Tuesday, April 08, 2008
The Walled City of Babymania
I have never had so many comments on a single post as the one on the new Batman show and my mini-rant on the foibles of the comic biz/hobby and the Babymen. Seems I struck a nerve with many and struck some Babymen square in their diapers.
Those who know me well have long known of my sadness and frustration with the comics biz on many levels, chiefly the retailer and the fickle fan and my disdain of the Babymen and what I called the Walled city of Babymania, better know as the local comic shop. Don't get me wrong, I do love comics, but comics as a medium and in a much broader sense than most, even many of my fellow artists. I am also an artist an so my judgments and opinions come not from the average fans POV but from a guy who makes his daily bread actually creating comics. there are a few good comic shops like Captain Blue hen and Showcase but most are the very cliche of the Babyman den, and nobody but a babyman will ever want to go in there or be welcome to.
I should also come clean and say I never buy or bought comics for stories, I buy comics for art. That doesn't mean I don't want a great story too, ideally you should have both, but a good story drawn poorly is just something I can't even waste trying to wade through. It's like watching a bad movie, you flip the channel.
I don't expect the babymen to ever see what I'm talking about, they can't. But the fact is their taste is not the taste of a large pool of average readers, it's the taste of the fetishist, the niche collector. They so resist change and want such a limited type of product that unless you have been following this stuff for years it's really not something the average reader could even get into. Even back in the 80's you had a big variety of comic, from Richie Rich, Archies, Conan, Rock, CarToons magazine, the Warren mags, Heavey Metal ( when it was good) Marvel, DC, Goldkey/Western all of which published a much wider selection of book. Now almost everything is superjocks, some kind of zombie and if it isn't---it doesn't sell worth a crap. And by sell I mean enough to make the creator a few grand minimum an issue, or a livable wage.
But the sad fact is since no new kids in any real number are coming into the hobby of comics and falling in love with them for a few years and since 90-95% of retailers are the worst kind of dumb businessman you can imagine, who don't seek to build more customers, and definitely not kids, it's a double whammy. There has been to my observation over a 10 year unraveling of the old idea of what the comic biz was always about driven faster to it's doom and bust by the speculators.
Chiefly I see that our hobby was alway a: impulse, cheap entertainment, collecting/hobby. Comics were for most of their existence a form of cheap entertainment and an impulse buy at the local supermarket, drug store, newsstand, mom & pop, etc. The direct market is all we really have left now as nobody else for the most part wants to carry the darn things anymore. Even the WB stores didn't want to carry them as they were too much hassle to stock and didn't earn enough money per foot space. 2 waves (at least) of kids have come and gone since the boom-bust of the 90's, where at NYC shows I'd see cliques of kids toting boxes and backpacks of comics around to get signed, sure that the certificate of authenticity and my signature would mean they were sitting on gold bars!
But those kids are now in college and have long since abandoned comics like Britney Spears, pogs and buying CD's. and nobody with the real means to do anything about it has reversed this trend so only the die hard fans...the Babymen are left, clinging, clinging, clinging. Now not all fans are babymen, but 80% must be. And thier taste is the real issue as I see it. Since they can't emotionally move on they must drag down these children's concepts with their adult fantasies. so catwoman isn't a jewel thief, she's a dominatrix. Mary Marvel is a big boobed superslut. Fun is an outlaw concept, comedy, Pffffft! And so it's the snake eating it's tail now.
And they are the fans who drag boxes at cons have graying temples. Sometimes it's a dad with his some or kids, but more often than not I see hardly any kids at cons and no kids in the comic shop outside of Free comic book day. The kids I see reading comics are in Borders reading manga, that's the generation that has skipped right past the Walled City and they are never coming back. the next wave probably isn't coming either and the big companies now realize their futures are not tied to publishing but to licensing to keep the whole thing going. one of the ironic things I find most amusing now is how people beat their chest like Tarzan (another character nobody gives a F**K about) when a books sells 100K. the sad fact is almost every book out now would have been canceled when i started in the 80's as a pro. At that point books selling below 60K or so were axed. What I want to know then is how can books that were deemed unprofitable at higher numbers in the mid 80's can now be deemed profitable in today's market when they cost more to produce and sell less?