Matt Fraction Thinks Comics Can Do Better

Recently, writer Matt Fraction spoke with the LA Times about Hawkeye and some other things. The most interesting part to me is that he, a guy who makes a living working for Marvel Comics, thinks companies like Marvel and other publishers might want to think about who they’re aiming their product at.

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What I take that to mean is that if you’re reading this, they’re aiming their product at you. They’re aiming it at me, certainly. Well, I won’t be 36 for another few weeks.

Here’s some of what he’s saying.

Comics can do a lot to be more accessible. A whole lot of that is — well, there’s this sort of weird arc over the last 20 years of thinking that these things would never be collected, and that we were writing exclusively for 36-year-old men who read comics every week. At this point, I think the price point is at such a place and the content is at such a place that we can’t afford to do that anymore. I think Issue 788 of whatever book wouldn’t be a problem at all if Issue No. 788 was written in a way that was satisfying to new and old readers alike. I think it’s really difficult to do, but I think it’s possible. I think we as an industry fell into this pattern of not caring about new readers anymore. There’s a way that you can do it that isn’t the clumsy, awkward way that it used to be done where characters refer to themselves in the third person, thinking back on who they are and how they came to be. You don’t have to write every comic as if it’s the first comic someone’s ever read, but you do have to write as though you would like new people to read your comic — which is kind of what “Hawkeye” is all about. How clean can I make this? How much like “The Rockford Files” can you go? It’s not a show like “Lost” where you have to see it every week, or a show like “The Wire” where you really have to watch and pay attention closely every week. “Rockford” had a setup, then a riff, and that is very much how superhero comics are nowadays. So there’s no reason that we should be exclusionary. People love it. I mean, “Avengers” is the third biggest movie of all time. It hits a cultural sweet spot. It’s just that comics need to get better at not being so … comic-y.

It’s not a new thing he’s saying. In fact, Fraction comes out of the old Warren Ellis Forum days, and this was pretty much their mantra.

What do you think? More of the same? A mix? Would you be willing to see comics change in order to make the industry healthier, even if it changes something you like about them? Is it even possible?


Comments

  1. What about making it less about “Monthly” and just put out great graphic novels like in Europe?

    Also get rid of this “fanboy”, “geek”,”nerd” stigma and make it a viable art-form/literature that adults can read.

    I feel that Image is doing the best at this because they have a varied amount of comics and some are becoming hits. The less the general public thinks comics are a niche market, the more they’ll be open to it.

    The main reasons I didn’t read comics was because were the following:

    1) comics are for kids
    2) I like the cover art, but why does it not match the interior
    3) there is so much I don’t know about the past and it would be hard to come in the middle

    When I was a kid, I grew up reading “Tin Tin” and some “Batman”, but not in comics form (albeit different country). But I would say that comics are more popular in Europe and Japan because the stories have a beginning and an end, and they’re not marketed for “just nerds”.

    • “1) comics are for kids” thats bullshit
      “2) I like the cover art, but why does it not match the interior” you mean like Thor God of Thunder or Iron man or captain america or (insuperior)spiderman or hawkeyeor hulk or ALL of the other Marvel NOW titles, other than the first three avengers issues. Also thats an idiotic complant. Thats like me saying: the movie poster looks to actiony and the movie isnt, that means I wont watch movies. Or book covers look boring, that means I wont read. Also why would that turn you away? Thats silly, you’d be read for the story, not the cover art on select comicbooks.
      “3) there is so much I don’t know about the past and it would be hard to come in the middle” ITS CALLED “Jumping On Points” Like Marvel NOW(avoid New 52) or Mark Waids daredevil, you dont need to know anything too read that or Matt Fractions Hawkeye or any Image Comics Volume 1. Most of the time, when a new writer gets on the comicbook title, thats your jumping on point.

    • @thepulp80s: I’m sure that AmirCat was actually writing about real perceptions that s/he had/has about comics. So those are valid perceptions that really do exist and really do create a barrier to entry for many potential readers. They aren’t points that require factual rebuttals, and your response isn’t constructive because it ignores the reality of these perceptions or dismisses them simply because you don’t feel that they’re objectively accurate. It’s like saying that someone’s opinion is “wrong.” Or are you suggesting that people don’t actually believe any of the points cited?

    • @rwpos – thanks man, You’re absolutely right.

    • @rwpos – Thanks for making those points, you’re absolutely right about the points I was trying to make. It’s nice constructive people like you and ifanboy’s promotion of friendly discussion that got me to read comics again.

    • @AmirCat is absolutely right. Whether those preconceived notions exist are justified isn’t the point. They exist. I had them. I didn’t read comics until my mid-20s for these exact reasons. Looking back on it, I can see it as a bit silly and unfortunate, but it happens. It was the works of Alan Moore that got they finally got their hooks in me. Comics need to be more versatile if they want to draw in new readers. To this day, I still find a lot of superhero books to be fan-driven and it just absolutely nothing for me.

    • @the pulp80’s: Actually all three of Amircats points are reasons I was reluctant to get back into comics as an adult. Then about five years ago I dipped my toe back in the comics pool with DMZ because it didn’t suffer from any of the problems he listed. Over the next year or so my title pool broadened to include all kinds of title, including several superhero, because I realized those problems, while very real, don’t have to lessen your enjoyment of comics. But as I said they ARE real and they DO deter new readers. To act like they don’t does everyone a diservice. Just because you don’t personally agree these are problems doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They most certainly do.

    • Those are some very real points that AmirCat made. Every so often, my friends,who normally doesn’t read comics, will go to the local comic book shop with me. I’ve seen a few of them browse the new issues and get really excited over a comic (because of it’s cover), pick it up, flip through it, and put it back down with a “meh” attitude.

      There is a saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” There is a reason why it’s a common saying.

    • I’ve been saying for years that monthly floppies are killing comics. The industry must move away from the 20 page monthly “periodical” format.

    • It’s “Tintin”. You would have known that if you did grow up with it.

    • @mrshock13: So a typo invalidates his entire point?

    • Interesting responses, too say the least.

    • @thepulp80s: calm down dude.

    • @harkiamsuperman dude, I’m fine. jeeeez, I didn’t know the guy wasn’t talking about himself. I just thought he was one of those people who hang out on websites like this and complain and whine/talk about how comics don’t work as a medium and say their going to drop out. It puts me in a sad and irritated mood, is all. God.

  2. I pretty much agree with Fraction, but tbh idk if it will truly help comics sell more books. I’ve heard plenty of professionals and well educated fans talk about how to fix the industry, but when some of these theories are implemented, they don’t really do much to help. I’m generally an optimist, but when it comes to this subject I can’t help but feel pessimistic.

  3. I think the problem is they’re trying to get new readers in their 20’s and 30’s. That won’t happen, and the first poster is a prime example. Too many have silly hang-ups and notions about comics that prevent them from picking up an issue. Yes, I think more stories need to be cleaner, more done-in-one or two issues with maybe bigger plots in the background and less five/six issue arcs to be collected later. But comics, while not necessarily being dumbed down, need to be accessible to around the 8-12 age group. This is really when I think a lot of us 80’s kids came into comics. And we didn’t pick up a #1 issue, we picked up #282 or whatever, because we didn’t have the hang-ups that older readers have.

