A Post Kirkman & Bendis Manifesto of Sorts

I hadn’t intended to write anything or even talk about anything in relation to the Robert Kirkman manifesto, Brian Michael Bendis’ overreaction, or anything related to this active conversation in comic books.  No, I was going to write something silly along the lines like “You ever wonder whether super heroes follow TV shows regularly like the rest of us?”  But after listening to Kirkman and Bendis on recent editions of Word Balloon and hearing the excellent, albeit a bit manic, discussion on the most recent edition of Around Comics, I’m compelled to weigh in.  Damn you all for making me actually think about this industry of comic books that we all participate in and love.

I’m not going to reiterate any of Kirkman’s manifesto, nor am I here to recap or drag out more of the conversation around it.  There has been a lively conversation here about it that has been fascinating reading to see what all of you think.  Rather I am only here to make a feeble attempt to add to the discourse and point something out to everyone:

The Comic Book Industry sucks.

One of the main things in common the comic book industry has with the music industry, the movie/tv industry, the information industry (websites etc), and the video game industry is…they all suck for a similar reason.  In our capitalistic society, we have built up industries around artistic endeavors that reel us in with our passion and our love for whatever medium, and the built a business around it, built barriers to entry and established rules, and then after 80 years, 40 years, 5 years, or whatever time period that passes, create a environment of discontent and displeasure.  I’ve worked in, around, and observed the music, entertainment and technology industries and it’s all the same across the board. 

This is by no means me screaming “The sky is falling!”  Not at all.  Rather, despite this knowledge that these industries suck and are screwed up beyond belief, I’m right there, day in and day out trying to eek a living, make a difference and have some measure of success in those industries.  Why? Because I love comic books, I love the Internet, I love entertainment.  I love.  We all love.  And because of that love, we endure what is essentially a controlling and abusive relationship.

I applaud Robert Kirkman for standing up and saying something publicly and getting the conversation rolling.  I am disappointed by others dismissing his comments, chalking them up to “Oh, he’s about to turn 30…” like it’s some sort of rite of passage to get frustrated with your place in the world and it’s a phase that he will get through.  It’s cheap and it’s distracting from the core issue.  I don’t agree with 100% of what Kirkman said by any means.  But some of what he expressed was true and worth discussing.  Conversely, I think Bendis has every right to object to him being the example used by Kirkman in his interview on Word Balloon.  Despite John Siuntres’ desire to provide a place for conversation about comics, in this situation he has facilitated gasoline to be thrown on the fire, focusing on the distracting issues and ignoring the core issue:

The Comic Book Industry Sucks.

We can argue as to whether or not it’s important for comic creators to do creator-owned work, or whether or not Marvel and DC should be catering more to kids or not, but we’re doing ourselves a disservice because we’re ignoring the issue.  The world is changing.  The manner is which we create and consume our media is changing.  The music and movie industry has been going through this same issue for the past 10 years, and comics is beginning to go down this road and if you ask me, the end result is not going to be good for anyone. 

Like the music industry and the movie industry, there is an established base of power and a way of doing things.  Change is feared and a room full of executives are holding on for dear life to keep to their old ways.  You cannot stop change and forward momentum and the results of fighting it are becoming apparent.  The success of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails should be seen not only as a victory for creator rights, but an embarrassment for the establishment of the music industry.  When was the last time the comic book establishment was embarrassed by the actions of creators?  16 years ago when Image Comics formed?  I think it’s time for a new embarrassment in an attempt to wake people up.

Here are some things I know about the comic book industry:

Comics are not for kids by nature. When I was 13, seeing Jean Grey in basically a dominatrix outfit (whip and all) in the Dark Phoenix Saga was eye opening at 13, no matter which way you slice it. Comics are a subversive medium by nature and we should continue to embrace that.  Comic books are punk rock and I don’t think they should be “aimed at” or dumbed down for kids.  Rather they simply need to be exposed to kids.  We are pushing the kids out because the comic book industry continues to ghetto-ize itself.  How?

I don’t believe Marvel or DC Comics have evolved with the time.  They have found a business model that works: The Direct Market (i.e. comic book stores) and have continued to market/target their core audience (you and me) by continuing to preach to the choir via ads in Wizard and limiting their marketing efforts to cow-towing to two websites and living in fear of managing and controlling leaks and freaking out over the Internet’s existence in general.  The Direct Market and comic book retail stores, while fantastic places for you and me, have hurt the industry.  They have closed off the access to comic books to the majority of people in the world.  The emergence of stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble struck fear in the Direct Market and put the publishers in the awkward position of having to support the Direct Market and get their books in big box book stores without upsetting the established apple cart and in doing so, they’re failing at both. 

There is a paradox of the success of the business.  We’ve got movies and video games and we’re in the cultural zeitgeist.  There is a segment of the comics industry is desperate to be accepted by the mainstream and it’s embarrassing.  It’s like the art wing kids in high school who will do anything to be accepted by the popular kids.  As opposed to the faction of the comic book industry who says, “Fuck you. I’m cool and this is what I do and you should be coming to me, not the other way around.”  Efforts like Comic Book Tattoo from Image Comics are a great example of this.  By creating a beautiful product that is desirable to comic book fans as well as fans of Tori Amos’ work is amazing.  But that’s just one title/example in a sea of depressing repetition and the same thing month in and month out as the publishers continue the cycle of what they and think works.

And yet sales are dropping.  Go over to ICv2 and look at their page of monthly sales summaries.  Every headline for the analysis of sales since January 2008 is some variation of the same theme “Comics Sales are Dropping.”  In this world of today, with 5 movies in the box office top 10, with the Watchmen movie and getting mainstream attention, how the hell are comic sales dropping? 

And how do the comic publishers react?  Well, the larger publishers like Marvel and DC Comics?  They up the price.  Take a look at your comics.  Take a look at Previews for November.  Do you see a trend?  Augie DeBlieck over at ComicBookResources called it a couple of weeks back, $3.99 comics are coming.  By the end of the year the majority of comics will be $3.99.  It’s already happening.  Why?  As opposed to seeking out new audiences and increasing sales, the publishers will simply increase prices to offset the decline in sales within their existing customer base.  They’re shooting themselves in the foot.

At then end of the day, this whole conversation really has nothing to do with creator-owned books and the sort.  Rather more to do with the health of the industry, as my compatriot Jim discussed earlier this week.  The call to arms should have nothing to do with the work.  We have great work coming from both “mainstream” comics and creator owned comics.  Geoff Johns is doing amazing things at DC Comics with characters he doesn’t own.  Brian Michael Bendis has single handedly made Marvel a richer place with good content.  There are creator owned books like The Walking Dead, Fear Agent, Scott Pilgrim and others.  But despite who owns the characters or what the long-term deal looks like for the creators, it won’t matter if no one is reading and the audience doesn’t grow. 

I’m baffled that after attending as many conventions as I have, and seeing literally hundreds of thousands of people walking amongst the world of comics that Fear Agent barely sells 6,000 copies, and Criminal barely sells 15,000 copies.  If you ask me, THAT’S the embarrassment that the comic book industry should be reacting to.  All publishers, Marvel, DC Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse, Oni Press, Top Shelf, it doesn’t matter, all of them need to wake up and realize that to help the industry they need to change the way they market, the way they get the word out about comics and we need to realize that the landscape is changing.

I know, I’m pointing a lot of fingers here and not really suggesting solutions and that’s mainly because, like Robert Kirkman, I don’t know what the solution is.  All I know is I love comics and I want to have them for my entire life to read and enjoy, and for my kids and their kids to read and enjoy.  Here at iFanboy, we’re doing whatever we can to help that.  I’ve done everything from suggesting comics to literally buying them for people and putting them in their hands.  I know we have made a difference, albeit a small difference and I would hope that the publishers would simply make the same effort and heed this message: 

Stop marketing to me.  You have me.  I am buying your comics.  Go make someone who ISN’T buying your comics aware of your product.

