Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Funnybook Publishing Part 1: Old and Busted

PART 1: the problem

So John tossed me a bit of a challenge that I’ve been dodging this past week with Zombie Tales self-contained story posts – John said I’d be stepping in to give you a view of independent comic book and graphic novel publishing. At first I wasn’t sure I had a thing to say, but then I saw an Entertainment Weekly article on an older demographic shift in comic book readership, and it got me thinking.

Two of the biggest announcements of 2005 in comics came out in the past few weeks – the Executive Producer of LOST, Damon Lindelof, is writing a Wolverine/Hulk comic book, and Stephen King is bringing his DARK TOWER to Marvel for a mini-series.

Theoretically, this is the kind of mainstream acceptance that comic books and graphic novels have been courting for years. King is one of the biggest names of all time in novel publishing, LOST is the hottest show on TV, bar none. To make it a trifecta, all we’d need would be some huge rock star to sidle up and do a comic.

That’s nice. But who cares?

I’m not saying that I’m not excited that an A-list talent like Stephen King is coming to comics, or that there’s a well-capitalized outfit like Marvel that’s willing to pay out the cash to make it happen. I love the fact that my favorite TV show of all time has an Executive Producer who loves comics, and loves it so much that he’s willing to write a comic to prove it.

It’s just that it’s more of the same – bigger, better, faster, more. And no innovation.

When Stephen King comes to comics, it’s to do more with a franchise he created himself nearly a quarter century ago – and in another medium (so really, is this much more than an adaptation?). I can hear the King fans saying already, “I liked it better as a novel!” and chances are, they’ll be right. When Lindelof comes to comics, it’s to write one of the most over-used characters in the business –fanboy bait Wolverine.

Where’s the innovation?

The dark shame of comics is that the rich get richer and the industry gets poorer. DC Comics (the D and the C stand for Detective Comics, so their name literally is Detective Comics Comics) has yet to create a character that eclipses their big three – Superman (1938), Batman (1939), and Wonder Woman (1941). Their next-most recognizable characters, The Flash (1940) and Aquaman (1941) are just as old. They’ve been making hay off the same old same old month in and month out for 65, nearly 70 years.

Where’s the innovation?

Marvel Comics emerged with a bang in the early 1960s: Spider-Man and The Hulk (1962), the Fantastic Four (1961). The X-Men didn’t catch on until Wolverine was created in the pages of The Hulk (1975) and tossed in with a makeover on the X-Men that catapulted them into what we know today (1975). The mid-1970s was the last fertile era for the company, giving them not only a revamped X-Men team that’s their top seller, but another arguably recognizable duo in the form of The Punisher and Ghost Rider. So they’re not quite as bad as DC, they’ve only been living off the same old ideas for about 30 or 40 years. Half as long.

Imagine this: you turn on ABC TV, and all you’ve got for prime time is a selection of about a dozen of their all-time greatest TV shows – The Love Boat hitting its 27th season, Addams Family would’ve clocked in 41 seasons (okay, maybe taking a season or two off to do The New Addams Family with a Scrappy Doo-like cute and cuddly sidekick), Barney Miller, Benson, Bewitched, you just know that Matlock’d still be plugging away. Lost would already have a spin-off because during any given month, there’s 18 to 20 different Batman and Batman spin-off comic books. 23 to 25 X-Men spin-offs. You think the CSI franchise or the LAW AND ORDER franchise are overdone? When people say there’s comic book collectors – good God man, there’s comic book collectors. There’s hordes of men and women that show up week-in and week-out on Wednesdays to devour this stuff.

Same old same old.

Okay. Let’s be fair. There’s a scattershot of other characters that have attained a franchisable level. The list would have to include some from the past 15 years that have made the leap to movies: Hellblazer as Keanu’s Constantine. Spawn, God help us. Hellboy. Maybe Witchblade (you remember the TNT TV show, right)? I’m sure I forgot something, and someone in the comments section’ll set me straight. But let’s count it together with me – on the outside, that’s 4 – that’s right, 4 – hits in the past, hmmm, ida know, 30 years? And Witchblade and Constantine aren’t even big enough hits to sustain a single spin-off.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of funnybooks hitting the shelves week-in and week-out are new versions of the same old same old. The Batman beat the Joker again. Waitaminute, it was The Penguin this time.