    Accessibility is also an issue. Kids don’t go to comic stores, at least not at first, and I don’t know that online is entirely the answer, as they need to be looking for it, and then have a credit card handy. I realize the news stand market kicked comics out, but they really need to get back in. News stands, grocery stores, convenience stores, book stores and even toy stores should all have a decent selection of the latest Marvel and DC superhero comics. Image puts out great stuff, but they feel more like the modern Vertigo, comics that are more mature, and there is definitely a place for them, but the superhero stuff needs to have some “all-ages” stuff, and I put that in brackets because I don’t mean cartoon tie-in comics or the other all-ages comics out there. Those are great, but again, 6 years olds are not the target, 8-12 is, and 8 year olds want to read what an older kid would, because it’s cool! I entered comics really with Uncanny X-Men in the 230’s when I was 8 years old, and that by no means was a light and bright comic, but I still knew what was going on. Some comics should be fun, Spider-Man, Superman, etc., definitely. Darker comics like Batman or X-Men can be darker, but maybe tone back the swearing and the on-panel violence, so no rapes, no blood spraying everywhere, etc. There can be more mature Batman and X-Men titles that are for older teens that you can only buy in comic stores. Seriously, they need to go back to having news stand comics and direct market comics. Get kids hooked with the News stand ones and reel them in for the direct market stuff that you can only buy at comic stores and online. It will probably never happen, but unless they get new young readership, all this will be gone eventually, as I don’t think they’ll start writing comics for 65 year olds about retirement and investing. 😛

    • Oh yes, and while the covers can have different artists, they really should reflect what is going on inside the comics, as the covers are what initially sells that comic to someone.

    • I would have to agree that this is the place to start. When kids are young, you hit them with these awesome, imaginative, exciting worlds…especially nowadays where comics should be a gateway to video games, movies, and a ton of merchandise. I got hooked by Batman, Neil Adams batman, so it was dark and smart. We have to make this art form more accessible to kids. So comic stores need to be more family friendly, ie less t&a statues, ha.

    • Comic stores definitely should be a bit more kid friendly, but those are the second stage of “comic book addiction” if you will. Kids won’t just go up to Mom and Dad and ask to go to the comic store out of the blue. They need that initial introduction, which would be news stand comics, maybe digital, but again, even digital you kind of have to find, and have a credit card to buy it, etc., so it’s not kid friendly in terms of access there either.

    • Also…Libraries. There are teen and tween sections in most of the Libraries I visit, but only a few carry a selection of graphic novels.

  4. Changing the writing is not going to magically make new readers appear. Advertising, accessibility and price point are all bigger issues to drawing in new readers than the writing.

    • aurgail aurgail (@aurelgaillard) says:

      True, but if new readers do happen to get a copy of the book into their hands, it’s the writer’s responsability to make sure they don’t get an incomprehensible mess but a story and a world they want to revisit. Fraction’s a writer, not a business person, so he worries about writing. Seems fair.

    • If it was a simple as advertising, accessibility and price point everyone would be a comics reader. Let’s go point by point:

      1) Advertising: Comic films and videos games have been top sellers for the past five years or longer. In each of the last 5 years at least one comic film has been in the top five grossing films that years; including Avengers and The Dark Knight which are in the top ten of all time. Comic related merchandise sales is at a high that hasn’t been seen since the 90’s. The advertising is everywhere, has nothing to do with that.

      2) Accessibility: Comics can be accessed from literally anywhere. If you have a tablet, smartphone, laptop computer, desk top computer, or e-reader, you can download and read comics from almost every publisher in existence. Not to mention places like Amazon have every trade in print available for great discount prices and ebay, among many others, are great places to find single issues. Not to even mention comic stores themselves. Comics are accessible by anyone, anywhere.

      3) Price: While we long time readers continually lament the increase of comic prices, they are still among the less expensive habits. Paying $2.99, or at the worst $3.99, for an issue is really not that expensive when compared to other passtimes such as video gaming or going to the movies. Prices are higher now than they were five years ago but they still aren’t HIGH.

      The problem is none of the things you mentioned. The problem is that comics can seem inaccessible, for the reasons Fraction articulated, and that they still largely have the stigma of being for geeks and kids. Despite the success of comic films and other related products, the books themselves still largely carry those stigma. Sad but true.

  5. Sam LeBas Sam LeBas (@comicsonice) says:

    I worry about comics becoming even more inconsistent that they already are.

    I don’t want them to become a gross geriatric guy hitting on young girls at the bar, while his wife sits at home. Stay with me fan boys and girls, in this metaphor 1. the comic industry is the lounge lizard, 2. the nonreaders are the young girls, and 3. we the loyal readers are the loving and jilted wife.

    Everyone loses that way. I think there have been some great marketing ideas, like all the Image #1 dollar promos. In fact I picked up a few titles for my niece (she has never read a comic before). By making it affordable to pass the books on, or try them out, word of mouth in this amazing community can do so much. In fact I think that publisher does a lot of good marketing, but beyond that; they put out good products. People are smart, and fans are loyal.

    I feel like Fraction is dancing around saying that he wants to dumb down the mythos and storytelling traditions that make comics what they are, but I have been wrong before.

  6. I have to take issue with Fraction and many people who keep bringing this argument up. At one point we where ALL “New” readers and we managed to make it work. I for one had none of the resources that people today have, i didn’t even have a comic shop to go to i had to go to a street Vendor on university ave. in the Bronx. Some months he would not be there some he would and i managed. Today there is the internet, digital comics, trades. There are so many ways to get into comics and keep up with comics and discover and learn anything you want to know about comics. I can’t help but think that there has never been a time that has been easier to be a “New” reader.

    I do not want to come off as some grumpy old fan, but lets stop complaining and focusing on the negative and lets promote the positives people. Matt Fraction could have used this article to talk up the ways fans could “catch up” with comic book history. From the Essentials line, to DCs GREAT Chronicles line of TPBs there seem to be some many ways to read comics and collect comics i really can’t help but get annoyed at this same argument being brought up over and over. How much easier should companies make it? restart a universe every twelve issues or so?

    I got into comics, particularly the X-men at a time where none of these resources where available. I hunted for back issues…..i think the point i am trying to make is that it could be worse and if you love comics you can make it work, and today there are easier ways to make it work.

    • I’m with Fred on this. When I, and a number of people, got into this, it wasn’t a number one issue. You find something you like and jump in and learn as you go or get back issues. This notion of “I can’t read xxxx because it’s at number 327 is bullshit. People are just lazy. The resources to learn about a given book or character now are so plentiful that there is no excuse NOT to utilize them. So that argument about “jumping in the middle” as a reason not to try a book holds no water.

    • I think you’re missing Fraction’s point. The market is actually shrinking and aging. This isn’t a supposition or theory, it’s a fact. For a variety of reasons new people aren’t finding and reading comics with the same frequency as they were 30 years ago. Having a discussion about what changes might attract new readers in the current environment is necessary for people looking to develop a plan to increase the market. To point out that you or anyone posting on this site was attracted to comics just as they existed at whatever point in time you started reading them doesn’t help because Fraction isn’t trying to figure out how to attract current readers to comics. It’s the people who aren’t posting here that he’s trying to attract, so pointing out what wasn’t a barrier for you isn’t relevant. Does that make sense?

