Clicking around the cyber world I happened upon something that got my juices flowing. It seems that one of my favorite comic writers Mark Waid is launching his website thrillbent.com, a digital comics site.
This is great news and if anything means more comics. I read over Mr. Waid’s reasons behind his move in launching the site and I think he has a firm grip on what he’s doing. But the tired and old conversation piece of whether comics are dying reared its ugly head.
Now if you go into any comic shop around the world you can find this debate going on, or spark it to life with an off hand comment. So why is it people think that comics are dying? Can it be that interest in the genre is just drying up? I doubt that. Have you seen how friggin popular the geek culture has become? Shows like The Big Bang Theory is swimming in it. Have you seen the box office lately? Not just the super hero movies by the way. Did you know movies such as Scott Pilgrim vs The World and A History of Violence were comics? Did you hear that Kirkman just agreed with AMC to produce his new thief comic that just came out into a TV series?
No my friends this is not a dying industry its a changing industry. If you honestly think that anytime soon there will not be too many Batman and Spider-man or X titles on the shelves, your mistaken. The large publishers make plenty of cash. That’s why bigger companies buy them. But they bought them because Batman and Spider-Man are institutions. They are bigger then the pages of the comics they appear on now. Movie rights and merchandising rakes in plenty of cash and the comics keep the interest up for it.
So who is crying foul? I’ll tell you who. The creators. Now wait before you decided to call me nasty names if you already haven’t. The complaints that you hear the loudest are from those guys who make and deal with the dollars and cents of putting out mid level and lower published books. Mark Waid laid it out quite nicely in a recent blog about why print comics are not the way to go. I agree that it costs to much to print and distribute a book. I will also agree that Diamond has a friggin monopoly in this industry that stifles the new creators out of the game. Believe me I’m paddling the same boat with these guys. I’m currently on a project that is into its 8th month and has not seen print.
The glory days of the 80′s are gone. No longer can you see a company pop up over night and start putting out a bunch of titles go away and be replaced by a new one within months. The Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles would have never made it in today’s market. Neither would have Grendel or Mage for that matter. The industry has been streamlined to make money and the cost of printing has out paced the ability of the common man to keep up. That’s not the death of an industry. That’s it becoming commercialized.
Mark Waid gave us some figures about how many stores carry his Incorruptible book. 500. That’s a pretty low figure considering the scope of the comic reading world out there. Why is that? Well part of the reason is that it’s not Batman or Spider-Man. The reality is just that. People want their capes and heroes. And there is no way a character is going to touch the popularity of a Wolverine with the pop culture force propelling it. And if your not satisfied with your creations being at the level they are then maybe your in the wrong business. No one is touching Marvel and DC. Period. And if you can’t understand that and blame the distribution and printing costs only, your missing part of the picture.
So what can be done about all this? Where can the savvy reader go to find its next Yusagi Yojimbo before its a big hit? The internet my friend. This is where I totally agree with Mr. Waid. The medium of the internet is the new playground of the Indy field. Here they can craft and publish works at fractions of what it would cost them to do in a tangible medium. Also when a book gains enough of a following and fan base you see something wonderful happen. Those same digital books will become a solid copy that can be purchased directly from that site. Why would something like that happen? Because if you cut out the middle man you’d be surprised that you can still make a nice profit off of it. And despite what anyone, anywhere ever says, no one collects pixels.
The problem with this is that we cut out one of the best things in the whole of comic collecting. The comic shops. Just the act of walking into a comic shop is a holy event for me and many others I would assume. The feel and smell in a shop has its own wonderful vibe. What will become of our beloved stores? Well I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy to run a store at all. Coming from a one time business owner (Non comic shop) it’s friggin hard. And if Some one cuts in on your profits your going to have a problem with it. The only advice I can give them is to just keep doing what your doing. I understand when you don’t order books when your not sure if they will sell. Heck man you got to make sure that lights stay on. Wolverine and Deadpool help a lot in that department. Diversify as much as you can. Merchandise is a way to go but takes a bigger investment and ties up your money longer. And carry whatever you can to help make those sales. Ever think about having snacks in your shop?
So I guess this is a long way for me to say that I applaud any online adventure with comics. Personally I think we need more free sites. Ones that allow people to post their work for free. Something much like youtube only different. This can generate the interest that creators need to get off the ground. Digital comics that require you to pay for them are a good idea. Only problem I see is the cost factor. Again here is where I think that Mr. Waid has it right by having books go from .99 to 1.99 in cost. Anything more and I think you’ll put off to many customers. If your going to charge more folk will just go buy the real thing. (That’s right I said real thing)