I, for one, am sick of it. Out with the old. In with the new. DC and Marvel focus on selling Yet Another Spider-Man series – the latest is called “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” (no, really) –I’d like to find the next Spider-Man.

Big talk, I know. But how are you going to get anywhere if you cower at the feet of these giants?

In the late 1950s, DC Comics ruled comic book publishing with their super-heroes. If Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko had decided to keep on keeping on with what Marvel was publishing at the time – giant monster books and westerns – there’d be no Marvel universe. And yet, in many ways, it’s what editorial at both of the big two companies continue to do – sticking with what came before, and frankly, it’s a snake eating its own tail.

It’s time to color outside the lines.

NEXT: That’s nice, but what the hell are you going to do about it, Mr. Publisherguy?

39 comments:

1031 said...

My thoughts exactly, on the Lindelof/King announcements. Neither are really going to do anything to bring new readers to comics, and neither series is introducing anything in the way of new ideas (but, man, Jae Lee is doing the art for King's book, so I might pick it up just for that).

Fans of King aren't going to start reading other Marvel books just because of a Dark Tower mini-series. And I don't really see any Lost fans who don't already read comics flocking to the store to get a Wolverine/Hulk book. Is Marvel going to pay for commercials during Lost to hype the comic? I highly doubt it.

I'm generally tired of Marvel and DC these days. It's the Same Old Thing, like you said, month after month, year after year. Give me some smart, innovative indie titles, like the stuff from Adhouse, Oni, IDW, Top Shelf, and whomever else. Just give me something different.

Alex Epstein said...

Um, Sandman?

Patrick "Berandor" Pricken said...

Yeah, there are some comic series that imo stepped out of the old shoes: Sandman, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and of course a lot of smaller ones.


It's just that most people don't read these smaller books.

Ross Richie said...

Hey Patrick,

It's not that I'm looking for successful mini-series or graphic novels or ideas -- BLANKETS, WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA are all great -- but what's the next wave of sustainable character franchises?

Admittedly, SANDMAN does sorta kinda fill that gap -- they're still doing Sandman spin-offs even today. But it's not really a regular thing, like let's say Spider-Man, or even Hellboy.

Best,
-R

RAB said...

Framing commercial success in terms of franchise characters just runs you smack into the long history of unethical business practices in the comics industry. Superman was relentlessly exploited in other media and licensing because doing so was pure profit for National; Siegel and Shuster's creative wishes and financial status never had to be considered. Things were sunnier for William Moulton Marston and Bob Kane, at least -- though one shouldn't expect writer Bill Finger had anything to cheer about in the latter case. Ownership and creative credit on Captain America have been the subject of wrangling for decades, even though the facts are relatively well documented. We all know Dave Cockrum hasn't seen a dime in royalties for the characters he created that were featured so prominently in the X-Men movies; neither would Jack Kirby have if he'd lived to see the day. It just goes on and on.

Sure, there are the happy exceptions like Hellboy and Witchblade (if we must define success here as ranslation to another medium) but overall, it's a company-owned landscape. Creators aren't as motivated to give away great new characters so a corporation can own them outright -- nobody wants to be the next Siegel and Shuster -- but the smaller companies who will (sometimes) offer them a better deal don't have the resources and connective synergy to compete against Marvel Entertainment and Time Warner when it comes to widespread exposure and publicity. (Someone else would have to say where Image and Dark Horse fit in here.) And companies aren't motivated to offer creators a bigger slice of the pie when they can instead flog the old warhorse characters they own outright.

In other words, it's mostly going to be endless Superman and Batman and Spider-Man and Daredevil movies until something really breaks the stranglehold of the corporate monoliths. It'll happen in my lifetime, but I won't be holding my breath waiting.