    • @fredterrific15 and @k5blazer: I don’t mean to sound insulting but personal experience is never an indicator of actual large scale trends. Maybe you are both exceptions to the rule. Also, as you both stated, things like the internet and comic apps weren’t available when you were starting to read so you had to choice but to do it the way you did. Applying your experience to what is happening years and decades later has little baring on the market today.

      You are both making arguments from the perspective of current and long time comic readers while refusing to even attempt to see it from the perspective of a new reader. Sure the tools are out there to “get caught up” but most new readers don’t even know where to begin or don’t want to invest literally hundreds of dollars in trades and essentials just to be able to understand the current books. Can you really not see how that is a ridiculous thing to ask? “Hey please come on in and become a comic reader. We’d love to have you. Oh by the way, its going to cost you several hundred dollars and months of reading time before you can ever enjoy and understand the current books on the stand. But you don’t mind right?” Give me a break, what a ridiculous argument. That is exactly what Fraction is talking about. You have somehow managed to twist the very things that scare off new readers into your suggestion for where new readers should begin.

      I think it’s time we all dropped the crotchety old man act and helped to welcome new readers into comics so this great industry we all love can not only continue into the future, but grow. I mean what is the point of adopting the stance you two have? Who does it benefit?

    • @Uspunx, I started reading comics in early middle school, and started collecting when I was 13 (that was 9 years ago). The first thing I picked up was j.MS’s ASM run (don’t remember the volume, I think it was volume 2), and the first comic book I bought was Dan Way’s Ghost Rider #3. The next month I went back and found issue 2 and bought that. I did the same thing with the ASM run, I picked up a book, liked it, and went back and read what came after and before. I don’t know if I count as a “long time reader” yet, but I hope I can still have the new reader perspective. I think some problems today are 1) people (kids especially) are really lazy, and despite/because of all the technology we have today to look up something or learn more it seems like everyone’s too focused on texting or games to do much else. 2) average people don’t read today (AFAIK), so trying to convince them to devote time to reading anything is a struggle even if its a 22 page floppy. Ignoring personal taste, writing style, art style, and price, I think these are 2 big problems getting new people into comics. Also, there are people who don’t want to read comics who invent excuse after excuse not to. I meet one of these people and it was an infuriating conversation, no matter what I said or suggested the other person wouldn’t hear it. Here’s an example: “Oh, I’d read comics if I could catch up on everything before”, (me) ” Why not go to the library and get the books then?”, “Oh I’d much rather own them”. I think the first obstacle to overcome is just getting people to read more, and other stuff will follow.

    • @ithosapien: I think there are some good points made in there but your fundamental argument is flawed. There are several annual reports that show books sales were overall higher in 2012 than in years previous. The loss in physical book purchases has more than been made up for in the increase of e-books purchased. So actually, more people than ever are reading.

    • I’m gonna go ahead and say “more people than ever are reading” is fallocious. If that were true then the industry wouldn’t be in trouble,unless its fine now and i missed the memo. Maybe the numbers have gone up 15 or 20% than in the past 5-10 years, which I doubt, but I still maintain that there could be more done to get people reading . Also, do we know if those e-books sales weren’t just people buying multiple books themselves ( 1 person reading 10 books is not the same as 10 people reading 1 book), or even that it wasn’t just those people who quit buying floppies and switched to digital?

    • The amount of new e-books sold is greater than the decrease of hard copy books sold, resulting in a net gain in overall books consumed.

      “I’m gonna go ahead and say “more people than ever are reading” is fallocious.” Really. Maybe you should read a litte more yourself.
      http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/04/04/the-rise-of-e-reading/
      http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-next-time-someone-says-the-internet-killed-reading-books-show-them-this-chart/255572/
      http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/05/tech/gaming-gadgets/e-reader-survey-pew-gahran/index.html

      Here are articles from three very reputable sources that all confirm reading in general is on the rise over the last three or more years. There are a slew of additional articles I have in newspapers in recent years discussing the increase in reading.

      I know it a common argument to say less Americans are reading now than did years or decades ago, but it just isn’t true. Do you have anything to back up your claim that less people are reading now?

    • Alright, you got me; I have no articles I can post down to defend my premise. I’m nothing if not honest. Maybe e-books have made up for the sale of hard copy books, however I was referring to digital comics when I used the term “e-book” and assumed the same of you (this article is about reading comics after all). However, that first article you posted to surveyed about 2,000 people. I’m wondering why it was such a (relatively) small survey sample. It’s not unheard of for people to lie on surveys to avoid judgement, but admittedly the options for gauging this kind of thing are limited. The second article only graphs up to 2005, despite being written in 2012. It does show that reading has increased since about 1949. “So actually, more people than ever are reading.” I’m still calling this fallocious, unless you want to reword that assertion. “Ever” is a broad term, and to say right now more people are reading than other point in history is a big proposition (Tho I guess the graph shows an increase compared to last 70 years). Most of the articles asked readers how many books have they read in the last year, I’m unconvinced these people weren’t already reading books to begin with (I’m focusing on the people who don’t read at all except for rediculous magazine articles or half-baked stories/gossip online, maybe they’re gone?). Maybe things have turned around in the public school system since I was there, back then teachers struggled to get my classmates to read. Still, at best you can show my theory/proposal that “getting more people to read will be the key to getting more comic fans” to be redundant if those people are already reading and comic sales have not come close to the glory days.

    • Just a thought, purchased does not mean read. If you bought a trendy new e reader you would buy books for it too, and then when a “hot new book” is out, it is so easily to compulsively buy it from your couch. Kinda like gym memberships don’t mean you exercise. Just a thought, cuz I don’t really know many readers either.

    • @ithosapien & @thewac1: I honestly don’t know how, or feel inclined, to continue to debate with such pessimism and negativity. So let’s just agree to disagree.

    • But what is the problem isn’t something that requires this much analysis what if people just don’t like comics anymore. I understand and respect what fraction is saying, but i just feel that the “aging” fan base and the “Long term Fan” have become these buzz words that represent a problem that isn’t there.
      The “Old Fan boy” is keeping the industry going while the new reader spends his or her time doing things they like better than comics. I get the need for new readers to jump in and replace the readers that grow old and die (that sounds crazy extreme lol) but it might just be that the new reader isn’t there because he does not want to be there. And we can dress up the comic book with all the bells and whistles we want but they will just not respond in a huge massive way.
      Comics are niche, and maybe that’s not so bad. Maybe we are thinking of comics as something they are not, they are not movies and they never will be. They are not prose books, hell they aren’t even video games. Maybe comics are this little corner or entertainment that have peeks and valleys that sometimes grab the attention of a mass audience (with no explanation why) then sheds some fans and keeps the die hard fan until the next peek come along.