The Comic Book Industry sucks.  It’s nearly impossible to break in and be successful.  It’s ridiculous difficult to create a hit once you are in.  But there is something so strong in its connection to us that make everyone in the comic industry work their asses off to be successful.  That sort of passion and dedication deserves to be successful and the publishers should be doing everything in their power to do that.  For my time and my money, that’s where the change needs to come from. 

So this is my call to arms to you.  If the publishers aren’t going to do it then we’re going to have to.  Every week, tell someone about a comic book. Show them some art.  Don’t push it or force it.  Simply just leave a comic book on your desk at work, or in the common area where you live or work.  People will notice.  It’s amazing to me that we have to take it upon ourselves to help save this industry, but if that’s what it takes, then so be it.

Comments

  1. Kory Kory says:

    Well said.

  2. Kory Kory says:

    By the way, I checked those sales figures.  Dc has only 5 books in the top 20.  Thats an embarassment.

  3. daccampo daccampo says:

    Ron — Fantastic piece. I agree 100% — you’ve really nailed it here, and it matches my own thoughts on the subject. I actually enjoyed both Kirkman’s manifesto AND Bendis’ response. Like you, I think Kirkman is right to start the conversation. I think Bendis is right to call bullshit on certain aspects of the conversation. But you’re dead-on with your assessment of the industry here. The music and film industry HAVE been making changes ever since napster came along. The comics industry has its own unique share of woes, and publishers, creators, distributors, and retailers all need to consider what works and also what can/should/must change for the medium to really grow and thrive.

  4. GungaDin GungaDin says:

    Slow clap, dude. Slow clap.

  5. Luthor Luthor says:

    Nicely put, Ron.  Cheers.

  6. When the price of a standard 22 page comic goes up to 3.99, I’m gonna drop out of the game.  I can already download all the comics that I read, but I buy them because I prefer to have an actual, physical copy in my hands AND I realize that by buying the comic I’m helping to keep them at 2.99.  Unfortunately, if more and more people start downloading comics instead of paying the 4 dollar price, then the comic book industry will be in a really bad way.

  7. ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

    Well-said.  It’s interesting that every perspective I hear on the topic (including Kirkman’s, and Bendis’s, and Jim’s, and yours) has a lot of good points.  I appreciate the point that this kind of conflict is going on in every industry — and furthermore, it’s hard to think of a time it hasn’t been going on.  I think it’s the nature of the intersection of art and commerce; that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it, quite the opposite.  But problems have always been there, and they’re never going away. 

    Now here’s a question — and I’m not baiting or being rhetorical, I honestly don’t know the answer.  Could the comics industry have survived the 80s without the direct market?  My understanding comics prices were artificially held down for years, and that they weren’t going to be able to compete at newstand sales if they raised the prices to reflect production costs.  It seems like the direct market was a market evolution that worked well for a while, and it’s persisted past the point where it may be holding the industry back, but it seems like it was a sensible (and maybe necessary) business model at the time.   

  8. CharlieBlix CharlieBlix says:

    Step One:Stand on Chair.  Step Two:*clap*…..*clap*…..*clap*…..*clap*

    Great piece.

    I sometimes wonder if only selling books at comic shops is the way to go.  Why not sell them to places like Barnes and Noble and Boarders?  Whats the big deal.  Are they really suprised that sales go down when the only place you can buy a comic is at a place that feels more like a members only club house than a store?  I know this is a blanket statment and I’m sure there are some comic shops out there that are friendly for all but for the most part it’s not that way.

  9. ABCevie ABCevie says:

    Great post, Ron. I’m looking foward to reviewing Comic Book Tattoo for Billboard within the next couple of weeks, because it will be a chance to point out the project is a great example for BOTH industries in terms of an artist taking her creative output by the reins.

  10. SuperMoore SuperMoore says:

     I like the effort in your article Ron….. Nicely written!!!!!!!!!!!  

  11. xebix xebix says:

    Not to take anything away from your article, Ron (it was a fantastic piece), but I have been noticing an increacing amount of spelling errors in the articles posted by various people. It really takes away from the enjoyment of reading.

  12. ActualButt ActualButt says:

    FUCKIN A RON!  See, if Kirkman had jut articulated himself like you just did in the awesome article, I wouldn’t have been rolling my eyes during the entire video.  I haven’t heard Bendis’s response yet, but I just subscribed to wordballoons podcast and I’ll be listening to it probably at work tonite.

    Regarding what you said about sharing comics and "leaving them around":  I tend to put myself out there as a fanboy, and people definitely do come to me with questions about the X-Men’s history, or saying things like, "Hey I just picked up a new issue of X-Men, who’s this chick with armor and the girl with the pixie wings?"  However, I really think that the best way to share comics and encourage others to start reading, is not necessarily to throw a phonebook sized Bone in their hands, or tell them every detail of what they missed since they last read Spider-Man fifteen years ago, but just let your own genuine enthusiasm show.  Let it be known that its OK to read comics.  We have reached a time in our culture where you don’t have to restrict conversation about who is the coolest Green Lantern to your LCS anymore (definitely Guy Gardener by the way).  I used to keep those topics off the table when I was talking to girls at school, or hell, even if they were in the same room, but now I go to the bar wearing a Sin City or Fantastic Four t-shirt and feel totally comfortable, and leave with phone numbers.

    I had this conversation with a friend of mine who’s gay, and we agreed that its very very similar to being gay in this country.  And that in the past 5 years or so, more and more comic book fans had "come out of the closet" so-to-speak.  I asked my friend where the people that wear Green Lantern t-shirts, but don’t read comics at all fit in to that analogy.  His response was "Those are the metrosexuals of comics."  Works for me.

  13. Basically the industry needs to advertise better in my mind. They dont mind putting like 8 pages worth of ads in their own comics…but where are the ads in the other media’s? Major magazines (like Time or Newsweek), Television (major shows have ads for Marvel and DC like Heroes or Lost), the internet!!! (I mean come on Marvel is slowly trying to go viral but the internet is where you can get money now). It’s the year 2008, things have changed since the last 60′s and early 90′s….Gordan Ramsay says it best: ‘Either Change….or die’.

    Now I dont think the industry is failing, I think comics are going to be here as long as I’m around. But they could easily go even further down the latter of importance if they dont advertise and market well. Higher prices might be a trend we cant change, but you can always change the audience and that’s what they need to do.

  14. Being a wrestling fan as well, I have seen this happening to the WWE for the last 5 or 6 years.  They had a formula that worked and stuck with it no matter what the numbers were telling them.  They would see a "strong" profit, and think they are ok, but not admitting to themselves it was because of higher prices and not a stronger fan base.  They are now starting to realize that they need to create new young fans who will be the next generation of viewer.

    Here is the difference between the two mediums.  The WWE has already gone through the pains of the internet with their content and spoilers, and are coming out of the woods in that regard.  The comic book industry really is in the infant stages of both.  Only the most diehard fans know, I think, how to get comics via the web.  I grab comics I usually would have no intention of buying, but that doesn’t stop me from purchasing around 10 books a week.  What happens when downloading comics is a known as downloading music or movies for the average person.  If little Timmy gets his first Spider-Man book that  way instead of going into a comic book store it will be next to immposible to then reel him in as a paying customer, in my opinion.

  15. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    Marketing.  Marketing, marketing, marketing.  It’s so crazy to me that these characters are icons.  Beloved!  People are watching their movies, buying their shirts, getting their symbols TATOOED on their bodies and they’ve never read a book in their life.  That’s madness.  Why, in an essentially GEEK AGE do all these stereotypes of comic readers still run rampant?  We’re watching movies about guys who play video games for a living (and laughing. A lot.)  Where are comic books?  Why aren’t they in actors hands?  Why aren’t they being given out at the movie theaters and with the video games?  Why aren’t they splattered everywhere on the internet not just in the comic related nooks and cranies?  Broken, broken, broken.  You just can’t grow a business by making your customers go to so much work to learn about your product. 