Bill Cunningham said...

"but what's the next wave of sustainable character franchises?"

They are found elsewhere in publishing - Tom Clancy co-creating his OP CENTER, NET FORCE and POWER PLAYS series as well as SPLINTER CELL. Michael Chabon spinning off characters from KAVALIER AND CLAY into his own comic series. JK Rowling creating the entire HARRY POTTER universe and maintaining a HUGE degree of control of her own creation.

Creators must be willing to take the creative and financial risk of building their own empires (ala Image) instead of being employees of the corporation.
Then they can reap the same sort of rewards that those above (as well as Todd McFarlane and Marc Silvestri) AND break new ground in terms of subject matter. Case in point: Frank Miller - a man who's now known more in the general populace by his SIN CITY work than his superhero stuff.

Creators need to be willing to go out and create their own brand, their own identity outside of being "the guy/gal who wrote Supes or Bats." They need to be ready to walk away when someone hands them a crappy work-for-hire contract for all rights...

And corporations need to figure out that they can be traditional publishers and not own everything under a work-for-hire contract.

The rise of manga in this country will help as well, since we have a situation there where the copyright is in the artist/creator's name(s) and not the corporation that publishes the work. An entirely different mentality on both sides is what's required.

Randbot said...

Just to play devil's advocate, do comics even have the cultural clout to *create* a new franchise any more?

To me, it's kind of like making a fortune -- if you get enough money together upfront, it will generate enough interest to perpetuate itself indefinitely. And that's what we have now -- Batman, Superman, et all are essentially just living off the interest of their accumulated cultural capital. They are famous because they have long histories, and roots that extend deep into our culture.

I mean, it's not like the comics companies *stopped* creating new characters -- have you looked around the Marvel or DC Universes? There's no shortage of obscure, reinvented, or new personalities there -- heck, Marvel even came up with a whole New Universe a couple decades ago (remember that? I sure do -- issues #1-8 of each are still bagged in my basement somewhere, awaiting a collectible value that will never come).

I think the best comics can hope for now is to create a character just big enough to get its own movie or TV show (Hellboy, for example). Then, if the movie does well, and maybe gets a sequel, that can feed back into more comic books, and more cultural recognition, and maybe 10 years from now, it's a new franchise.

dan mcenroe said...

There’s hordes of men and women that show up week-in and week-out on Wednesdays to devour this stuff.

Same old same old.


not a huge comic guy, so i don't have a lot at stake here, but it seems like you've answered your own question, here. batman, spider-man and their respective spin-offs sell, and they apparently sell well-enough to maintain the franchise. why would a publisher mess with that? also, since the franchises are so dominant, the next wave of creators that comes along doesn't want to create the next spider-man, he wants to write spider-man!!

you pointed out how absurd it would be to have 27 seasons of the love boat. didn't we just shrug off 30 some-odd years of star trek? seems like a lot of us genre-fans don't like change.

Bill Cunningham said...

"batman, spider-man and their respective spin-offs sell, and they apparently sell well-enough to maintain the franchise."

And yet there is Japan where the population is five times less than the US, and yet they have about five times (if not) more comics published than we do. All sortsof genres. All sorts of demographics. Not just white males between 13 and 34...

And lets face facts that if the Spiderman movies hadn't done well, then the whole of the Marvel Empire would be in a serious world of hurt right now. Let's not forget they were near bankruptcy not too long (three years?)ago.

The big two have long since stopped being real comic book companies and have become the development arms of media congolomerates. It's NOT the comics themselves that sell, but the toys, games, fashion, TV, and movies that accompany them. That's why you have many different Spidey comics out there.

I would suggest that everyone go to: www.the-engine.net and poke around to see what comics could be - a medium of expression for all sorts of stories in all sorts of genres for all sorts of readers.

Ross Richie said...

"but the smaller companies who will (sometimes) offer them a better deal don't have the resources and connective synergy to compete against Marvel Entertainment and Time Warner when it comes to widespread exposure and publicity."