  7. My first Geoff Johns’ Flash issue was 220, the beginning of Rouge War. It was the beginning of the arc but the ending of Johns’ run and with a shit load of back story that I didn’t know (I knew the basics, Barry was dead, Wally was the Flash, he runs fast, that’s about it), that made me get the next 4-5 issues so I could see the arc in its entirety as well as hunt down every issue of the Flash by Johns, it still is my favorite comic book run ever.

    What I mean to say is if the first issue in any series that you get is compelling you will be interested in the story as a whole and hopefully will want to know more about what happened before (maybe with back issues, trades, Wikipedia, the Internet, etc) and will get you interested in what follows, so even if Flash 220 may not have been the best “jumping on point” that so many titles try to get every now and then, it managed to make a life-long fan out of me.

    • Its not a question of the numbers being a “barrier” its that any reader should be willing to learn about a book they like and not be intimidated by the number, be it 5 or 509. That to me just shows a lack of willingness to do what countless others before them did. This type of reader by not willing to put in the work and insist on being spoon-fed number 1’s to suit them is a flawed premise. Do the companies just re-start every year? To the detriment of existing readers? Its a hard question to be sure but no numbering is NOT it. I enjoy Conor’s articles but on this topic he is wrong. If no numbers is the answer, then why are the podcasts here still being numbered? Because it helps to keep track for reference, like they do for the books.

    • @k5blazer: “Any reader should be willing to learn about a book they like and not be intimidated by the number, be it 5 or 509.”

      How does a reader know if its a book they like until they have tried it? And why would they need “to learn about a book” they already like? If they like it already why would a number intimidate them?

      Your logic is circular and has nothing to support it except the argument itself.

    • I was trying more to make a point that even though I got an issue that was the beginning of the end of a run, where there were no introductions made for the characters (except maybe a couple nods to their abilities) that appeared left and right, Good Rogues, Bad Rogues, the Reverse Flash, etc., it was the perfect jumping on point for me because I was just in the middle of the action…well, that and Scott Kollins’ art 🙂

      @USPUNX I think with “how does a reader know if its a book they like” he meant (correct me if I’m wrong) that, for example, someone who has just seen the Avengers movie and is interested in knowing more might go to their LCS and feel intimidated by the numbering. New Series or series that are “comic book only” might be a harder sell for new readers as well.

    • @carlosFF: Gotacha, that does make more sense. @k5blazer: I stand corrected.

  8. I remember making similar comments to what Matt Fraction is saying, but got pounced on by others for thinking myself to be more elevated than non-comic readers and that’s not the point at all. Fraction’s take on this makes it plain: Comics, for the most part, are complex for a non reader or new reader. Anyone is capable of understanding the “motion” of comics, though it requires an acumen that WE have developed through the constant reading in this medium. It takes a level of involvement that people may not want to enact if they’re made to feel ignorant by a mere comic book at the first try. How baffled would someone who’s never read be at the shear number of Avengers in ONE of the Marvel Now books? Wasn’t there an article here earlier this week speaking to this very fact, specifically. RE: The Reader Who Could Be You. And that’s just but one example. To me simplifying the medium is not dumbing-it-down. The former approach is mutually exclusive to the latter.

  9. It seems like the intimidation factor for new readers is one of the main problems. Long convoluted histories. Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary (just start reading like everyone else did), but maybe it would help less-adventurous readers if there were trades that were targeted at new readers, that provided a general summation of the canon continuity for specific characters or teams–basically primers that could be sold in book stores and something for LCS clerks to point to for new customers who are interested in a particular character but don’t want to jump in on the latest issue (or read a ton of trades to catch up). These primers could also be structured in a way that you get very simple panel grids in the beginning and it becomes more complex as you move through it (sometimes new readers have trouble figuring out in what order to read complicated layouts).

  10. People are saying I got into comics at “issue #” while completely ignoring thr Fraction never even mentions numbers. It’s about the accessibility of content. Not issue number, how many ways you can find comics, or catching up. It’s about how thr comic is written and how that hooks you into it. Fraction is agreeing with you, he wants issue 26 to be just as accessible as issue 1. This shouldn’t even be debated.

    Also mentality of the community keeps readers away. Like thr guy who replied all defensively at the top or people going ” well, I got into to comics THIS way that means anyone can.” You’re not everyone. Many people are looking for reasons NOT to read comics. Many friends I have still see them as childish because they are cartoons. Plain and simple. No matter how sophisticated. It’s just a mentality. It’s “not real.” I know how dumb that sounds but it’s true. You probably already had a passing interest in comics, most people do not. Fraction is just saying we shouldn’t make it so hard to get into these. Just because we had to work to get into comics, doesn’t mean it should be that way. Comics need new readers. Not fans of the characters but readers who actually pay for the books. That is incredibly hard and only made harder by certain writing styles and exclusionary mentalities.

  11. I think one of the single biggest problems with the comics industry is that it doesn’t market. When’s the last time you saw a comic advertisement that wasn’t either in a comic shop or in a comic book itself. We’re already won over, we don’t need persuading. The word needs to be gotten out where people who don’t read can learn why perhaps they should.
    Also, the old-boys-club that’s developed within the industry probably isn’t helping new, innovative talent find its way in. Clearly something isn’t working and some fresh minds might help sort out precisely what that is.

    • Really though. How hard would it be for Marvel to plug its digital comics? Or hook-up Comic Shop Locator with s 20 sec. Screen shot before it during one of its films?

  12. The very thing he is talking about changing is probably the only thing that is keeping the shops afloat.

    Obsessive buying

    to see what will happen next even when not enjoying
    to not break up a run
    cuz you love a character but hate the writing
    cuz you are worried something will happen that matters and you won’t be there for it
    etc

    The one-and-done format, which I love cuz of stuff like Jonah Hex and Hawkeye, may be the perfect jumping on point every month but it is also the perfect jumping off point every month.

    I will have to see how Hawkeye fares.

    • You are so right about the perfect jumping off points. I never thought of that.

      But when I was a kid, I would get one comic every few months. Sometimes they were the middle of a story, sometimes the end of an arc (I loved JLA 197 which was part 3 of 3 – finally picked up parts 1 and 2 last year!). So the one and done would have appealed to me more.

      My nephew and nieces like comics, but my brother doesn’t want to buy them any, he says that are too expensive for a quick read. He has a point there – comics used to be cheap, and had more story packed in than what we usually get these days.

    • I love a good jumping off point, and if a new “style” of comic publishing forced creators to bring the goods and actually earn my money on the monthly instead of twice a year with 6 issue “written for trade” stories, then count me in! I read comics from the 80’s and sometimes it takes me 45 minutes. A new comic is designed for 20. I too miss the good old days when I would randomly buy a comic and read it a hundred times not caring what came before because there was still a contained story in one issue that I could enjoy, with some reference (I know Fraction kinda speaks on this like a bad thing) or editors note. Personally I still gravitate towards this style of comic (Chew, Action, Prophet ect.)