  16. BTW I work at a Borders and we do sell comics and graphic novels….But it’s a smaller store so we dont get a whole lot. But the bigger stores and stores of Barnes and Nobel do carry comics and GN’s and they sell pretty well. I’d say comics are one of the top genre books we sell. Even the novelization of the comic films sell well…

    But I still go by my word and of becca that there needs to be better marketing. If video games can be shown a lot in films, then why not comics? Not only that but some book stores dont even carry big comics. My store doesnt even seen the main Secret Invasion book…..wtf!? I mean it’s bad marketing and shipping decisions that hurt the mainstream industries. I am 100% certain that if the show Lost had ad’s for arcs of a certain comic….we’d get more notice of the industry then now. I’m not saying we’d get more sales, but the best marketing is hear-say.

  17. ActualButt ActualButt says:

    @itsbecca, comics DO pop up in tons of TV and movies.  Don’t ask me to name any right now, but they definitely do.

  18. Kory Kory says:

    I gotta ask. 

    Last week I basically said some of the things Ron said, and yet I was attacked.  Granted my position was a little more miltant in the fact that I said the industry has to get new readers or it could fail.  But I gotta know, was I attacked because it was me or was it my message?

  19. RobAbsten RobAbsten says:

    Of course superheroes follow tv shows like everybody else, Ron. Why, your favorite Amazing Spider-man cover of all time shows that. Remember, the one with Spidey, Cap and Tony all sitting on the couch? I think it was the June 25, 2006 episode where you and the gang discussed this particular cover, as well as the trend of non-story specipic covers in general.

    And I’m looking forward to the Kirkman/Bendis cage match. Perhaps John "I’m just the messenger here, I’m not stirring up anything" Siuntres could officiate. 

  20. MisterBlank MisterBlank says:

    You are my hero, Ron.

  21. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    @ActualButts in a positive light as opposed to an inside joke to fans?  Or even worse making fun of the books or the reader, ie – using it to make them look like a dork (which even nerd/geek loving movies are guilty of).  And for that matter an example where they’re there for the specific purposes of advertisement and not just because the filmmakers are fans themselves?  I’m sure there’s examples, but it’s certainly not prevelant enough and that’s a huge problem.  But that’s just one arm of many in the marketing industry.

  22. Dan Dan says:

    @RobAbsten – Bendis, Johns and Kirkman are scheduled for the Baltimore con – hopefully there will be a knife fight in front of the Hustler Club after the Harveys.

    @Ron – as concise as you could make this topic, and great job taking the industry to task. Bravo, sir. However, you’ve got to look past the industry and actually look to comic buyers, i.e. guys who continue to buy titles because they’ve been buying them forever. We all have titles we buy hoping they’ll return to previous glory, or because they have every issue from issue 1. In a lot of peoples’ opinions, Uncanny X-Men* is not as good as The Walking Dead, yet the X-Men have this undyingly loyal audience that will suffer through crossover after awful crossover and creative team after creative team, yet never drop the book no matter how much they don’t enjoy it anymore. I just want to scream, ‘Take that $2.99 a month and try something new.’

    *I am not picking on Ron or X-Men fans – it just happens Uncanny 500 was the highest-selling ongoing series on the July list.

  23. Kory Kory says:

    @itsbecca- Check out the show ‘The Big Bang Theory’.  It has four geeks hanging out talking geek stuff.  Most of the time the characters have a comic book character shirt on.  There also action figures everywhere in their apartment and usually you can spot comic books laying around in the background.  I would’nt say they are portrayed in a positive light though, there are usually inside jokes and the main characters are the butt of many of the jokes.

  24. Ron Richards ron (@ronxo) says:

    @Dan – I totally hear your point, but I’m not the regular comic fan I buy alot of things because it’s the nature of this gig.  That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Uncanny #500, and am glad to see it was high selling.  But I also try and take risks on new books like I Kill Giants and Helen Killer and other indie books like that. 

    I think its hard for people to drop the commitment they’ve made to comics they’ve been buying forever, I’ve been very public with my struggles there (i.e. The Flash) – but when comic prices go up, regardless of your commitment to other comics, it makes it harder to sample new comic too.  

  25. flapjaxx flapjaxx says:

    $3.99 would be a fine price for comics, providing that we get some extra pages. A few of those pages can even be community-oriented. I miss letters columns–those should come back. Essays like the Vertigo "On the Ledge" column would be great. Perhaps each issue of a comic should be like a magazine, complete with a back-up feature or two. They sort of used to be that way. A comic should be a varied experience, not a thin story that takes 5 minutes to read, interpersed with ads for Spider-Man fruit snacks. From what I understand, the lower price-point is part of the problem in getting comics on more magazine shelves anyway (why put something on the shelf for $3 when you could give that space to a magazine that sells for $5?).

    I haven’t heard the Kirkman/Bendis debate, but I’ll listen to it for a chuckle. Honestly. People like Bendis and Kirkman arguing about the comics industry is the equivalent of Bud Selig and A-Rod arguing about Major League Baseball. You guys didn’t create these problems, but you represent them and facilitate them. Kirkman, if you don’t like the way things are, maybe you should stop trying to recreate what Stan Lee did forty years ago, except you’re writing for 10,000 30-year-olds whereas he was writing for millions of kids. It’s "cute" that Image thinks they’re building a superhero universe again… like that matters anymore. Bendis, you’re fat and happy, writing ten books a month only two of which have much quality to them–you’re the 2008 equivalent of any generic mid-’90s X-Men crossover. No offense to anyone who likes the stuff those two guys pump out every month–in my opinion it’s pretty crappy–but I can’t really think of two creators whose opinions on the industry I’d take LESS seriously or care less about.

  26. baggo says:

    Great Writing Ron, just great. I agree completely: Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, etc. you already have us (the Direct Market) please focus your efforts on the other people.

    @ Kory: Probably both… KIDDING.

  27. stuclach stuclach says:

    Diamond is a key problem and they are simply not being called out for it by anyone in a position to do something about it.  I have never seen a monopoly be treated so politely.

    Ron, you work in Marketing now.  How about some specific marketing suggestions just in case some big wigs stop by the site.  (I think shows like Diggnation and TRS are untapped markets for comic book companies.  Their fans are already on the geek fringe.  Pull them in.  Wouldn’t a DC or Marvel ad at the beginning of Diggnation sound nice?)

    And concerning your alternate topic "You ever wonder whether super heroes follow TV shows regularly like the rest of us?"  Of course they do.  You know Batman Tivos Battlestar Galactica and then he and Alfred watch like 3 episodes in a row on Saturday morning after a hard night on the job.

  28. patio patio says:

    My earlier comment was lost to the intra-web, I guess. But I’ll summarize:

    1) Marvel water is not good enough marketing to kids? 

    2) FCBD is a great concept and Marvel and DC have fumbled the ball since it started. Has anyone ever seen ads for FCDB outside of comic book shops? Hell-o Who are you trying to reach? 

    3) There are some good comics in the kids lines (Wolverine First Class, the Power Pack minis, the now-cancelled Teen Titans Go), but they’re all too infrequent. We need stuff that’s not just for kids, a little more complicated, but not so heavy on the sex and violence. Ultimate Spidey is about right. Ultimates, not so much.

    4) I’m sorry Ron, but X-Men now is more inappropriate than X-Men from 1982.

    And lastly flappjaxx, $3.99 is NOT a fine price for comics. Are you crazy!?! 

  29. Kory Kory says:

    About superheroes watching T.V.-I would say Batman is a huge Lost fan.  He would probably be the only person able to figure it out.

  30. CharlieBlix CharlieBlix says:

    @TheNextChampion Barnes and Borders sell trades but as far as floppy’s go they sell some DH and a lot of kid comics.  I could be wrong here but I’m pretty sure most comics are Direct Market and only can be gotten through Diamond.  If I remember right all of the comics sold at barnes and borders are not Direct Market books.

  31. Neb Neb says:

    Ron, I enjoyed your manifesto.  I have a confession:  I have no idea what all the hub bub is about.  I haven’t read/seen this Kirkman declaraion or Bendis’ response, but I think you make a solid argument here.  I love comics too, and I do want to see it grow.  My hope is that this discussion leads to new horizons. 