Hey Rab,

I think you're arguing against yourself with HELLBOY on all counts. It's a huge character that's been turned into a lot of merchandise as well as a film and the creator and the company have had a very mutually fulfilling relationship.

Even outside the movie money, this URL shows that there's a lot of cash generated by the character:

http://tinyurl.com/7ftm8

Hellboy's a good example of why it's puzzling to me that no one's doing anything new.

Best,
-R

Ross Richie said...

"Creators must be willing to take the creative and financial risk of building their own empires (ala Image) instead of being employees of the corporation."

"Frank Miller - a man who's now known more in the general populace by his SIN CITY work than his superhero stuff."

Hey Rand,

Frank's not your best example of someone taking a chance to do their own thing as a creator -- he was paid a page rate for his work, unlike Todd and Marc and Jim Lee and Rob and Jim Valentino, who all did their work on spec and took their check on the back end.

I think we're getting a little thread drift, here. The means of production aren't the issue, I think. There's plenty of companies that'll let you own the whole piece of work and pay you a page rate -- Dark Horse, a new subimprint of Image Comics called Desperado -- while there's lots of opportunities to self-publish and publish via Image and retain ownership.

The truth, to me, is that no one's doing new, franchiseable characters and making them work. Where's the creativity?

Where's Seigel and Shuster, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, William Moulton Marsten, etc.?

We all know there was only one Jack Kirby. But you don't have to be Kirby -- you just have to do something besides same old same old.

Best,
-R

Stephen g said...

Kavalier and Clay's essentially parasitic, though, isn't it? It's covering similar ground to Watchmen in that it's just playing with recognizable archetypes.

Now, I'm off to re-read Fell.

SG

Ross Richie said...

" Just to play devil's advocate, do comics even have the cultural clout to *create* a new franchise any more?"

Hey Randbot,

the explosion of comic book movies at the box office is proof they do. Pulp-styled visually-driven storytelling is the thing of the future. For every Spider-Man that was a Marvel or DC book, there's a highly successful THE MASK or THE CROW or MEN IN BLACK, comic books all.

I believe the complete opposite of what you think -- not that comic books are passe and out of date, but rather that the culture has finally come around to comics.

"I mean, it's not like the comics companies *stopped* creating new characters -- have you looked around the Marvel or DC Universes? There's no shortage of obscure, reinvented, or new personalities there -- heck, Marvel even came up with a whole New Universe a couple decades ago (remember that? I sure do -- issues #1-8 of each are still bagged in my basement somewhere, awaiting a collectible value that will never come)."

Right. THE NEW UNIVERSE is 20 years old. Imagine how old that is to a kid reading comics that's 7, or 12, or even 18 for that matter.

When it comes to creating characters, doesn't it take more than a catchy character name and a symbol on their chest?

Seems like to me that's why so much of the "new" characters that Marvel and DC invent for their lines are really boring.

Best,
-R

I think the best comics can hope for now is to create a character just big enough to get its own movie or TV show (Hellboy, for example). Then, if the movie does well, and maybe gets a sequel, that can feed back into more comic books, and more cultural recognition, and maybe 10 years from now, it's a new franchise.

Ross Richie said...

"not a huge comic guy, so i don't have a lot at stake here, but it seems like you've answered your own question, here. batman, spider-man and their respective spin-offs sell, and they apparently sell well-enough to maintain the franchise. why would a publisher mess with that? also, since the franchises are so dominant, the next wave of creators that comes along doesn't want to create the next spider-man, he wants to write spider-man!!

you pointed out how absurd it would be to have 27 seasons of the love boat. didn't we just shrug off 30 some-odd years of star trek? seems like a lot of us genre-fans don't like change."

Absolutely.

The only question about selling more Spider-Man, and wanting to write more Spider-Man, is how much is the business and the creativity cheating itself that it's not finding the NEXT Spider-Man?

Best,
-R

Ross Richie said...