  13. I read comics at work, in front of other grown-ass men, who watch Walking Dead, all the Marvel and Batman movies, and even Kick Ass. I told one recently to try reading a comic book, and he replied, “I’m not 8.” I then told him about all the adaptations that he likes so much, and told him they were made for 7 year olds because they aren’t that good at reading yet. He couldn’t say shit. My wife tells me my love for comics is juvenile because I started collecting as a kid, and that they are FOR KIDS. I told her who actually reads comics nowadays and she didn’t want to hear it. This is a HUGE problem for the comics industry, the best storytelling medium in existence IMO. My only solution is to put some GOOD comics in new readers hands and hope it propogates. Ive swayed a couple people this way. As for stories, I like continuity, it makes it more fun for me, but stories need to weaved within that framework to make them enjoyable on their own, and to new readers. I think comics today are doing a pretty good job at this.

  14. A lot of new readers think it’s too big of a task to get into comics. If you wanted to start a tv series or a book, you start at the beginning, book one, episode one, and so on. My first comic was a tpb of Joss Whedon’s astonishing x-men. I read how many issues of astonishing there were, along with uncanny and began to get frustrated, saying to myself “how can I ever catch up?” Most of those who aren’t in comics don’t understand that issue #679 is a perfect jumping point for Batman. I know Connor has mentioned more than once that numbering should be done away with, and I couldn’t agree more. The one big reason is because the numbers repel new readers. Drop numbers comic publishers! Comics should be more accessible if it can be possible. People don’t want to go into a comic book store all the time. There’s almost no advertising. There’s no word getting out that comics aren’t for children. Only bad advertising seems to exist. Shows like comic book men pop up every now and then(Sorry Kevin Smith) and the big bang theory that make us look like neck-bearded, socially inept morons. So what can be done to fix these problems?

    • Having a fairly large bprd collection at this point, i’m going to have to disagree with the do away with numbers thing. If one does actually want to go back and read it all or sort it or anything it is a massive pain. The industry could do story arc numbering on the cover as well and if it was a 1 you would know it would be a good jumping on point etc, but think this would be more for current fans who want to try a new book.

    • I agree to a point, but what about shows like The Simpsons. That’s the perfect counter point. Tons of history and characters, but every episode will make you laugh. Comics should do year by year volumes. Or what Alan Moore does with LoEG. Mignola does with Hellboy. This strategy would be successful in my opinion. Fraction does it with Casanova.

    • Month/Year on the cover for easy sorting of bagged/boarded issues. Arc number on the cover to encourage jumping on. Actual Volume #, Issue #, and Printing on the interior with the small print publishing information for the obsessives.

    • All of you gave some great alternatives to numbering, in my opinion. @theWaC1 you’re right about the Simpsons, but with the Simpsons being so popular I think it’s common knowledge that it isn’t an ongoing, linear story. Could the word get out that comics work in arcs, that could change things….however it isn’t common knowledge. I believe most people think it’s a large ongoing story that would require a lot of commitment and back issues.

  15. Good post WAC1, I have my trades of saga and manhattan projects lent out constantly.

    There is really no correct answer to this topic, nothing is going to change right away. I think the comic industry should keep making properties for kids getting them interested in the characters and they will find their way in, if the content continues to be good and you have popular adult based properties, stigmas of reading comics can start to disappear more and more.

    I enjoy what hawkeye is doing but the slow burn big payoff arcs are a lot of fun to read as a comic fan also and I don’t think going too far in one direction as an industry is good, it is art, there is no formula. Most comics are at least partially accessible but it doesn’t look like that for new readers. You can target all you want but I have many friends that will not buy a comic period and nothing is going to change that but time, geek culture has become more and more acceptable over the last few decades and that can start now with the younger generation if done right by the industry.

  16. “I think Issue 788 of whatever book wouldn’t be a problem at all if Issue No. 788 was written in a way that was satisfying to new and old readers alike. I think it’s really difficult to do, but I think it’s possible. I think we as an industry fell into this pattern of not caring about new readers anymore. ”

    I admire how Fraction’s work in Hawkeye has mostly been like this: Awesome stories you can pick up with minimal background, enjoy as a one-shot and be done. He’s an amazing writer and I almost feel like this is a lost art that he’s mastered.

    That said, I feel like the stories which I will think of as my favorites years after I read them, and which get me deeply emotionally engaged are long-form stories which aren’t always easy to enter mid-way. I wouldn’t want to see future masterpieces like the next “Scalped” or whatever squeezed out in a trend towards making every issue accessible to new readers. Ideally we’d have room for all types of comics like in Japan where there’s more variety in genre and target audience.

  17. “Comics should be more accessible.”, he said, while scripting two of the most inaccessible books.

    Stop writing Superhero books, write more stuff like Hawkguy.

  18. I’m so happy to finally hear someone who is actually inside the industry say things like this. The state of the comics business is such a disaster that it’s hard for me to understand how they are still being sold; is it sheer inertia keeping this beast alive? Almost every single thing about comics that can change needs to, from the format of the books, to the distribution, to the target audience. Can anyone really believe that the tiny percentage of the population that reads comics is the group they cater to? That’s insane, unless you like having really low sales. I can’t wait to see comics fixed, I love them and it hurts my heart to see them wasted this way.

  19. Well you really can’t use the success of the movies as a reason why comics should be more popular, both Up In The Air and The Descendants were both very successful films based on novels(different but still print media), but i don’t see everyone reading those books just because they liked their film counterparts. I think at the end of the day comics, and books also, will have more of a cult following because it takes more effort to read something than to watch tv or surf the web. If comic books were made for everyone it would just be more crappy pop entertainment and the quality would suffer, most entertainment that has mass appeal is generic and heartless, just listen to pop radio, it would be a shame if comics followed the same path.

    • Actually sales for both Up in the Air and Descendants lept by almost double digit percentages when those films were nominated for Academy Awards.

    • Did Avengers or Batman titles see any improved sales from their movies? Idk just asking

    • @Orpheus: None of us really knows the numbers, but most reports I’ve seen say that the industry as a whole saw a bump in 2012. Now, it’s not fair to speculate as to the cause of that (new readers discovering comics, current readers spending more money, who knows?), but I can’t imagine that the movies contributed nothing to that sales increase.

    • @orpheus: I don’t have industry numbers or anything like that but I am pretty close friends with the owner of my LCS. According to him pretty much any comic film over the last 3 or 4 years (Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man, Avengers, Nolan’s Batman films) have caused a marked jump in trades and graphic novel sales of those characters, but not in monthly, floppy sales. In fact he’s already started ordering copies of popular Superman books in preparation for the release of Man of Steel. So it seems the the films don’t necessarily increase monthly sales but do certainly drive new people to comic stores to check out books about these characters.

    • alright thanks guys

  20. This article is surprising seeing how Marvel and DC just did all sorts of moves to attract new readers. There are comics for all ages, comics aimed at adults and something for everyone, between the numerous publishers it seems as though there’s a comic about almost any subject matter possible. Hawkeye is a great example of not needing to know the past but I gotta say digging into the history and continuity (although somewhat convoluted at times) made me love comics more, superhero ones anyway, then there’s horror, crime, noir,relationship, psychological and everything else, new minis left and right that don’t need a history lesson, and psychological is a part of them all,so there really is something for everyone.

  21. Less decompression would be nice.

    Less amounts of company-wide continuity would be nice, too – if books too place in their own little worlds, while occasionally or rarely interacting with other books, it would make them less daunting.

