Monday, June 09, 2008
Much ruffling of feathers and a lot of sort of 'sour" news about the comics biz in recent weeks including the down-sizing of Tokyopop, the big tent-pole manga publisher and the slack-luster Wizard cons and what seems to be in a sense, a general slowness and malaze in the business of comics. The summer seems hot, hot, hot, but I just gather comics are not as hot. Despite there being at least 3 big superhero movies this summer I doubt that will swing up sales in the average comic shop in any big or long lasting way. And people still seem surprised by that as well. The only people who stand to benefit are the companies through their licensing---if the movie has legs. Otherwise it will be like Fantastic Four II, the cosmic energy sucked away fast, leaving lots of shitty toys and stuff nobody wants, including another sequel.
I am not surprised to read that Tokyopop was cutting back in such a big way, basically 50% of it's output and almost half of it's employees. It's always bad when people are let go, that's never a good thing, but I guess I am not surprised. At the local bargain book store near me, you know the kind, the type of store that springs up quick in a empty retail space in a strip mall like those Halloween stores, there were huge dumps of cheap manga across the back of the store.
All Tokyopop and Viz, etc. When I saw that, I knew there must be a lot of bleeding going on, and on top of that the manga section in my local Borders has shrunk, no longer having the two large isles plus the tables covered with the latest releases.
I have been saying to a lot of my comic peeps that there is just way too much stuff, we are so over saturated in media and entertainment that there has to be some eventual contraction. I think because we have so much of everything, nothing is special. I think most of us are just a bit jaded, and how can you really blame us. If you have been around as long as I have, well, you've seen so much that it takes a bit more for something to be 'special". I also thinks this even applies to the younger set, and in their case they have always been over saturated, the girls reading stuff in Borders, well, you get used to reading stuff for free because you always have been able to do it.
One of the things I have not seen anyone talking about ( maybe they have and I haven't seen it) is the return factor. With 2-3 years of huge growth into the book chains by trades, be it manag or superjock mean that there was always a big chance down the road that there could be big returns. I think most comic people are optimists. It's natural, that's why this material appeals to us. We all want 'happy days are here again." We want there to be some area where the medium is growing. But maybe we have to face the fact that we just can't keep growing in the same way, especially in light of how the younger generation goes about obtaining a huge amount of their entertainment--for free. Just look at the record industry. I know most of my students get their music for free as well as their comics and videos on website or places akin to a Limewire. they don't have a romance to the format that I do, that is clear.
One of the things I think the retailers and biz people in comics really miss is the perspective at times from outside the bubble of the social network they are in and as a working artist.
It's clear that teens to late 20 somethings don't buy entertainment in the way I did when I was that age. I had to buy things because there was no internet, heck even I use limewire myself, though I still buy a lot of magazines, books and music legit.
The last several years the big word in comics has been Manga! Manga this, manga that, animae this, animae that, and the fact, it's really become mainstream. manga is what comics were for people of my generation when we were kids. Most of my students who read comics, read manga. That demographic is clearly displayed in cons like Wizard Philly. That con is a babyman fest, alllll about the old superheroes and nada about what is really mainstream, which is manga. The population is mostly older white guys and guys down into their late 20's. In contrast, the last NYCC was a huge mix that included lots of teenage girls and lots on animae and manga stuff,a refection of my average class make-up.
There has always been to my mind a stubborn denial by most in the direct market that the direct market has become what I called The Walled City of Babymania. A literally walled off sub-sub culture of fetish collectors, out of the general publics view and taste. In the same decade that the and superhero comics disappeared from the 7-11's and the easy impulse buyer, and the spec-collector, manga has grown and grown because it's on TV and easily available where most people go.
I remember in the 80's when a few hardcore fans started bringing things over and the animae fandom started. I even dated a gal briefly who was into all that captain harlock stuff. I think people in comics are so desperate to see a ship on the horizon, some hopeful news because comics as biz has been suck for the last 15 years since the speculator boom–burst, yet they still deny the evidence in their face. So they go to shows like Wizard, where everybody is selling the same shit, the same fucking Wolverine issues, same dolls and toys to the same aging crowd, year after year and that crowd shrinks year after year. And then they bitch that the business sucks. Duh!