    I agree with flapjaxx.  I don’t mind dishing out the dough for more content.  Criminal is worth every penny every month; not only do you get an incredible comic, but the back matter is so great as well.

  32. nototis says:

    My son, then 9, walked up to me one day and pointed out with a laugh that while the characters in his manga are moving, the characters in American comics — my comics and the anthologies I’ve purchased for him and his brother — are "standing still, like a photograph." This might seem like a small thing, but when you realize younger readers are learning a different vocabulary of comics, I don’t see Shonen Jump readers moving to Marvel and DC. Manga publishers have teen and adult comics ready to fill the void. 

     Also, while the subject matter of Marvel and DC comics may be creeping to a more adult level than when we were kids, the kids today are more sophisticated about storytelling. I have no problem with books for younger readers, but dumb them down and lower the standard of the artwork and they’ll go to manga or video games without a second thought.

     I hate to point this out, but we’re the last generation of classic American comic book readers.

  33. Crippler Crippler says:

    Way to put your heart on the screen Ron.  I agree when you say that the way to save comics is to get people to read comics.  It’s really pretty simple.  If a friend tells you how grear TDK was, don’t just ‘friggin A’.  Say, friggin A and would you like to know more? (Starship Troopers style)  As much as I like RIP, what fan of the movie could pick up that book and understand it?  Or, the new Red Hulk after watching Edward Norton?  They make no connection, so ythey can’t start off with monthlies… even though any marketing-savy person would have probably demanded that the titles be accessible around the time of the movies

    It’s a ‘digital age’ but we as a society read more books then ever.  There’s no reason why comics can’t be a part of that trend.  Either that, or someone’s got to force some Ed Brubaker on Oprah. 

     

  34. UofIChief UofIChief says:

    Marvel is not really in a position to mass-market their monthly comics because of the low print runs. Direct market retailers can’t return any unsold copies to Diamond so they only buy what they think they can sell. Marvel doesn’t want to be stuck with a huge inventory of issues that might or might not get reordered, so they only print pretty much what they have preorders for. You can’t put a TV commercial for Secret Invasion on during Lost unless you have the issues available in stores for people to go out and buy. It would be a public relations nightmare, and could possibly fuel a short-term speculators market. Marvel would have to do a huge print run and if the commercial didn’t work they would be stuck with a ton of unsold issues, or retailers would be stuck with them (without being able to return them) because they believed that Marvel’s marketing would work.

  35. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    Marvel also doesn’t have the money to do that.  Those ads are expensive, like car company expensive. 

  36. AirDave817 AirDave817 says:

    Excellent!

    I don’t know any answers – I just know what I like. I think the world might turn faster with fewer titles devoted to Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men; and, better stories told about the characters. I think the world would be better off without weekly comic books; and, comic books and creators trying to create something that looks less like a comic book. I think an embarassment is that I can be entertained more by the zany hijinks of Spider-Man, Iron Man and The Hulk in Marvel Adventures Superheroes than any of the plethora of other mainstream titles that those three characters appear in. I was spared the Clone Saga and all of the nonsense by reading Ultimate Spider-Man.

    But, I know that I am less likely to pick up a creator owned comic than Spider-Man, Green Lantern or Fantastic Four. I’ve seen where the creator owned property is less likely to be reliable.

    And if prices go up, I’m less likely to pick any thing up.

  37. stuclach stuclach says:

    @ Josh – Exactly.  That is why Diamond should be putting out more ads or better yet we open up the distribution game and let them compete for the right to distribute the books.  Part of that competition would be what they prove to the publishers (including marketing).  Its not like there are any serious barriers to entry in this market.  Diamond uses UPS, etc.

    Hell, DC has WB as a resource.  I am certain they know how to market (I have 100,000 AOL disks as proof).

  38. Dan Dan says:

    @Ron – I am totally the kettle to that pot – I still buy The Flash (I just didn’t seem to hate it as much as everyone else). But I also pick up at least one new thing every week – whether I stick with it or not is another matter. Doesn’t matter if it’s DC, Marvel, Image, Dynamite, whatever – it’s about good comics, not who markets them better. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen – in comics, movies, music, anything. I don’t see how better advertising or better books that no one buys is going to turn the industry around. It’ll help, but never to the point where it’ll be a drastic change to everything.

    And while Uncanny 500 was good, it was not as good as Walking Dead 50 (see if I’m wrong once you get to that issue).

  39. Chris Rohling Anson17 says:

    @blix.  I work at a Barnes and Noble.  I spend alot of time helping wandering people in the comics section because they tend not to know what they’re even looking for.  We… do an awful business in comics.  Manga is another thing entirely.  That’s one of our highest selling items.  I’m not sure if i support going completely bookstore.  I’m around it every day and I couldn’t tell ya if its smart or what.  The biggest problem is browsers.  We have dozens of people everyday who come in and read a volume of Ult. Spiderman or a batman trade (rarely good ones.)  Some of these guys burn through 2 or 3 trades in a sitting and then walk out without bying anything.  We can’t kick them out and we can’t force them to buy anything so its kinda a lose lose situation.  In my opinion, they’re almost as bad as pirates and torrent hounds.  I buy as much as I can afford to.  I’m at my LCS every week and I pick up trades from my work (love the employee discount.) I spend too much money already.  If things all go up to 3.99 I won’t be able to keep up with half of the books that I do. 

     Sorry for the scatterd post.  I’m not sure that I even made my point.  I spent alot of time thinking about this very thing at work tonight.  It was truly a long night.

    On the bright side, I sold a copy of Watchen and Astonishing X-men to a woman who came in looking for something "Different" to read.  She’d just started comics.  I was kinda proud.

  40. @Anson: *slow clap* Nice job with the selling comics to a noob. Although I’m not sure if she’ll be intrigued with Astonishing X-Men? Did you sell it like ‘well if you like Buffy or Firefly you’ll like this cause it’s written by the creator of those shows?’ Like what is your technique in selling a graphic novel or issue? I usually try and compare it to something they buy; so if someone is buying a mystery novel….I lean towards the Watchmen trade. If a little kid buys a kiddie Batman book I try and sell a Marvel Adventures comic, ya know to balance it out.

    Oh and I would happen to be one of those guys who read a trade or two and leave the store so….yeah…..how bout that Breaking Dawn?….

  41. Chris Rohling Anson17 says:

    It’s cool man.  I don’t hate them.  Just the ones who are in there… every day.  It only bothers me on days where I don’t have enough to do.  haha.  Turns out she had read the first couple Astonishing Trades.  She thought she was looking for New X-men, but when I said we didn’t have it but had a great X-men series by Whedon she said "Oh duh, that’s the one."  So, technically it was my sale.  I actually read the first Twilight book.  It was… good…ish.  Idk seemed way too buffyish.  I guess I’ll have ta finish em.  My girlfriend is nuts about em and I swear its the only thing my fellow employees talk about.

     Uh… sorry for getting off topic guys.

  42. mrf326 says:

       I think a very interesting piece Ron, but I disagree somewhat.  The comic market has radically changed and it is because of the Fanboys… the ORIGINAL Fanboys, like me.  I was just a kid in the 70′s who enjoyed comics now and again.  Back then, you could pick up a comic for anywhere between 15 and 35 cents, dive in and read an entertaining, self-contained story.  That’s the way comics had been since the 40′s. 