    Then again, both of these things are done so they get more buck for the bang and so they can string us along over multiple never ending titles. So maybe I’m completely wrong.

    • I love the stand alone self contained stories, like The Children’s Crusade or Old Man Logan, any of the Elseworlds stuff from DC and am a bit bummed they’re canceling DCU Presents, I like the idea of different characters and stories every few issues, keeps it fresh and unexpected is fun, That being said I do love specific titles based on they’re long continuity as much of it gives depth and substance to what and why we’re reading now.

  22. I agree with Fraction, I love what he’s doing with Hawkeye, and I understand the reasons why the comics business is the way it is. But let’s face it: as long as the only way for most people to get comics is by crawling into some dark nerd hole and forking over 3 or 4 dollars for 20 pages of story, you’re not going to sell very many of them no matter what you put between the covers.

  23. I’m not completely convinced that the problem is accessibility. As Fraction said, it’s about “satisfaction.” Yes, good writing and interesting stories without a lot of back matter (something akin to a simple TV show like the Rockford Files) may help make comic books more satisfying.

    But here’s what I think the real problem is: $3.99 (often with double shipping). Think about what the typical non-reader (be it a 12-year old or a 25-year old) is giving up for that comic book: several apps, half a novel, half a subscription to netflix, one third of a movie at the theatre, an online movie rental, 10% of a video game, etc. That’s just for one book! If it’s not the greatest story they’ve ever read, it’s not going to be satisfying for what they had to give up. It’s about opportunity costs.

    I’m not saying that comics aren’t worth four bucks. I recognize that the writers, artists, letterers, and directors of business development need to be paid. But even I, as grown up man with adequate financial resources, avoid some books because of the price point and opportunity costs. Surely a 20-something who has never been inclined to buy comics but likes the Avengers movie is making the same choices.

    I think discounting old books online is helping (although Marvel isn’t doing this). I think including codes to share with friends is helping. I like the idea of the $0.99 weeklies, which helps to spread the $3.99 across a month.

    • I think this really is a key factor. From the 5-10 years prior to the “Same day as print” digital craze really kicked off (plus the advent of 7″ and 10″ tablets), I was really drawing back on my comic purchases. Even as a long-time reader and comics fan, I couldn’t justify the $2.99+ (even with a 20% discount from my brick ‘n’ mortar store). I think I was about down to maybe 8-10 titles a month.

      But once I went digital and discovered all of the $0.99 sales on back issues I’d wanted to read, and $1.99 for most month-old titles (except Marvel), it really brought me back into the fold. I read a lot more comics now, and it’s because I’m getting more value for my money. I’m certainly paying more in pure dollar amounts for my comics than I was just 2 years ago, but I’m getting MORE comics and story to read for that money than I would have at the base cover price.

      I think the prices of comics will ultimately be what kills the comics industry if they can’t learn how to compete with all of the other entertainment options for people that have cropped up in the last 20 years. As jnbund pointed out, why spend $4 on a single 20-page story when a non-comic reader can put that money towards their unlimited Netflix streaming account?

      But $1.00 – 2.00? For a good story with the characters from the Avengers movie that came out last year? That might be more palatable.

    • The comics industry could do well for itself to stop guilt tripping its customers over their cost of doing business. We all get it, people need to get paid, but ultimately, no 12 yr old ( or 30 yr old) kid really cares about that. They care that they have $10 to spend on something cool and they want the best value for that disposable income.

      Make a high quality product, that’s accessible and a good value…people will buy it. If you can’t do that, then its time to fade away.

    • I think $3.99 is way too much and they definitely need to lower the price. And stop the double-shipping, please! A comic shouldn’t really be more than $2. It’s a disposable medium people! Yes that would probably mean cheaper paper, but without going down to newsprint. Maybe the trades can have the better paper, so if people really want it, they can still get it. Yes, that may mean that a trade collecting 5 or 6 issues would cost $10/12 individually but the trade is $15, but at least you know you’re paying more for the paper. However if more people don’t start buying, that price would jump right back up, as the whole point would be to increase sales to compensate for the revenue lost due to price decrease. Of course, this will probably never happen, but hopefully it will digitally, even if it’s kind of like DC’s model of a month old issues go down in price.

  24. Comics need good marketing and PR in order to get new readers.
    People will argue that you need better stories/art to attract new readers.
    I disagree. You need better stories/art to keep new readers.
    You need fantastic marketing and promotion to make new readers aware of, not just comics in general, but individual titles and/or features and apps.

    Marvel and Comixology could promote their digital services through TV ads.
    There could be an Adventure Time comic commercial played during the Adventure Time TV time slot.
    Any TV show that uses comics book characters has the potential to direct it’s viewers to the original source.

    As for local comic book shops, they need to promote their respective stores. Let Marvel, DC, Image, etc make the consumers aware of the product, while the shop owners make the consumers aware of their stores.
    Before I moved out of state, my old LCB store went to every major comic book movie opening and handed out flyers promoting the characters and their store with special sales. They also promoted the hell out of Free Comic Book Day and other special events.

  25. My 2-cents:

    1. I think there is an audience out there who would be perfectly happy with the current product if they were just exposed to it. They are just as willing to commit as we are, they just haven’t been given good exposure.
    2. As part of #1, you have to make sure they can get the books when they are interested. Digital is a big help in that.
    3. The next step is to make some minor tweaks in the content. Shorter arcs. Better representations of women. More recap pages/Web sites. Better integration with TV/movies. Stuff that will make it easier for someone to jump on. Because Big Two Super-Hero Comics can’t survive on the current audience and the one generated by step 1 above. We need some people’s money who are more casual about getting in.
    4. Once you get the audiences on board from #1 and #3 above, you may have enough volume that you can start lowering digital prices and/or at least hold off on further increases to print prices. Which will grow even further.

  26. I’d like to see comics in gas stations and grocery stores. That’s the type of accessibility that the industry needs. How is anyone supposed to be exposed to amazing cover art and great stories if they are only available at a local comic book shop 30 miles away that they’ve never heard of and have never been to? Also, comics need to be seen as cool and disposable. Its paper and ink not gold. The “collector” image is off putting. I think if I saw the last issue of Saga at a checkout aisle and id never heard of it or BKV I would be compelled to buy it. That cover was cool, sexy, and intriguing.

  27. Sounds like Fraction is saying, “do more of nothing– better.” Read it again. That’s what he’s saying. I don’t think the current model is working, not by a long shot, but I also don’t think it’s fair or accurate to say that the only problem with comics is their accessibility.

  28. Marvel needs to start dropping their digital prices on a more timely basis. They are losing out on a lot of sales by waiting 1 year before they drop down to $1.99. If they dropped prices after a month like DC does, they would increase their digital sales quite a bit. It’s ridiculous right now, AvX is still full price, Thunderbolts 169- are still full price, and Thunderbolts 169 came out over a year ago now. Journey into Mystery is still full price after the Fear Itself tie-ins.

    There are a lot of people out there who wait for sales and price drops before buying.