"And lets face facts that if the Spiderman movies hadn't done well, then the whole of the Marvel Empire would be in a serious world of hurt right now. Let's not forget they were near bankruptcy not too long (three years?)ago.

The big two have long since stopped being real comic book companies and have become the development arms of media congolomerates. It's NOT the comics themselves that sell, but the toys, games, fashion, TV, and movies that accompany them. That's why you have many different Spidey comics out there."

Bill --

Marvel was in bankruptcy nearly 10 years ago. It's been a while.

Marvel and DC do quite well publishing, actually. There's a lot of money to be made there. While media rights is always lucrative, as-is merchandising, if they were really in bad straits, they wouldn't be doing it.

Marvel only went into bankruptcy as a result of some very clever ledger-noodling by a dude who wanted to take it over.

Best,
-R

Bill Cunningham said...

Straight from the NY Times in 2003:

http://www.comicbookmovie.com/news/articles/360.asp

Marvel has become an "intellectual property company". In 2003, only 20% of their income was from comics...

RAB said...

Yes, Hellboy is proof that something mutually beneficial can be done. But I don't know the nature of Mignola's contract with Dark Horse. Could he take the character and walk away from them? Leaving aside the question of whether or not he'd be a fool to do it. What if the company was bought out and its sensible management replaced with Hollywood playas who tried to interfere with Mignola's creative choices on the grounds that something he wanted to do would jeopardize an upcoming movie/video game/happy meal?

Yeah, I know, it's pretty unlikely. But Hellboy is still the exception that proves the rule.

Black Eyed Gurl said...

I too am excited with the possibilities of my favorite TV writers entering the world of comics. Joss Whedon has done a spectacular job in reinvigorating the slumping X-Men series, and also has Fray (his BTVS spin-off graphic novel) under his belt. He even leaped the chasm to connect his failed Firefly series and Serenity movie with a 3 book joiner series. These are the sorts of things that will get new people into comics.
I am excited to see what Damon Lindelof can do with Wolverine, I only hope it's as good as what Whedon has brought to comics.

BTW: This is coming from a comic girl, who really only got interested in comics because of the Buffy and Angel spin-offs in comics, then I found myself sucked in. Plus every guy I have ever known was a comic book addict at some point in his life, so I was already familiar. So yes, new or fresh blood can bring new readership in, and can also create a place for these new writers to create new franchises. As the world of TV shrinks I think you'll see a lot more writers attempting their hand at comics because it is a great way to tell a story without having to write a novel. But this is just my girly opinion, I know little about the big world of comics, so I just thought I'd offer another perspective.

BTW: the LOST fans are psychotic, they will follow Lindeloff to comics just as Joss' people followed him, we're like lemmings us fangirls/boys.

Stephen g said...

"Joss Whedon has done a spectacular job in reinvigorating the slumping X-Men series..."

Bah. Whedon's X-Men comics could've been churned out by any third-rate hack (as the guys over at the Shiny Shelf review site said, 'See, what you've done there Joss is written one of those dull 'Star Trek' episodes where the holodeck attacks them'). At least Grant Morrison tried to do something interesting with them...

www.shinyshelf.co.uk, by the way. If anyone's interested.

SG

Aric Blue said...

Stephen G--you're high. Grant Morrison's run was crap. Unreadable crap.

Whedon's X-men, while not ALL that innovative, has really brought the team back to a place where you can actually give a crap about them.

Morrison's run was all about--hey, what new freaky mutation can I create a story about? Chicken beak guy! Moth girl! Crap!

But then again, you point to a UK site for your reviews, which would definitely put you in the Morrison corner, wouldn't it?

Ross Richie said...

Hey blackeyedgurl, thanks for posting. My own girl is 1) a fan of BTV and Whedon 2) a fan of Princess Bride and 3) a big fan of Underworld.

Thanks for swinging by!

best,
-R

John Donald Carlucci said...