       As I got older, my tastes matured and I think the BIG 2 recognized that.  Suddenly, there was the scantily glad Jean grey and VavaVOOM!, Starfire of the New Teen Titans and let me tell you there were no complaints coming from me.  I loved the eye-candy and also appreciated the more sophisticated storylines that played out over a few issues.  Yet, if you missed an issue or two, you weren’t lost and still had a good read.  Throw in Frank Miller’s Daredevil (Yowza! Elektra and Ninjas!!!) and the first Wolverine limited series and you were at dawn of the first age of the Fanboys.  Now, I paid attention to who was writing and drawing the comics I read.  I looked for Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, George Perez & John Byrne’s names on the covers.  Suddenly, I wasn’t throwing my comics on the floor, but keeping them in a neat stack in a box.  (Polybags, backing boards & comic boxes came later, when I realized that comics were considered collectibles and an investment.)  The 80′s was an awesome time for comics and writers and artists were experimenting with new and creative ways to push the medium to tell bigger & better stories and reach out to their maturing readers.  That’s what drove the Direct Market aspect of the industry, the kids of the 60′s & 70′s now had the ability and the cash to go to OhMyGod!!! A COMIC SHOP!!! filled with comics and with people who loved comics and wanted to talk about them!!!  A far cry from the "funny books" as my Grandfather called them, when he started me down this path and a completely different experience from grabbing them off the spinner rack at the corner store. 

       We all know where it went from there, a boom in readership, which led to pushing the envelope further both content-wise and materials-wise.  Watchmen & Dark Knight Returns, which begat a heavy-duty Punisher, onto Morrison’s Doom Patrol and then Ennis’ Preacher and so forth and so on – and we just ate it up!!!  This uber-violence appealed to our testosterone fueled adolescence and young adulthood!  We liked the death, blood and gore and we demanded it on glossy paper, so we could marvel at it in every detail.  But, this continued in blitzkrieg-style throughout the entire comics industry, until my boyhood heroes eventually succumbed to this ultra-destructiveness with Batman’s back broken and Superman dead.  That is when I knew the industry had changed.  In my youth, when reading one of my prized four-color wonders, I always knew Superman would triumph in the end and if Batman appeared to be dead, it was only just a ruse to defeat the Joker.  Where had the innocence and nobility of those earlier comics gone?  Why had those fantastic cosmic tales, intriguing mysteries and magical adventures become so bloodied and filled with death?

       My point is this.  I agree with Kirkman in this regard:  We have abandoned a certain elegant simplicity in today’s comics.  And it is we, the Fanboys that drove it.  By spending our hard-earned dollars for each and every increasingly more expensive issue.  Truthfully, the buck stops right here.

       We as comic readers and as (hopefully) mature adults have engaged in a scorched earth policy, leaving nothing to the next generations of comic readers.  Sure, we are loving life, in terms of sophisticated graphic story-telling… Bendis writes a mean Captain America, but maybe that’s just it, Captain America is now a roughneck.  But, wasn’t he also created to inspire?  (What happened to his confronting Batroc the Leaper? ) I, like many of you mature readers, appreciate and thrive on these storylines and don’t mind shelling out bucks to read these fabulously illustrated and well-told extended tales.  But, I also mourn for the kid that had some change from shoveling driveways or delivering newspapers and could swing by the newsstand to pick up a fully self-contained story (no "the story thus far" pages) and marvel at the wondrous worlds spread out across the staples and fold – engaging the imagination without embroiling him in sex, violence and the subtleties of morality that lie in the grey spectrum.  The industry has anchored itself to this fanboy generation of comic readers and gambled the entire industry on it.  There aren’t any comics that are both appropriate to younger readers AND truly well-written without pandering to them -  and there definitely aren’t any that a spirited 7 year old can afford!

       So, the call goes out to you, the Fanboys, to demand some comics that harkens to those earlier times, yet show the growth in storytelling and art that has developed while, telling marvelous and imaginative tales without sex, blood and gore – all at a price we can afford, in the hope that we can share the tradition of great comics and graphic novels with future generations.  Lord knows, we all would love to share comics with our kids, but there is no way in hell, even though I love Morrison and his work, that I am going to let my kids get their hands on The Invisibles until they’re in college!

       I don’t think Kirkman’s solution is necessarily the answer, but I do believe it warrants discussion.  Let’s share the best of what we love about comics with an audience that truly does believe in the magic and majesty of superheroes.  Because, in the end, what is childhood without comics?

  43. WadeWilson WadeWilson says:

    After listening to both Kirkman’s "manifesto" & his interview, I’d say Ron talks more sense in this article than both put together.

    Bendis’s response made sense also, and he said the same thing I did — a big part of Kirkman’s speech was a marketing ploy. 

    I think Ron sums up the whole situation of saving or improving the comics industry with this statement –

    "Stop marketing to me.  You have me.  I am buying your comics.  Go make someone who ISN’T buying your comics aware of your product."

    ‘Nuff said.

  44. WadeWilson WadeWilson says:

    Also, when comics are all $3.99, I’ll be buying A LOT less. I buy on average 10 books per week, so when this hits, I’ll drop to about 1 or 2 per week. The companies will lose a lot of money from me (and guys like me). I’ll be buying mostly trades soon it looks like.

  45. patio patio says:

    @Wade – I’ll say it. Marvel and DC need to keep marketing to me or I’ll stop buying their products. (Well, maybe.) See I was a toe-dipper for years and years until Infinite Crisis and Civil War brought me back in full hog, and I’ve been in since. But if there hadn’t been interesting things on the horizon to keep me excited over the past 2 years, there’s a chance I would have dropped out again. 

    (And y’know just when the event rolled around… and maybe it wasn’t quite what I’d hoped it would be, oh! here comes another marketing blitz for the next big event 3-4 months down the line. Can’t wait!)

    I’ll bet there are a lot of people who drift in and out of comic book stores as the their whims dictate. I mean, there’s not just 20,000 – 40,000 people in their target audience, but that’s what the books sell. If every kid who read comics in the 70′s and 80′s was still buying comics today, there would be a lot more books that broke the 100K mark. I mean, what are the ratings for Battlestar Gallactica? Or Heroes?

    So, yeah, the big 2 are going to continue to market to big kids as well they should, to try and get a piece of that pie. I don’t know if they’re doing a paticularly good job of that. And if you use the excuse that they can’t market their books in a big way because they can’t take the risk of overstocking their product at the stores, well that’s just setting themselves up for failure. If you have a product you believe in, then you’ve got to get out there and sell it.

  46. christian christian says:

    3.99 is too much to pay for gas and comics. Every week I look at all the great comics on the wall only to walk to the trades and buy that trade you guys talked about last show. 3.99 is change I can’t belive in. I am out. Done with single issue format.

    I do have a suggestion/dream/ignorant rambling. I would love to read every single secret invasion crossover but I refuse to pay that much.   1 buck per book sounds fair to me. News papers cost 50 cents. ok so you take the two and mix them and you have the the funny pages. Why can’t I buy cheap stock pulpy  comics? Make like comic newspapers with a bunch of stories. Nova is great, i read it for free at borders and i feel guilty.  Continue to press the books and charge whatever the people who keep cd stores in bussiness will pay. Just give me the story in a form that i can afford, throw away and consume again.

    Just a thought.

  47. WadeWilson WadeWilson says:

    @patio – I can’t speak for Ron, but I took his meaning as this — all the comic book advertising is in comic books or in Wizard magazine. Preaching to the choir. They need to advertise in places where people who don’t read comics will see.

    That’s not to say the big companies need to stop telling us what’s coming up, of course they should do this — the core readers just shouldn’t be thier main focus to advertise to, we’re here already, & will get most of our heads up from websites like iFanboy.

    When was the last time you read a comic, & the advertisment for an upcoming comic was something that you didn’t already know about from reading it online?

  48. patio patio says:

    @wade – I take your point. They need to penetrate other media venues. 

    How many of us first found comics at the grocery or drugstore? Archie’s Digests from the magazine shelves was the first thing I asked my dad to buy me. Spinner racks at 7-11. But if these venues are done and gone, then yeah, the companies need to find new ones. 

    As for the last question, I still don’t know what those b/w ads in Marvel books are for. And I nearly skipped Ultimate Origins until I got sucked in by the ads.

  49. Loki Loki says:

    I have an excellent viral marketing idea for comic books. First we get three "ordinary" guys to talk about comics. Maybe on a podcast. We’ll make one a "DC guy," one a "Marvel Zombie," and one an "Indy." They must be relatable, funny, and likable. Perhaps one will do funny voices. They will recommend books and discuss how wonderful they are, inducing thousands of unsuspecting fans into shelving out loads of cash for comics they otherwise would never have even noticed.

