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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ephiphanies and Revelations about the Comic Book Industry

Last Saturday night I had an epiphany. In it I got an understanding about the comic book industry. So this will be my last blog on the subject.

As my mind was opened to the truth I learned most in the comic book industry talk about change, but no one really wants to do anything to change. Everyone is just too greedy. Everyone is too racist.

The aging White Males who control the comic book industry would rather watch their business stagnate and implode rather than make the necessary sacrifices to preserve it for another generation.

The editors, writers and artists no longer tell commercial quality stories that will sell commercial properties to a broad audience of readers. They no longer protect the integrity of their catalogs and the characters in them. No, comic books published today are just personal fantasies projected onto comic book characters. Glorified fan-fiction. A fanboy’s wet dream.

That’s why none of it makes sense to anyone but diehard comic fans.

The fans are selfish addicts who could care less about the quality of the comics they buy as long as they get their weekly four-color fix on Wednesday.

No, they want all the comic books for themselves. They want to buy all the comic books put them in plastic bags and dream of becoming millionaires.

It’s a pipe dream that ends in the quarter bin in 24-36 months when the new number one issue is released for the sixth time.

Neither comic book publishers nor comic book fans wants kids to discover comic books and the gateway to reading. Why? Because it would mean they would actually have to run a comic book company like a business and actually be accountable to someone other than the members of their peer group.

People like Mothers. Fathers. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. Minorities. Customers. Retail managers. Retail executives. Mom and Pop shop owners. Vendors. People who would ask for High standards from the publications offered in places outside of the comic shop. People who would insist material presented to their children featured a good moral message. The promotion of values and ethics. Good stories that provide a high entertainment value for the dollar.

But as long as the small group of comic book nerds withdraw to their hive of Honeycomb Hideouts known as comic book stores they can have their comic books the way they want them to be.

A place where they don’t have to be accountable to anyone or responsible for anything they produce. A place where they can trade comic books back and forth with each other and act like they’re forever thirteen years old even though they’re close to forty.

Unfortunately, from a business perspective, as long as Time Warner and Disney are there to subsidize the comic book industry no one has an incentive to change. Time Warner and Disney only have to keep using the trademarks to keep the catalogs relevant. And to do that they only have to use the characters once ever ten years.

So to keep those trademarks in print they just pay a little bit of money to comic book editors, writers and artists. Time Warner and Disney’s CEOs could care less about the quality of the comic books being published. They’re making most of their money on the licensing of products and merchandise. Like action figures, apparel, movies and television shows. That’s the primary reason why they bought the DC and Marvel catalogs in the first place. That’s how they plan on reaching the kids anyway.

And because no one in the industry has no incentive to change, most of the editors allow the writers and artists to continue to produce shoddy work.

Everyone knows as long there is corporate sponsorship there’s job security. A job for life. All they have to do is make sure that the copyrights and trademarks are used once every ten years.

Seems like a good deal right?

It’s tantamount to socialism.

Socialism is where a small handful of elite individuals live very well working in government jobs at the expense of the masses. Usually in socialist societies, the working class pays high taxes to subsidize the salaries of those in working in those lifelong government jobs. While the ideal is everyone gets a fair shake with free education, free healthcare and other benefits, no one has any incentive to work hard and do their best because there’s no competition. Socialist societies stagnate because there’s never any incentive for anyone to innovate or create anything new. The state owns everything.

I realize the comic book industry will never go in a new direction because it has no incentive to move in a new direction thanks to the corporate sponsorship its two biggest publishers currently receive.

That corporate sponshorhip pays the salaries of a handful of White male comic book editors, writers, and artists who live very well at the expense of the masses of comic book fans, toy collectors and others who consume comic-book related merchandise.

Unfortunately, the comic fan is a member of the permanent underclass. The bottom of the food chain. Only they don’t know it.

There is no incentive to hire new talent, because the fat cats have all the good jobs at the top paying six and seven figures. If one looks at the industry from an objective perspective, they’ll see many working in the comic book industry are bunch of fanboys from the 1970’s and 1980’s still acting like a bunch of thirteen year olds. Instead of being professional adults looking to expand a business and making products to reach new younger readers, they’re sitting comfortably in their jobs for life. trading writing and art jobs like they traded comic books back in the day. Publishing what they want to see in a comic book instead of giving the customer what they want.

Seriously, how can Rob Liefeld get three penciling jobs at DC and some new young talent can’t get their work looked at a comicon?

Even if I were to get a job in the comic book industry there’d be no incentive for a writer like myself to create new characters in the comic book industry because the corporate entity would own all the rights to them and reap all the profits. Sure I could create the next big hero for Marvel or DC , but I wouldn’t get any of the royalties on the issues published, the reprints or share any of the profits for licensing of merchandise. Heck, I wouldn’t even get a free action figure for all my work.

In addition, there’s no incentive for me to work in an industry where I won’t grow professionally. I’m already writing novels, articles, screenwriting and dabbling into Teleplay writing. Stuff with the potential to be far more lucrative than comic books.

I wanted to be a comic book writer since I was ten years old. But I realize today the only way for a new artist or a new writer to enter the comic book business is through self-publishing. Unfortunately, the cost for a comic book venture is just too prohibitive. It would cost six to seven figures for me to just assemble and supervise the talent necessary to publish a graphic novel. And with distribution only through online booksellers and online sales the profit margin would just be too small to make money on the venture.

I can reap twice as many profits with a paperback or an eBook novel in the same online venues at a much lower cost. And I can reach a much larger audience. The average comic book usually sells to White males. While the average eBook or paperback reaches Women girls, teens, tweens, and minority readers. A much broader audience with more entertainment dollars.

Perhaps this epiphany was to help me come to an understanding that will help me move on. An understanding that my writing career is on the right track.

A long time ago I wanted to be a comic book writer. I set a goal when I was 17 to create positive comic book stories about African-Americans and the African-American experience.

But the comic book industry collapsed in 1993. And I had to change gears.

Maybe the epiphany I had Saturday was to show me that I can do better than writing comic books. That I can make an impact by trying to help establish the African-American sci-fi and fantasy market.

Who knows? All I know is when God shows you something it’s so you can change for the better. 


  1. Great epiphany, Shawn. God surely led you to this one. When everything is predicated on money, we've become that someone on FB calls a greedy nation, only his descriptive phrase is much more colorful.

    So how much lemming blood do we have? You know those creatures who hurl themselves over the cliff in droves at given times. We seem to me to be full of it.

    Mankkind has always felt the need to worship spirits above him or herself. Spirits that stand for something mighty and exalted, beyond the petty and the venal. Civilizations fail when we go away from this type of worship.

    Comic books are just one more facet of the world we live in today. Hold onto your gold and forget about God and His grace. And we wonder why we suffer so and feel so empty. We're fast becoming the emptiness we feel.

  2. The new DC reboot is moronic as it gets. I am so sick of DC saying its targeted "new" fans are too stupid to learn or appreciate the old continuity. In the same breath they say they want to appeal to a "wider" audience. Reading between the lines makes that even more insulting... don't you think?

    I was reading Tiny Titans to my kids, and it was fun. But, they ended that. Too much for Dan to handle... the old continuity.