I have to chime in on this now. Whedon created a characterization of Charles Xavier that is COMPLETELY out of line with what the Xavier I grew up with. I am a big Whedon fan, but I won't cut him slack because of this. His X-Men are hollow and lack the chemistry the team had years ago. Hell, almost all of Marvel is at this point for me (which is why I rarely buy anything outside of the Young Avengers anymore).

I'm also tired of the X-Men's habit of befriending terrible enemies. IT's like the Star Trek universe now. Juggernaut, White Witch, Magneto (??????). Pretty soon the Blob will join the team after realizing he was just mad about being fat all of these years.

JDC

Doctror Slack said...

Well, comics readers never seem to like hearing this... but I've long thought it's past time to admit that the superhero comic book, in both the form and the format that's familiar to most collectors, is something of a played-out niche.

It's instructive to look at the evolution (and demise) of other publishing niches through history. Take the dime novel: it had a definite period of ascendancy, built around recognizable heroes, a standard publishing and profit model and staid genre conventions, before the changing landscape of entertainment and the changing interests of its readers passed it by. The great dime novel publishers had to segue into new territories and ventures -- giving rise to pulp fiction, written for adults instead of juveniles (though just as trashy!).

This is what's eventually going to have to happen with companies like Marvel and DC. They at least have been able to segue their juvenile properties into film, but that's only delaying the inevitable -- the acknowledgment that the ascendancy of capes, cowls and tights is simply past. No matter how successful superhero films might be, ultimately they're just another blip on the action movie landscape for adults and just another of a thousand different competing toy-sales ads for kids.

There aren't going to be any great new superhero franchises. I don't doubt that there will be a new genre, and a new format, to succeed the superhero -- and if Marvel and DC are smart, that's what they should be interested in developing.

Shaun said...

Comic books - you either love them or hate them.

Bill Cunningham said...

"There aren't going to be any great new superhero franchises. I don't doubt that there will be a new genre, and a new format, to succeed the superhero -- and if Marvel and DC are smart, that's what they should be interested in developing."

Thank you. We have to remember that Marvel and DC are the dominant forces in the market and as such they aren't interested in breaking new ground - they are interested in exploiting all possibilities of the properties they already own. They don't have a new reputation to build, they have a rep to maintain.

If you want a diverse, healthier (meaning a larger, across the demographic spectrum readership) then start building that readership early:

Where are the kid's books and why aren't they on the shelves at the grocery and toy stores (instead of the comic shops where parents will never go)?
Where are the "tween" books?
Where are the girls' books?
Why aren't there comics that are less expensive, making sales resistance less of a hurdle?
No parent (or kid for that matter) is going to pick up a beautiful book for $3.99. They're wanting a fun book for $1.25 - something they can afford.

I look forward to discussing this further...

Hawise said...

>If you want a diverse, healthier (meaning a larger, across the demographic spectrum readership) then start building that readership early:

>Where are the kid's books and why aren't they on the shelves at the grocery and toy stores (instead of the comic shops where parents will never go)?
Where are the "tween" books?
Where are the girls' books?
Why aren't there comics that are less expensive, making sales resistance less of a hurdle?
No parent (or kid for that matter) is going to pick up a beautiful book for $3.99. They're wanting a fun book for $1.25 - something they can afford.

I agree completely- I started out buying comics by nagging my mom in the check out line, buying discount bags at the 5 and dime and dividing my allowance into candy and comic allottments. Now a used comic costs more than a new one and the themes are all way out of the level of an 8-12 year old. The dreck that children are left with are guaranteed to ensure that none of them gain a lifetime appreciation.
If you want new readership, it may be time for older comic fans to clear out their back issues and "accidentally" leave them behind at pediatrician's waiting rooms.

Anonymous said...

I still have comic books from when I was a kid! :)

Post Your LogLine Here!

John Donald Carlucci said...

I am so tired of hearing that the Superhero comic is played out.