  29. I think we all agree that comics could do better. Some of reasons its not that I’ve seen in this article are really varied tho. I can’t believe the belief that comics are just for kids still continues in society, I guess the only remendy is getting more awareness to the Vertigo and Image comics that break that streotype. The boys club criticism is an odd one, from what I’ve been told on IGN the video game industry is the same way but IDK if thats suffering on the same level as the comics industry. I see alot more gamers of all kinds then comic fans. Obiviously I don’t condone sexism or whatever, and I think making both industries more accessable to women will help things alittle (or alot, but I doubt it would magically solve everything) . The industry has lots of fresh talent in terms of creators, so piling more on to compete with each other and our cash isn’t a solution. More than likely the guys in suits on the top floor need to be exchanged for some new paradigm shifting college grads or something. Advertising, price, availability, and story structure are all good points to fix, but to me the most basic one is justing getting people to read period.

  30. Comics are one of the only entertainment mediums that doesn’t have any interest in advertising or marketing its products in any kind of meaningful way. Very little strategy or thought s put into reaching people outside of the comic shop. Unless you already have a pull list and go to a shop, and frequent the sites…aka being “in” , i feel there is very little awareness that comics are even published.

    They do these little PR blitzes in MSM every so often, like when they kill someone, and hope that works (or bumps sales enough to not get fired that quarter), but that’s not really a sustained “hey we’re still relevant in pop culture” campaign that builds an audience.

    As far as content, continuity heavy stuff and multiple titles in the same character family is intimidating. If you had entire lines or universes of books that were one-shot and easy to get into you might find success. Thanks to the movies and cartoons and toys, we know what Spiderman, Batman, Superman and all the Avengers can do. Just have fun adventures, and make them mass market appeal worthy and focus on the powers, not the soap opera. Invest some money in it, have top creators working on the issues and most importantly, don’t push these as heavy at your Direct Market customers…push em at Facebook and Target and places where your potential customers are. Don’t make a product that “expires” the day after it comes out, or requires you to read another issue to get the full story.

    I think part of the problem is that they’ve focussed so much on getting every extra penny out of existing readers they’ve completely neglected investing (and yes you have to invest time, money and effort) in growing the readership to new readers. Comics face a cultural relevancy problem more than anything. Entire generations of kids grow up without them as a normal everyday thing, its not going to last.

    Some incredibly creative people work in the comics business. I’m sure they could create some of the most authentically awesome social media/viral campaigns that would reach tons of people and a targeted, year long campaign in that world would be more cost effective and reach more people than one silly TV commercial during the Superbowl or Acadmy awards or whatever . I think it takes a bit of desire and a decent budget and most importantly, some strategy.

    What puzzles me is you have giant Conglomerates like Disney and Warner Bros who control all these characters and they cross promote every media form except for the comics. I guess at some point some guy in a suit has to see a future in the medium outside of 36 yr old males.

    And like so many others, i agree that pricing is ridiculous. 22 pages of story for $3.99 is an awful value for the entertainment dollar in this day an age. If you’re a kid on an allowance, you can bet more for that $3.99 than part of a story. Too much competition out there for allowance money and disposable income. You’re only going to attract the hard core fanboys at that price who’ll just deal with it, but you’re not gonna get many new people trying things out

    • A lot of great points here, especially what you say early on about only appealing to current readers. It’s so true that things like crossover events and having 6 Avengers titles or 5 X-men titles is great for people who are already fans of the book and clearly they’re good for sales, but I’m sure it is really intimidating for new readers. That’s one of the reasons it took me a solid year after I started reading comics again to get into superhere stuff. I simply didn’t know where to begin. And when I figured it out it was because of the great staff at my LCS, not because of any help from the companies. DC and Marvel need to do a better job of even letting new readers where to start.

      This problem with comics remind me a lot of the video game industry in the 80’s and 90’s. People thought games were just for kids and something you eventually grew out of. Well I’m 30, I still play video games, and so do the vast majority of my friends. In fact research data shows that kids of my generation who grew up with video games tend to keep playing them as adults. Gaming is no longer just for kids or hardcore fans, it’s for everyone. I have 50 and 60 year old relatives who have played games, and not just on the Wii. This didn’t happen from magic or because the gaming industry sat around hoping it would happen. This change became a reality because the industry worked hard to make games certain more accesible and marketed that change to the public. Neither of which the comic book industry has been very good at.

    • yeah i kinda feel like everyone things comics are for kids…except for kids and parents.

    • Price is definitely a factor. I can spend $4 on one 22 page comic or go to the iPhone App Store and buy NBA Jam (!), Fruit Ninja, Doodle Jump, and Temple Run and download them directly to my phone.

    • NBA Jam is only $4!!!

  31. How do the companies that produce comic books make them less “comic-y”? Mayhaps we, the consumers of comics, should redefine what we call the product we enjoy. You gotta start somewhere, right? There are so many distractions in this day and age but not enough hours in the day. How do Disney and Warner Bros get their foot in the door to reach potential new customers? It CAN be done.

    • That’s a good point. You have seen an effort in recent years to use the term “graphic novel” more than “comic book.” I’m guessing part of the is an effort to appeal to people who think “comics are just for kids.”

    • “Saga,” “Prophet,” and “Severed” immediately come to mind.

  32. also i’d say if you need a case study in how comics can be successful in a non direct market, retail environment, take a look at the Hastings chain of book/entertainment stores. Their comics department seems to be very successful from what i hear, and they position that stuff right next to video games, movies, music and books.

    That can be reproduced by a Best Buy, Target, Barnes and Noble etc if the desire was there.

  33. The problem isn’t accessibility so much as a change in demeanor of the prospective readership. From 1985 to 1995, X-Men titles were steeped in more continuity than any other comics ever, and yet they sold nearly a million copies a month no matter who the artist was. That’s because kids back then actually LIKED the experience of trying to figure out what was going on. I remember when I was in middle school and roughly HALF the kids there loved collecting Marvel trading cards and the odd comic book — they LOVED entering new worlds and trying to LEARN about what was what and who was who.

    That’s all vanished now. As a society we no longer like to figure things out, especially not if we have to read. Rather, we need things spoonfed to us and we are eternally tearing our hair out about what the “best starting point” to experience media is. This is a state of a affairs that’s totally incompatible with comics. Go back in time twenty years and even random issues like Superman #60 or Incredible Hulk #370 were probably the First Comic Ever for 20,000 or so new readers — readers who lived in a society that encouraged them to explore, learn and figure things out for themselves. Marvel wasn’t going crazy trying to figure out how to make Hulk accessible to elusive “new readers” who would be so fussy and scared of ever having to figure something out for themselves. Instead, we had a society and a readership that just LIKED CHALLENGES.

    We don’t have that anymore, period.

    • You could also buy comics at 7-11 at the time. And so when kids with disposable income would descend on the candy isle, the balsa-wood airplane isle, the centipede/Contra/Dragon’s Lair machine in the corner, and the spinning comic rack, comics would be purchased.

      Sure at that time, there was a lot of continuity, but you still got the bold faced “Wolverine, sheathe your admantium claws! Not all of us have your mutant healing factor you know!” every single issue.

      In short, I don’t think society has changed so completely in 20 years such that liking challenges is the reason for decline.

