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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why I Write about The Comic Book Industry


Some of you probably wonder why I write so much about the Comic book industry. Why I’m so critical of the publishers, distribution system and the fans.

I’ll tell you why I’m so critical. I love comic books. I love this industry. And I love it so much I want it to be around for the next generation of youngsters to enjoy.

As I’ve stated numerous times before, comic books were my gateway to reading at four years old. If it weren’t for comic books showing me how much fun it was to read, I wouldn’t be a writer today. When I saw the comics in my brother’s collection I was inspired to make my own home-made comics with loose-leaf paper, construction paper, and glue at nine years old. Because I couldn’t draw the pictures, I used words to imagine the action going on.

As I grew into my teen years and adulthood I inherited my brothers’ collection of over 2,000 comics. Those comics and the new comics I bought kept me reading and kept my mind open as I focused on getting my high school diploma and my college degree in Business.

I want today’s generation of children to discover the joy of reading through comic books. I want to re-open this portal to literacy for the next generation so they can enjoy all these great characters I enjoyed growing up. In this technological age, another generation of kids are missing out on the gateway to reading and literacy.

In my South Bronx neighborhood a generation of readers was lost as comics disappeared off shelves in the mid 1990’s. And I’ve seen the damage that was done as the comic books were replaced with video games .  Reading test scores have dropped over the last twenty years and literacy is at an all-time low here.

Personally, I feel the decline in comic book sales correlates with the dismal reading scores and poor literacy. In inner-city neighborhoods like the South Bronx, comic books were the only literature many kids like myself could afford to supplement their educations. Back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s when I was growing up comic books were all-ages entertainment that made reading exciting and fun. They encouraged good readers like myself to keep reading with the next issue and motivated struggling readers to push themselves to learn how to read better. Comic Books made the kids in my classes passionate about reading and learning about a variety of subjects.

Comic books weren’t much to many, but for kids like me they were an escape from the urban blight of burnt down buildings, junkies and crime that made New York City insufferable back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. They inspired kids like me to work towards doing something better. To learn how to read. To keep reading. To get an education. And in some cases, it inspired us to pursue careers in a variety of fields.

I want this industry to survive. And the only way for it to survive in the 21st century is with the support of parents and children, women and minorities. They’re the only way this business will be able to get the volume sales of 300,000- 500,000 copies that can make it possible for a publisher to pull a profit on printing costs and overhead. These growing audiences are the only way that comic books can get the demand necessary to get retailers outside of comic shops interested in stocking them. And these large audiences are the only way comic publishers can reduce prices to print comic books at a price point where the value per entertainment dollar is competitive with other forms of entertainment like mp3s, TV shows, and games.

The only thing in the way of that growth is the industry’s adherence to archaic business model rendered obsolete in the late 1990’s, and an outdated business plan that targets a core demographic of White male customers who are currently over 35 years old. These are readers who have long outgrown comics and should have moved on to novels or at least graphic novels where the content can be packaged and tailored to their adult tastes.

Today’s old farts don’t understand how their selfishness is crippling the growth of the industry. Moreover, they don’t understand how their actions are keeping today’s youngsters from enjoying these characters, the customers who will keep the comic book business going for the next twenty to forty years until it’s time for them to pass these characters on to their sons and daughters.

I see how to right this ship. I see a way to get comics back into the hands of children. But most in the industry are resistant to change. Sadly I think it’ll take DC Comics or Marvel Comics ceasing publication of comics to get everyone in the industry to WAKE UP. Right now, many in the industry are comfortable sucking on a corporate tit of endless cash to stand up and be creative. Only when Time Warner or Disney stops subsidizing mediocre work will the surviving writers, artists, and editors change their approach and start creating product to appeal to the twenty million children of this baby boom.

I feel there’s room for both an adult and children’s market for comic books here in America just like in Japan. It’s just a matter of having a good editor who has the vision to see both audiences and who will make efforts to manage content for both.

There’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing a kid reading a comic book. Because I know that child is developing a love for reading that will last them a lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. You share these feeling in common with my cousin, a psychologist, who has, or had, a terrific collection of comics. I read and enjoyed them nonstop as a child and into my teen years and am now a writer. I also read confession stories that the grownups truly opposed; I read them anyway.

    I have not seen your perspective on saving the comics for today's children, and I wish the blog could be more widely disseminated. Is there any way to do this? You're striking a valuable blow for freedom and the education of our children and youth today.

    I can only say may God bless you and keep you keeping on with this work.

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