    Once this is a success, we will move into video podcasts, maybe a website with discussion forums, reviews… Oh! the ideas just keep flowing. What can I say? That’s the magic of the god of lies. But these gems don’t come cheap. Tell Quesada and Didio to contact me, in care of Asgard, and we’ll set it up.

  50. dandoody dandoody says:

    Good article, Ron.  But also wanted to point out something that hasn’t quite been touched on … at the moment, we’re in a recession.  You correctly draw attention to the downturn in sales/circulation since Jan. 08, but, in general, all periodicals are down by 6.3%.  It’s not just Marvel and DC that are having difficulty selling issues in this economic environment, it’s also Time Inc. and Conde Nast, too.  And while I don’t want to pay 3.99 for a comic, the price of food, gas, my apartment, and utilities is rising, so I’m not too terribly surprised to see an increase in the number of comics selling for 3.99—its the easiest and least risky thing for the industry to do right now.  (Alas, the sad thing is I notice more & more indies are appearing at the higher price point, which makes me more reticent to pick them up.)  And the easiest thing for me to do, sadly, is cut back on my weekly comic book buying.

    One possible solution for the industry might be a model similar to Time Inc’s new Maghound venture, where you pay a subscription fee then get to pick from a pool of titles per month.  Going digital and Trade-only publishing are two other options, the latter of which has the benefit of not entirely alienating the LCS.

    However, having read both Comic Wars and The Ten-Cent Plague this summer, it seems as if the industry has nearly always been in a state of perpetual crisis, whether over creative/censorship issues, or sales/circulation problems, or both. So far, they’ve managed to be extremely durable pop culture icons, pretty much re-inventing themselves by degrees every decade.  I’m still not sure comic books will be around forever, but then again I’m not entirely convinced that the issues facing the industry now will doom it to extinction either.

  51. Marbles Marbles says:

    Great article Ron, I agree Kirkman was shooting at the wrong target.

    At $3.99 surely floppies are dead.

    Cheap digital downloads for monthly issues, and a major push on printed Graphic Novels in mainstream stores is the logical next step if you ask me.  Possibly means the end of the LCS, unless they can evolve in some way, who knows.

     

     

  52. deadspace deadspace says:

    Ron, your points are undoubtedly more sensible than Kirkman’s. The only thing is, when you say "the comic industry sucks" you could substitute the word "comic" for any other consumer product and the same would be true. A handful of companies have the monopoly in any industry. 5 companies own 95% of all the music that’s released in the entire world… it used to be 6 but they keep merging and merging. I think comparing the comic industry to the music industry, comics are doing much better in terms of having better known independents.

    I too shake my head in despair when I see the sales of some great comics like Proof selling a couple of thousand. But why aren’t people buying them? You telling me it’s lack of advertising? Well, sorry but look at the people on the internet with all the information at their fingertips yet have they even heard of Proof or Fear Agent or Screamland? Nope. You’ll have people on here complaining about the state of the industry but what do they buy? Practically all DC and Marvel, that’s what. I don’t believe it’s anything to do with advertising. The fact is, people are lazy.

    I used to be heavily involved with the independent music scene and it is more than frustrating when you have an amazing band that no one really gives a shit about simply because they aren’t on the cover of the glossy magazines.

    People just don’t give a shit.

    They can’t be bothered to find out about new independent stuff. I’ve tried giving away FREE zines and compilation CDs outside gigs and I had people just throwing the the CDs on the ground.

    People don’t give a shit. 

    I don’t see why it would be any different with comics. In fact, comics are at a slight advantage because you will have people buying comics for the writer’s name on the cover. But a new unheard of writer? On an indie? Forget about it. That’s the problem right there and it’s the same in every industry.

    As for taking it upon ourselves to advertise comics – who already doesn’t try to get friends/family into comics??

  53. deadspace deadspace says:

    @ stuclach

    "Hell, DC has WB as a resource. I am certain they know how to market (I have 100,000 AOL disks as proof"

    hahaha! truest words spoken so far! :)  

  54. Truthseeker Truthseeker says:

    This is a great piece Ron, and I was hoping one of you would do an article on it because this site is one of the best places for discussion around.

     

    The thing about comics that I think a lot of us take for granted is the Super Hero. I often hear indy creators and fans say books like Fear Agent or Criminal or what have you should sell as much as the Super Hero books. But I think a lot of comic fans and a lot of the people who are coming into comics over the last bunch of years are not necessarily comic fans they are Super Hero fans. Until recently you could not find them anywhere outside of comics. Where Sci-Fi, Crime, War, Romance and so on exist heavily in movies, tv and books. There are a lot more alternatives for fans of those genres.

     

    I think that as there are more ways to consume media and more and more media to consume everything is getting spread out. There will never be a million readers a month on a comic again. There are just to many things to do. I don’t see comics going away just like I don’t see TV going away.  They just have to share viewers with DVD, the internet and other outlets. 

     

    I guess the last thing I wanted to throw out there before I stop rambling here is would Superman be Superman if there was no corporate structure carrying him forward. Let’s be honest Siegel and Shuster did not write the best Superman ever and in fact the modern character is wildly different then what they created. The character is better because of all the talented people that have contributed. With out the business shepherding these characters along, I think a lot of our favorite heroes would have faded with their times. We would not be reading Batman, Superman and the like with out a business bringing in new talent to keep them viable. That is not to say people should not be compensated, but to hear work fire is bad all the time is in my small opinion missing out on what the system created. 

  55. Marbles Marbles says:

    Interesting new article just appeared on BusinessWeek (of all places) about Marvel & DC’s digital strategies and the future of the industry (Comic Books Evolve – from Ink to Internet)…

    http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2008/tc20080821_870628.htm?chan=technology_technology+index+page_top+stories

     

  56. CharlieBlix CharlieBlix says:

    @Anson – I think we are living almost the same life.  We both work at a Barnes, both our girlfriends love Twilight, and we are both comic fans.  Ha.  But yeah I do think Trades are a good way of getting people into comics.  I was one of them people who only got trades their for a long time.  I never even set foot in a comic shop for a long time.  I just started buying floppys about 4 or 5 months ago and I’m still not sure if its worth it.  I was spending less when I only read trades.  I understand why floppys need to be around but if the price of comics go up I might end up going back to my trade only way.  Well thats not true I will buy a select few floppys and I’ll still go back diving in the cheap bins.

    Could there ever be a death to the floppys? 

  57. @josh – While the price to put a comic book ad during Lost would be expensive, it would not be as bad for a Saturday morning cartoon or one of the cable kids channels.  A 7 or 8 year old doesn’t know (well I’m not actually sure, my son is only 17 months) that after watching Spider-Man or The Batman that there are actually monthly books he could buy.  Putting something at the end of the show saying you can read more about these characters at your local book or comic book store (hell even target has a limited run of comics in their books section) would also be a great help.

  58. deadspace deadspace says:

    @CharlieBlix – I think the end of monthly issues is almost inevitable in the printed form if the whole digital comics thing takes off. i think either the demand for digital comics will force that to happen or else poor sales and lack of sustainability will force it to happen.

    Antony Johnson wrote a blog about this recently:

    http://antonyjohnston.livejournal.com/35985.html

    @TruthSeeker: "I don’t see comics going away just like I don’t see TV going away" – absolutely. 

    @Marbles – good article, thanks for sharing.

  59. chazbot chazbot says:

    We definitely all need to do our part to help spread the books we love to newer readers (WITHOUT trying to force them down someone’s throat).
    I had a good friend in town who kind of likes comics and was looking for something new for him to get into. I lent him the first two Invincible trades to take on his trip. When he got back, he went and ordered trades 3-7 online. That’s fantastic. I doubt it means it will get him into a comic shop weekly, but it might turn him on to other Kirkman work or trying to find more trades of popular, newer superheroes.