Editorial that allows Event COmics with no lasting effect on the storyline might be played out.
Media giants who own the comics and don't want their movie/toyline/novel/etc..etc..etc messed with so we get blah stories might be played out.
Stunt writers like Kevin Smith (I like the guy, but his Spider-Man/Black Cat shit waspitiful ). I'm not a fan of JMS, not sure about Whedon anymore, screw Stephen King and the Gunslinger. What about the good writers who don't get the work anymore because they don't have the blinking lights around their name? You remember, the guys who wrote solid stories.

I don't like the indie comics and I have no problem stating that I love the spandex clan. I miss the fun in comics and I hope Batman stops being such an ass after the crisis (the man is the DC universe's worse enemy the way he loses contingency plans - Omac, Tower of Babel, and War Games).

JDC

Anonymous said...

I'm suprised that no one has mentioned Robert Kirkman's Invincible yet. Sure, I'd be shocked if someone who doesn't frequent a comic shop knows about him, but last week the character got some huge exposure in Marvel Team-Ups and, correct me if this has changed, a movie is in development with a script by co-creator Robert Kirkman himself. If the movie takes off, there's definite potential for a franchise there. Though it could be argued that Invincible is just a Spider-man / Superman amalgam... well, is anything truly original?
-Matt Woodside

FDChief said...

The cape-and-tight format...what's left to say?

Like any other genre, the serial superhero comic is limited by the conventions that define it. The major characters can't change, or grow, or die, or age, without fundamental changes in the makeup of the story. How many times can you re-do Batman vs. ...? The burnt out factor is inescapable, unless you LIKE the idea of re-reading your favorite story 200 times. That's practically the definition of a niche market.

I'd have to say that the only real sustained break-the-mold comic I can think of was Cerebus. And to do it, the creator had to go completely, utterly bughouse nuts. Hardly an attractive model. But it shows you can do it, if you have the creative chops.

Real creative genius is incredibly rare. The lighting struck Siegel & Shuster, it struck Bob Kane, Stan Lee, Dave Sim. It struck Will Eisner. That's a lot of creativity for a 50-60-year-old medium!

There are folks out there like Frank Cho and Donna Barr and Trina Robbins who are doing great original stuff. I'd suggest that to find the kind of new readership we're talking about you have to explore some of the outside-the-cape avenues. Some of those folks will find their way back to the supes, some won't.

But the superhero genre has worn itself such a deep rut I find it hard to believe that anything new and exciting enough to grab new readers is going to come from it.

Doctor Slack said...

"I am so tired of hearing that the Superhero comic is played out."

Maybe so, but a shrinking cadre of die-hard fans isn't going to save either the genre or the format. I'm sure there were people who loved dime novels right up until the end, too.

jnr said...

still a little hazy on how much actual scripting, captioning, and dialoguing stephen king is going to be doing for the dark tower books. and how much of the work is going to be adaptation of existing materiel, how much is going to be intersticial material, and how much is going to be all new...

that's going to have a significant effect on the way the books play at barnes and noble, et cetera. i reckon.

personally--as long as jae is drawing the books, i'm going to read them.

Anonymous said...

My comics store encounter:

1) Walk in
2) See endless racks of endless titles
3) WTF is all this stuff?!
4) Look at prices
5) Flee empty handed

Even if a new hit, sustainable character *was* created, people like me would still tend to stay away: because we've already been burned countless times *not* being able to get issue #1. Or when we come in at issue 6, getting 1-5 is too damned pricey.

Maybe the net will save comics. Right. When fiber connections rule.

Karl said...

Also, define "new".
I mean really, what doesn't get that horrid "X meets y" comparison, or seems like a "rip off" of something else.
Also, if this new is TOO comparable to something else, then things get ugly legal.
I mean, god forbid if Bob Kane had to ask permission to use the thematic elements of Zorro in today's market.

Gaijin Biker said...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Robert Burke Richardson said...

Is there still going to be a part two of this?

Kody Chamberlain said...

Brilliant discussion! I love it.

I came into comics pretty late in life (18 years old to be exact), so I never formed a childhood connection with superhero comics. I started reading regularly around the same time Sin City was starting up, and if it wasn't for Frank Miller, I may have lost interest in comics all together.

