Jack Kirby once said that Comics will break your heart. I have to wonder if I dodged a bullet back in the 1990’s.
Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to write comics. But looking at the state of the industry these days I’m starting to think I dodged a bullet.
These days the comic book business is in turmoil. Practically every year there’s a reboot at the big two. Books barely last six or eight issues before they’re cancelled. Creative teams change at the drop of a hat and there’s no real direction or even continuity between titles. Everything is so unstable that heroes don’t even keep the same secret identity or even the same gender anymore.
Comics are more confusing today than when I was a kid. Back then you saw your favorite characters in those brightly colored costumes and bought your favorite comics. The stories were easy to follow. Anyone and everyone could figure things out.
But looking at the mess the Big Two has become I wouldn’t want to write comics these days. Having to deal with the jumble that is today’s continuity would be a NIGHTMARE. Thanks to all the reboots, retcons and relaunches it’d be a headache just to plot a story arc. Who’s dead? Who’s alive? Who is even the main character supposed to be? And what universe are they in again?
It’d be heartbreaking for me to be in the middle of writing a story arc and be told by an editor that the series was cancelled. And it’d be a real insult to injury to find out that all that hard work I put in wound up being erased from continuity in a reboot six months later.
I’m starting to think I’m better off writing novels, screenplays fantasy and YA fiction. Yeah, the road is pretty rough on this side of the street. But the publishing business has always been a rough game. But when I look over at the comic side of publishing and see how brutal it is to creators, I’m starting to realize things are better over here than over there.
At least we authors on the trade publishing side get to keep the rights to our characters. And we have a say over how they’re adapted on those rare chances they’re brought to TV and movies. And when we self-publish, we control what direction our characters go in.
In the trade publishing world there are no reboots, no retcons, and no restarts. Every story is an entry point, and stories are still easy to follow. If someone even proposed a reboot in the trade publishing world they’d be shot down not only by editors but by readers as well. Readers of romance and genre fiction like sci-fi just wouldn’t put up with that bullshit.
Yeah, I’d still love to write comics. But looking at the business these days, I’m starting to count my blessings. As stressful as the world of trade publishing is, it’s not as soul crushing as working in the comic book business.