  60. @johnnor: Well maybe that is more fianacially sound then putting an ad on prime-time. Although where do people get this notion Marvel has no money for this? Recently Marvel did a viral ad with a team up of Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Hulk….so that cant be cheap but Marvel did pay for it.

    But an ad in the children’s programming is a better idea….I mean let’s put a Spider-Man ad or Teen Titans ad while they’re watching Power Rangers or something….you got instant costumers since kids are so easy to persuade. Obviously dont advertise the more violent comics or events…let’s ease the kids in with kid friendly titles before we try ad’s for teenagers.

  61. daccampo daccampo says:

    I’m all for better marketing and advertising, but there are certain realities that are hard to get around. TV advertising costs would completely obliterate the profit of most comics. The idea of placing an ad during children’s programming is interesting (and still very costly), but then your comics MUST be targeting kids. And, uh, jeez, wasn’t that kinda Kirkman’s point? If you’re angling to get kids into shops, Kirkman’s point was a) make ‘em accessible and b) don’t put your top names on them because kids aren’t following the creators, they’re following the characters.

  62. PatK says:

    Great article Ron!

     I think that not only does DC and Marvel have to try and market differently, but retailers really need to get their act together, and stop living in the past!

    I’m a relatively new reader to comics and I can still remember the first time coming into a few lcs after reading Planet Hulk. First thoughts, honestly, was to get the hell out of there! Everything was a mess, and for a new reader walking into a comic store like the one I did, it made it feel as if it is a dying industry.

     Retailers need to understand that comics are becoming a competitive market and that they need to move inventory, reorganize, and make it easier for new readers. If I didn’t have a friend who was a avid comic reader, I probably would have only read Planet Hulk, and shrugged everything else off to the side.

    For me I’ll stick to either ordering online or from amazon because unless theres a kid with a credit card, theres no way they’d pay retail for a book covered in ads for full price (and hell no to 3.99).

     

  63. mikegraham6 mikegraham6 says:

    "Here at iFanboy, we’re doing whatever we can to help that.  I’ve done everything from suggesting comics to literally buying them for people and putting them in their hands." Question: how do i become one these people?

  64. mikegraham6 mikegraham6 says:

    Also, aren’t the problems the comic industry is experiencing similiar to that of the book industry in general? when was the last time you saw an advertisement for a book outside of book industry specific product? the closest thing i’ve seen isperhaps a magazine and that’s damn close if you think about it. Books are becoming a niche product, comics have been one forever, im not worriesd, the industry will survive one way or another. it may change, but im certain we will still see new stories starring our favorite characters. Although, the monthly comic industry may be in a decline, but i find it hard to believe that the graphic novel industry is in decline. that’s the direction comics should be going and focusing on, whether we like it or not.

  65. daccampo daccampo says:

    @mikegraham – I actually hear ads for books on the radio quite a bit — been noticing them a lot lately. Usually James Patterson or somesuch. EVen so, you’re right, they don’t have the kind of advertising dollars that movies and TV shows have. That said, bookstores are much more widespread and have mass appeal. This is why having trades in bookstores is no important.

    Oh, also: books have Oprah. Gotta admit, that helps.

  66. daccampo daccampo says:

    er, that was supposed to be "…is SO important."

  67. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @mikegraham6 – I see book ads everywhere.  The subways are plastered with them.  They’re on the side of buses.  It could be becuse NYC is where most of the big companies are located, but there are no lack of advertisements for books here.

  68. FACE FACE says:

    There’s such a stigma to comic-fans in the world I inhabit that it’s just something I accept. Turning the hunters and gatherers that plague my daily life into fans of the genre is right next door to impossible. The most difficult part is convincing them that reading can be enjoyable. Most of the time the subject is brought up I’m reminded that comics are "kid’s stuff". "Shooting guns, fishing and remodeling homes, that’s what men do." 

     

  69. stuclach stuclach says:

    @conor – There are absolutely no ads where I live (Georgia).  There is a relatively large and affluent population of college students that live in town and they are getting no visible marketing. 

    When you say that you see advertisements for books, do you mean ads for actual issues of comics books (like you would buy at a LCBS) or do you mean ads for TPB’s and Graphic Novels? 

    Are the ads for/from specific companies (DC, Marvel, Image, DH, etc) or are they for the actual NYC shops?

  70. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    @stuclach he’s talking about prose novels since mike was saying novels are having the same issues as comics.  I would agree with dave and conor.  Prose is not in the same boat, it has print ads, talk shows radio.  I wouldn’t say they’re comparible.

  71. flapjaxx flapjaxx says:

    I just listened to the Bendis interview. I can’t believe how small potatoes this debate is. I thought this was about the state of the comics industry and the place of comics in society. Instead it seems to be able whether golden-boy superhero comics creators work for Marvel and sell 20,000 copies a month or work for Image and sell 10,000, producing basically the same comics at either company. If this is the highest level of debate that these "A-list" creators can reach, then we need new blood in the industry.

  72. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @stuclach – What Becca said.

  73. daccampo daccampo says:

    What would happen to comics sales if Oprah had a "Comic Book Club"? 

  74. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    @daccampo: I feel like, if that happened, comics would sell 20,000 more copies a month, and Oprah would lose 11 million viewers. :)

  75. stuclach stuclach says:

    @itsbecca – Thanks.  I guess I should have read all the other posts so I would have the correct context for Conor’s.

    I agree Novels get plenty of marketing.  (Especially that damn Dianetics.  You can’t get away from that one.)

  76. leland222 leland222 says:

    Great article Ron!!!

    I’m 20 and I got into comics right after I graduated high school.  If it hadn’t been for this website I probably wouldn’t have stuck around.  Thanks for the guidance.

    I’ve always been confused as to why monthly comics aren’t available at more places than just comic shops.  Does anyone know?  I always hear older people talking about how they could buy comics at gas stations, super markets etc..  All I ever see is Archie. 

  77. benjy77 says:

    What can save the comic book industry?  Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, or what ever other company has the god damn balls to put their flag ship books back in store other than comic shops and book stores.  I talking Wal-Mart, super markets, drug stores, gas stations, or where ever your can get them in fornt of your consumer. 

    I remember going to the store with my mom on the weekends and drive her nuts becuase we could not leave until i looked throught spinning rack of comics to see what was new.  The closest comic book store was about 30 miles from our town, so I would not start going there regularly until I could drive.  I bought every copy of Batman, Detective Comics, X-men, and Spiderman that came out off those spinning racks.  And once a month I would talk my dad into driving me to the comic shop to buy books I could not get in on the spinning racks, like Nightwing, Moonknight, Punisher.

    The big companies can blame the internet, video games, tv, or any other bullshit reason why sales are dropping and the average reader is getting older.   But if I, Joe Fanboy, has to go out of his way to buy comics from a loacl comic store; how the hell is some kid going to be exposed to this dying art form.

     WAIT!!!! STOP!!!! I forgot there was a special package of Spiderman 3 sold at Wal-Mart with an exclusive Comic written by  Brian Michael Bendis.  That is how they are going to turn this around.  Give away an exclusive comic at a store that does not sell comics and make a big deal that it is a book written by Bendis.  And let’s pretend that people out side of current comic readers know who the fuck is Brian Michael Bendis.  It’s been about a year since that came out, I can feel the ship turning around any minute now…….any minute now…….maybe now……..

    God, writing this makes me want to reading comics.

  78. Chris Rohling Anson17 says:

    @ daccampo.  I know you’re trying to be funny, but when I read that, I almost screamed.  I detest that woman.

  79. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @Anson17 – You might detest her but she’s more responsible for getting people to read books than most.

  80. AlexG AlexG says:

    I like it that every fan thinks he/she knows what the ‘industry’ needs or should do. I’ve finally realized that comic fans talking about the ills of the comic ‘industry’ is probably no different than comic fans following box office weekend take…sorry, but I can’t help but feel silly getting all worked up over the ‘industry’.