I don't dislike superheros, but when it comes to genre, superheroes pretty far down my list (down there with faeries and unicorns). But as a creator it does concern me that I probably can't earn a nice living in comics doing the genres I love (horror, thriller, crime and traditional drama). If I want to earn a stable living drawing comics, it's superheros or nothing. That's a real problem. It's also a problem that talented creators that DON'T want to work on a superhero book take a look at the industry and may choose to move on and find some other creative field to enter, such as prose, film, TV, video games, etc.

I've been in comics for a couple of years now, I buy tons of comics, and I do a lot of conventions. I honestly don't think supply is the problem. We've got amazing comics popping in constantly in all shapes and sizes, covering every single genre and style. The variety is truly staggering. But the truth is that most fail due to lack of fan/retailer support. I know at least 8 talented creators that gave 'indy' comics a shot, lost their asses, and moved on to greener pastures. Now, I'm not talking about wanna-bees. I'm talking about quality stories that should be able to survive on their own merit if given a chance. The problem wasn't quality, the problem was that they didn't have spandex. Fans simply don't want 'indy' books.

A lot of this has to do with the Comics Code killing off nearly everything but superheros and Archie. Crime, romance and horror fans saw their books canceled or watered down so they moved on. The Comics Code eventually got rejected, but the fans never came back. I'm no even sure we're trying to get those fans back. We know they're out there, we just don't reach them. Some say it's because comic shops are creepy and we're not on the supermarket shelf or in 7/11. And that's probably true. I don't know how to fix that, but I do know that ONLY comic fans are going into comic shops. That can't help.

Lee, Ditko and Kirby created giants. They created icons that stood the test of time. That should be respected, honored and cared for with the respect they deserve. But the big houses aren't about creating anymore. They're about maintaining. Every couple of months a new creative team comes along to 'shake things up' only to be replaced by a new creative team that 'returns the book to its original glory.' And the cycle continues.

What exactly are we doing? We're taking Kirby out of the fridge, sticking him in the microwave and praying that he's still fresh. And he is, obviously. It's the only stuff fans are buying. But we never moved on. We never learned how to cook. Or maybe we're cooking, but the fan's aren't eating. I can't put my finger on the problem, probably because it's a combination of MANY problems. Lack of advertising, late books, rising prices, creepy comic shops, incomprehensible continuity baggage, no supermarket or convenience store presence, whatever. I don't have the answers. But FINALLY!!, we're talking about the problems. That's gonna help.

My goal is to try and help build a TRUE mainstream in comics. A place where a Brian M. Bendis crime comic will sell on the same level as his Avengers or Daredevil book. That might keep him at the keyboard writing a crime comic every month along with his superhero books, instead of focusing all his talent on ONLY superheroes. That's an industry I want to work in, and as a fan, that's what I want to read.

I wrote a little open letter a while back calling for a Comic Book Renaissance. A rediscovery and relearning of what we've lost. Hopefully the conversation will continue and we can really get a Renaissance started. It's long overdue.

http://comicbookbin.com/kodychamberlain.html

olsonsfoodemporium said...

Pretty worthwhile data, lots of thanks for your post.

Riyan Cilacap said...

Thank You Verry Much, Ijin nitip gan dan trimaksih atas infonya

Obat Sakit Kelamin De Nature
Pengobatan Kutil Kelamin
Cara Mengobati Kutil Kelamin
Kutil Kelamin
Obat Kutil Kelamin
Obat Condyloma
Obat Jengger Ayam
Obat Sipilis
Obat Gonore
Obat Raja Singa
Obat Kencing Nanah
Obat Chlamydia
Obat Herpes
Obat Herpes Genital
Obat Herpes Kelamin
Obat Herpes Zoster
Obat Herpes Badan
Obat Jengger Ayam
Obat Kutil Kelamin
Obat Kondiloma
Obat Condyloma Accuminata
Obat Jengger Ayam Pria Dan Wanita
Obat Kutil Kelamin Pada Pria Dan Wanita