Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Wolverine's Hairy Nipple
Seems my last post got some people talking, and linking, which is always good. And a lot of people seem to be feeling the way I do when it comes to the state of the state of the business side of comics, and of course some feel defensive and don't agree at all.
Anyone making their daily bread as a pro comics creator is also I'm sure dealing with these ideas and problems. I don't care if you are Charles Burns or Jim lee,or one of the hundreds in this profession trying to make your living from your craft. We are all geeks to some extent, that's why we love anything, comics, sports, the beatles, etc. But the direct market is just the result now of something unhealthy, which is sad. But it has been sad a long time, that I write about any of this is not news.
The babymen of course will cry the most, cry for Wolverine's hairy tit, but suckle as they must, the return is bitter, and they know it. I just have to speculate if the reason things are so F'd up is because as a mass, the mental make-up of many in the direct market is to resist change at any cost? So, the result is a constant withering and to be frank, if one book starts selling better it has to come at the cost of some other book since they are not growing new readers. Readers are addicted yet unsatisfied, god how they cry about each new thing, new cross-over--yet they still buy it. I never understood that mentality, the guy who buys every issue of Spider-man or 56 Secret Storm War, yet hates it, but has to have it, has to stock it. We are doomed by too many of these guys and that's what hurts the business of comics, which does effect the art of comics in the end or ones ability to afford to make your living at it.
I know for many it's old news the things I am saying, or ideas they have already been thinking about, bitching to friends about,and this is also something publishing in general is dealing with--steady, yearly decline and a rapidly changing world. Five years ago you couldn't get any of the companies to hardly even using digital lettering, heck nobody used FTP.
There was no way you could scan your work and send it in. Today just things like that and the ability to do that means the difference between being able to get work or not, and of course are lowering the price on the publishers end, not having to pay for Fedex,etc., but now you must have the computer, scanner, ftp and DSL, cable, etc. And this is not always a bad thing either, but it does add cost to my end of production that John Buscema never had to consider.
But that digital wave has hit everyone now and it's sucking away revenue, and not everyone can hang onto the rocks. I suppose it's like the perfect storm in some regards. Dot com bust, 9/11, then the bad economy--the war, at the same time things speed up and the new generation comes along born digital, add in a hefty dash of the globalization of mass culture, a lot of shit starts seemingly to change fast. But the wave has been coming...One of the things you are struck by now if you are not a myopic babyman is how the entertainment culture has a much more harmonious feel globally. In every country now from Asia to the west, kids are reading Narutto. When I was in China last year, what were the kids reading in the manga cafes? Death Note, One Piece and Narutto. A buddy of mine from France says the same thing has happened there, the kids don't read Titin like they did nope, their Tintin is Narutto.
Now I'm not trying to bag on Narutto, and I have read some of it and can see why kids get into it, and one of the things that struck me was the fact that most modern kids, including most of my 19-20 something students HATE black and white films! There are the rare exception of course, but most babymen also hate black and white Indy comics too. Yet globally this generation eats up all the black and white manga they can get, and not once have I heard a manga kid say, "oh, I won't buy it unless it's in color."
So if modern readers will read small, off format (not bagable or boardable) comics in the multitude, why can't the direct market direct itself to get those readers into the pool? Why do they turn up their noses? I know some good stores don't, but they are by far the minority, maybe what, 10%. And as a person working in this market, a vendor basically, how can I survive if my clients won't grow their audience, my audience? And now everything is going the way of the path of least payment. last week one of my students in the CE class I teach told me about this site veoh.com where you can download the current Japanese animae shows for free.
How do you compete with free?
The irony is that there are a lot of cool comics now, lots of good looking books and maybe more variety now than there was certainly in the 90's, yet anyone doing a non-superjock comic is hard pressed to sell anything approaching 10,000 copies. That's a big rub.
Big companies, big global entertainment companies are now getting their products all over the world. So, Disney as an example gets anything is does or buys, brands and redistributes everywhere, and while the companies like Marvel and DC have the most recognizable characters they are global with cartoons, movies and toys mostly. They do do overseas print editions, but face it, they don't hold anything near the audience of manga. And now I or anyone else dosen't need Disney to get entertainment, I don't need Fox, Warners etc. I just need to have an interest, high speed internet and a decent laptop.
So I'm interested in hearing what some of you think, Babyman or not. I think we are on the edge of the new world. The music biz wet sailing off the flat earth, will print publishers follow, or will they all go Zuda?
Does reading with a Zuda-like experience give you the same intimate feeling of a book? what does that do to the hobby of the babymen, the collectors, guys who want stuff bagged and boarded, signed, stored? Maybe that isn't important to most of the modern readers. I suppose if you are reading in Borders and not paying, you are a different type of fan, and in 3-4 years will you have moved on like the fans of old used to in the traditional comic fandom?