  81. deadspace deadspace says:

    @AlexG – I agree. I also think there is something about being passionate about something that drives some people to this strange apocalyptic place where even though at present things are good there is OBVIOUSLY impending doom.

    Personally, I’m too busy trying to get through a mountain of comic books to have time to save the industry. So it’s just as well that back in the real world it doesn’t need saving.   

  82. Kory Kory says:

    I’m sorry for having an opinion and a few ideas.

  83. AlexG AlexG says:

    @Kory: Apology accepted ;)

  84. Kory Kory says:

    What I should have said is " pot, meet kettle".

  85. deadspace deadspace says:

    oh for fuck sake Kory stop being so sensitive. this way you have of taking things personally is what starts the bickering. if you can’t handle people disagreeing with you then it’s best to just stay away from discussions.

    "I’m sorry for having an opinion and a few ideas." – what kind of childish thing is that to say anyway? seriously man. i won’t be dragged into an argument with you again so I’m just saying my bit and leaving it here. is it possible for you to keep the discussion to the topic?

  86. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    If you want to argue and swear at each other, please don’t do it here.

    We’re still trying to maintain a civil place where people can agree to disagree without the flaming.  Please try to help us keep it that way, and everyone can stop taking things so personally.

  87. deadspace deadspace says:

    indeed

  88. IroncladMerc says:

    I think the companies are really not doing a good job in getting younger readers into comics. And titles like Franklin and Tiny Titans are not the right way to do it. Somehow the comics of the 80s were sufficient to get me into comics. But why now are the only people I see at the comic shop just 30+ guys perusing the trades?What appealed to us in the 80s somehow doesn’t appeal to kids these days it seems, or maybe the comics are just too confusing now. Back when I got into comics, they didn’t have the constant cross-over events, they were able to keep each title self-contained and still tell great stories. Now, with Secret Invasion or Final Crisis type events, you need a scorecard to keep track of it all. Maybe a return to the simpler days of the 70s and 80s is warranted. No more big confusing crossover events. And for god’s sake get your continuity straight and stop messing it up all the time!

  89. Kory Kory says:

    my comment was’nt even towards you deadspace.  so who’s sensitive?

  90. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    If you want to argue about who said what, or why or anything other than the relative merits of what this article and the discussion, please do it somewhere else.

    Everyone, stop goading everyone else.

  91. Kory Kory says:

    I’m sorry Josh.  I had to respond.  I have never posted anything to argue or be childish.  I can’t help how certain people interpret it.  I joined this site because I have nobody to talk comics (which is a statement about the health of the industry in it’s self) and I enjoyed it until a week ago.  Now it’s no longer fun, and I’ve decided to leave the site because I don’t wish to offend anyone further.

  92. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    No one has to go anywhere.  Just talk about the fun parts, and have fun doing it.  It’s easy!

  93. Chris Rohling Anson17 says:

    wow… that got ugly really fast.

  94. That was hilarious to me.

  95. crushercreel crushercreel says:

    I am interested in reading other people’s observations.  I travel around the midwest and go to various comic stores depending on the city I am in.  While in these stores, I never see kids in them shopping.  By far the standard comic book store shopper are twenty to fifty year old men.  Once in a while I will see a woman in the store.  When I go to Borders or Barnes and Noble I see groups pre-teen/teen girls going through the manga books.  I think that comic book stores are not capturing the younger market of shopper.  Until they can drive themselves.  This is at least in more suburban areas.  Many comic shops are out of the way and are destination locations.  Not in the normal flow of traffic.  Most stores do not have large marketing budgets and can’t adequately capitalize on marketing opportunities, ie; films, tv shows, conventions, and video games.  Maybe this is the disconnect.

  96. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    The problem comic stores have is the same problem comic publishers have, is the same problem WE have.  We’ve all got the product we’re sure people will like if they just knew it was out there, and got over their preconceived notions of what "comics" are all about.

    But to get the word out there, especially in such a crowded marketplace of ideas and distractions takes money.  Even then, there’s no guarantee.

  97. Kory Kory says:

    I felt I should explain what happened since the discussion turned ugly.  AlexG said that anybody that thinks their an expert about the future of the comic book industry is "silly’.  I responded with "sorry for having an opinion" but what I really meant is it’s more like the "pot calling the kettle black".  People who worry about the future of comics are no more ‘silly’ then people who think they know about the current state of the business.  I’ll explain.  Last week Jimski presented numbers showing 6 years of growth in the industry, but yet I’m told the movies bring no new people in.  OK, so where are they coming from?  Well, what I hear from the true experts, the writers, editors, publishers, artists and anyone else involved in the business will tell you that comics have’nt grown.  They have just gotten very good at selling more to the same people.  I can attest, in less than 3 months I have gone from reading 5 books to over 20 books a month.  Could it be that’s where the ‘growth’ has come from?  I live in a large American city of millions, yet I’m hard pressed to meet anyone that reads comics, and if I do it’s like I just found Jimmy Hoffa.  But I have managed to find people who would be interested in reading but don’t want to go to shops, so I showed them online ordering.  What am I trying to say?  What I’m saying is that there are readers out there but they are being held back from starting, hell I was held back for fifteen years from reading.  But my point is that comics could do more to sell their product.  Better distribution, better advertising whatever you can think of would be useful.  But I’m of the opinion that unless the companies change they could fail, even though they are doing fine now. I’ll give an example.  The comic industry is like a 35 year old man.  He’s in good health right now, but shows signs of artery blockage and unless he changes his lifestyle he could have a heart attack in the future.  That’s how I feel about the comic industry right now,  it’s in good health, not great, but good and if it does’nt change it could have a heart attack.

    @deadspace-  I’m sorry that my posts offend you.  I don’t know what to tell you, all I can say is take posts like the one that made you mad with a grain of salt.  Like I said my comments were towards AlexG (I forgot the @ sign) because I did’nt feel like I was being ‘silly’ worrying about the comic industry.  Maybe you should’nt read what I post because you take everything I say so literal and get so worked up.

  98. Kory Kory says:

    @JumpingJupiter- I’m glad I could give you a good chuckle.

  99. deadspace deadspace says:

    @Kory – apology accepted ;-)

  100. cutty cutty says:

    i’ve seen episodes of Melrose Place less dramatic than this thread

  101. AlexG AlexG says:

    Wow, it took a long time to get to what really upset Kory.  I was putting MY OWN feelings and thoughts there. If you notice, I put that "I" feel silly getting worked up over industry stuff. I guess others inferred I was referring to them. sorry, but it just wasn’t. Do I feel that there is a lot of talk about the ‘industry’? yeah, but it was not my intention to infer that others are ‘silly’ for doing so. For the last time, I’m sorry if others inferred otherwise. That’s it for me.

  102. Is the new rule for any article about Robert Kirkman’s rant has to be 100+ comments now? Man 3 seperate articles on ifanboy and get into a huge long rants about this…..It’s funny, I havent seen this since the WWF/WCW/ECW merger from 2000.

    There should probably be more kid graphic novels then just single issues. I’ve been selling Owly and Good-Bye Chunky Rice at my store for the last couple of weeks, we need more kid books like them.

  103. cutty cutty says:

    I started reading comics when i was like 11 or 12, and the first issues i picked up were from the tail-end of the Claremont Uncanny run, X-Tinction Agenda and the Muir Island Saga.  A lot of it was WAY over my head, but I still loved every issue and it was enough to hook me on comics.  So I don’t think you have to dumb down comics for kids to like them, you just have to get them into the comic shops, or however else people buy comics these days

  104. Kory Kory says:

    AlexG-  I was’nt upset.  But you’re comment and the comment after you seemed to infer that anyone that has a negative view about the health of the comic industry is being foolish and that they are’n really experts.  Whereas I would say that anyone who looks at sales chart and immediately says ‘go home nothing to see here" is’nt an expert either.  I just don’t understand how comic fans can say everything is fine when the people actually in the industry (who are the real experts) say things could be better, which is why I have the opinion I have. That was where my disagreement came from, no harm, no foul, it’s all good.This whole thread had a few posts that were misunderstood, obviously.