    • @flapjaxx: Also that was the heyday of the X-Men. Their video games were HUGE sellers and they had an incredibly popular Saturday morning cartoon. It wasn’t purely that “people liked challenges,” it was that the X-Men were in fact spoon fed to them, just in different ways than now.

      Do you have a single shred of actual evidence beyond your own, limited personal experience to back up any of the claims you’ve made here?

    • No, he does not.

      Silly emotional argumentation.

  34. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    What if we made comics out of meat?

  35. Based on some of the comments here, maybe the problem is that the comics reading community isn’t actually all that inclusive. I would say a good third of the comments here have derogatory things to say about even potential new readers. Before they pick up a book people are already calling them “lazy” and “unwilling.” Maybe we all need to be a little more welcoming and help new readers to find their footing. And I’m not talking about friends or family. I mean random people you don’t know in your LCS who look like they need a little help or could use a recommendation. Let’s be open and vocal and gush about the medium we love. Let’s do everything we can to make it accessible and fun to new readers. I guess I just don’t understand all this hostility toward new readers.

    P.S. — To all the crotchety old men on this board. Yes, we were all new readers once. Yes, you probably came to comics in a different way than people today. (Holy shit the world changes!!) But no, it wasn’t as amazing and challenging and liberating as you like to tell people. The past always looks better through the rose color lens of age. You were just a new reader back then, you weren’t so much better than new readers today. So stop it.

    • i think you’re on to something…not 100% of the blame, but it can be a major factor. Comic fans can be elitist, even when they don’t think they are and Comic shops aren’t always the most inviting places. There is a huge intimidation factor not to mention overwhelming feeling one could have from seeing so much *stuff*. And then you have staff and management.

      Its a difficult problem to address since the entire industry hinges on hundreds of independent businesses who all do things their own way. Its not like you can hold a management seminar or something like you would at a large chain.

    • “You were just a new reader back then, you weren’t so much better than new readers today. So stop it.”

      Here here! 🙂

    • Some people are “lazy” or “unwilling”, those are people you could probably identify after recommending comics to them (and hitting a wall). As far as reaching out, I can hazard a guess many people on this site (even this article) have tried bringing new people into the fold. Just 2 weeks ago I lent someone I just met volume ones of Hellboy,Animal Man (Jeff Lemire), and the Sandman. Now she is asking me for the rest of the Animal Man issues. That’s not to say there aren’t “crochty old men” posting here who are not open to being more inclusive. Getting people into stores may not be enough, unless they themselves show interest in going beforehand. And if the store is interested in sales, they’d offer help to anyone looking confused or asking for recommendations. I feel like there should be more options in the modern age for getting new readers besides “take them to a comic store” or “lend them comics”.

  36. I think a great way for comics publishers to attract more readers is stories like Hawkeye, Stumptown, Saga, Thief of Thieves, Saucer Country. Those stories are crisp and have positives like being a non-capes and tights book while still being fun. Where Hawkeye beats them all out is the stories don’t require much knowledge of the characters or “on going” story to enjoy the issue. We all think that people shouldn’t be afraid because at some point we made the leap and learned big issue numbers didn’t matter.

    The truth is though, that they kind of do. People like catharsis. If a story or “on going” story requires of the reader a larger knowledge outside of the current story most people will skip it or choose to read it in volumes. What I mean by this is best described by metaphor. Hawkeye is like How I met your mother. I can enjoy a single episode without really needing any other knowledge. If it hooks me I might get the prior seasons. A show like Breaking Bad is more like Saga in that if I were to start midway through season 2 I’d have no interest in the show and would either wait for season 1 on Netflix or simply skip the series entirely. Now add the stigma of comics and the reason why people don’t join our ranks is easily answered.

    • I like you analogy of comics to tv shows, and your comparison of “Saga” to “Breaking Bad” is interesting (Does Image have recap pages?). Why does everyone keep suggesting on-going series tho, why not graphic novels? For instance, “Essex County”, “Life Sucks” (for the vampire crowd), “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, “The Surrogates”, all great stand-alone GNs that could appeal to a wider audience and show the diverse genres of comics. The thing about shows tho, is that sometimes people have to and do “jump in” in the middle of the season otherwise shows would fail after one season. Comics are different in that many have years of continuity and stories behind them in most cases instead of hours of viewing. Maybe it could help things if more shows based on comics were produced (and advertised as such every episode), it seems most shows that have previous material are either books or movies (Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Dexter, Bates Motel, Hannibal). Somethig besides cape stuff could be a nice change of pace too.

    • I think both new and current readers are ready for more of a graphic novel style. I love the DC prestige format and find it just the right amount of material. Of course you can “link” these, but each one would be enjoyable in its own right.

  37. I’m probably going to get lambasted here, but I think general non-comics media consumers (that’s most people) are just too passive for comics. Even “Hawkeye”, as accessible as it’s been has layouts (at least when Aja’s drawing) that challenge the reader in a way I think most of the above mentioned people don’t want to be challenged. I guess what I’m trying to say is that most people want to be entertained, not challenged. And that’s fine, it’s all escapism, some folks just prefer theirs a different way.

    Also, I think TreeoftheStoneAge made a great point that comics reading really is a different kind of engagement with entertainment that may take someone who doesn’t regularly read comics awhile to get comfortable with. I guess the real barrier is making that engagement with as easy and as natural to slip into as popping in a movie or opening up a regular book (although, I’m not sure people do this much anymore unless the book or book series is being/has been adapted to movies).

    All in all, I think most publishers outside the big 2 get it but unfortunately have to waste energy on the antiquated and archaic monopoly of Diamond & the direct market to maintain their business. The big 2 definitely have their sins to bear on not helping themselves, but I’m also a believer that both have plenty to offer if people would just simply look (okay, maybe not so much on the DC side)…

    I kinda love these threads…

  38. another monthly installment of the “decline of the comics civilization” it seems.

    I’m sure comic sales are not a complex range of issues but are just 1 simple thing that can be divined through the wisdom of sound bites and online posters.

    i’m also pretty sure that everyone involved is saying the word “comics” but is actually refering to “superhero comics” which should tell you something about the state of the comic book industry, since people saying the word “movies” are not actually only refering to “superhero movies”.

    Have to agree on the pricing point. Comics were birthed as an inexpesnive proletariat escape and even in the 80’s-90’s a comic cost the same as a candy bar or soda. If comics are printed on paper, we are never going back to that comparative price point, regardless if comics are back in 7-11’s or not. The future for populist comics (if there is one) will be online.

    Is readership of comics down? Or just comics sales? On-line piracy is something that seems left out of this muti-dimensional disection of how we all consumers could be running things better based on facts that we gleam from the first three replys of googling.

    I think the real take away from the posts is our desire to think that this complex messed up world has 1 easy fix.
    Comforting as that may be, I don’t think it is the case for comics or anywhere.

    Everyone has two things they can do unless they plan to start their own company: buy the books you enjoy and share it with someone.

    Everything else is just…

    oops sorry times up, its nacho party time.

  39. DC Comics is owned by Warner Brothers and Marvel Comics by Disney both have Channels which showcases some of their comic book properties as animated television series so why not put on air a couple of ads promoting the tie-in comics to the shows and also some other comics that are coming out next week.