nothing to effectively address the long-term problems plaguing the comic book industry It’s business as usual. A brand new band-aid on the same bullet wound that’s now festering with pus and gangrene.

And the paitient is getting critical internal injuries from the hollow point they were shot with back in 1993.

With each passing day that editorial and corporate management at the big two comic book publishers don’t work towards comprehensively repairing the long-term damage from the 1990’s excesses it continues to push the industry towards a collapse it may not come out of.
similar to the distress our current real estate market is in.
Except there is no government bailout on the horizon because the comic book industry is small enough to fail.

And sadly I think we need that collapse to happen. I actually think the world would be a better place if Marvel or DC stopped publishing.

As a comic fan I know it’s cold to say it’s a good thing for Marvel or DC to stop publishing but if it leads to serious change the industry needs to survive, I’m all for it. Many in the comic book industry right now are just LAZY. They’re complacent. Creatively they phone it in with gimmicks, cross-overs and events instead of writing simple easy-to-read stories a ten-year-old today can access. They stretch plots out at a pace so slow that a storyline goes for six or seven issues before a simple plot point like a hero putting on a costume and going to action is resolved. They use shock and gore instead of style and substance to grab the readers’ attention. Imagination and creativity have been stifled because everyone is just focused on collecting a check.

Seriously, over the past twenty years comic book writers and artists have gained too much power over comic book publishers. And editorial is afraid to reign in these out-of-control creative types in out of fear that a popular hotshot writer or artist will defect to a competitor. That fear gives the creative types no incentive to try. No motivation to work within editorial parameters and really get creative. No passion to CARE about the work they produce or commit to a series for five or six years honing their skills.

The inmates are running the asylum and the guards supervising them are asleep. Moreover, the public is indifferent to what these madmen conspire behind closed doors.

I feel if one of the big two stopped publishing it would cause a ripple effect in the comic book industry. I feel it’d get the fans to taking comic books for granted and buying them out of habit. Get the shop owners to really think about what they’re ordering. And maybe those working in the industry would finally WAKE UP.

Maybe if the writers and artists had no place to sell mediocre work to, those top name writers and artists would STEP IT UP. Maybe if there was no one to GIVE them a check every month for mediocre work, they’d be FORCED to TAKE RISKS and FIND what appeals to a larger audience. FORCED to find out what kids from this generation RELATE TO. What they IDENTIFY WITH. Maybe they’d be FORCED to create content that would appeal to a new generation of readers instead of a bunch of over 30 White males who are too damn old for comic books.

And maybe if those complacent types had to COMPETE with the new kids fresh out of art school and the seasoned veterans for WORK at one of the surviving comic publishers, they’d take their CRAFT more SERIOUSLY. I doubt a guy like Rob Lifeld would be able to get away with half of his crap if he had no place to sell it, and I doubt Kevin Smith could get away with leaving a series unfinished for months if a publisher saw that their bottom line would be affected by it.

And maybe we could finally see some CHANGE to the comic book distribution system. Maybe if publishers were DESPERATE enough, we could see comics back at a supermarket or a place where children can see them. Maybe if there was no Time Warner or Disney financing mediocrity at Marvel or DC, a shop owner would be more open to stocking some of the self-published titles in their place. Maybe Archie would become a bigger competitor. Maybe more indie titles would gain a larger audience. Maybe those new readers will finally discover that next great book that was lost in the sea of mediocre titles at the big two.

Could a collapse in the comic book industry make things better long-term? It worked for the movie industry in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Big studios like MGM, FOX, and Warner Brothers almost went bankrupt producing multimillion dollar musicals, Westerns and Epics in an era where Civil Rights, Women’s lib and Vietnam were changing the country’s perception of itself. When they saw their bottom line heading towards zero, they were FORCED to change their approach to filmmaking and adapt to service the entertainment needs of the new audience. And that’s when we got new classics that people in the 1970’s could relate to. Stuff like The Godfather. Shaft. Jaws. Star Wars.  Superman: The Movie. Saturday Night Fever and Grease. The invention of the Horror/slasher genre. The invention of the Marital arts movie. The invention of the Blockbuster and the mainstreaming of the Black film. New talent started coming into film and doing things differently and reaching new audiences.

Do I really want the comic book industry to collapse? Yeah,pretty much. The current structure is helping no one and enabling mediocrity. There’s so many markets the comic book industry could be targeting and millions of new readers they could be reaching. But because many of the current regime at the big two comic book publishers are fat and happy they have no incentive to take the risks needed to reach out to those audiences of new readers. Maybe with them out of the way, more serious competition can get in the game and bring the change that’s desperately needed in the comic book industry. 

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