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 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?


Jamie said...


Steve Buccellato said...

I was going to say that! The drawings on these last 2 posts hare hilarious!

Jamie said...

Mike you gotta do some babymen comic books. they would be awesome! make sure though to have various variant covers so babymen around the world can complain all the while trying to hunt down every version.

Mike Manley said...

Jamie, that might be fun, but 3 people would buy it. DC already kinda' did that with that book fanboy I think.

Don't forget, humor comics are not popular in the direct market ...

Jamie said...

One thing I have been thinking about a lot lately is the lack of access to comic books these days for kids. I know that may seem really stupid to say considering that one can find anything on the internet nowadays, but what I mean to get at is the lack of comics in drug stores, supermarkets, and news stands. These are where kids and young readers have the opportunity to get into comics. Comic shops are great and are places I love going, but they aren't where I found out about comics. when I was a kid I would just pick up issues at the local drug store or when I went grocery shopping with my parents. It seems like the comic industry is just shooting itself in the foot by only catering to specialty shops. I understand money is the major factor in a dwindling business, but if more of it was directed at distributing titles to everyday stores and less on making variant covers and giant expensive books like marvel's omnibus volumes, the readership would have more potential to grow. As much as the babymen suckle on the tits of our favorite heroes it seems like the people in charge at the major comic book companies do as much sucking on the tits of the babymen by only catering to them.
too much suckling is going on...

Mike Manley said...


Well it comes down to money, like everything else. Money, then vision I suppose. The idea on non-returnable books made sense 20 years ago, 30 years ago, but what worked then, doesn't work now. What also happened is that while comics are pretty expensive for the amount of enjoyment time, they are still fragile, and a hassle for a supermarket, etc., to stock. i think the better format is the Shonen Jump big jumbo comic, or comics in magazine format with enough ads to offset costs. Disney did it, Nic does it, so it can be done.

But it's just chasing ghosts now, i don't think they will effectively do that now. Also retailers complain as it cuts into their sales. Again,it's such a fugged up situation. You'd have to be willing to spend money and time to try and find the path, which frankly nobody will do.

As long as they can make Hulk Movies and such, Batman shows, the liscense money will keep them afloat.

Fábio Turbay said...

Man, looks like all the hope is gone. I aggree with your speech, of course. But it seems that newcomers are not welcome in this media. And we all know that young blood is the way to keep things going. Kids need to love it. But lately, here in Brazil, I'm having a morbid feeling of victory when I heard about people in fanzinedom that give up with 3/4 years of trying. Writers and artists. One less to compete, I think. C'mon, quitters, you've stopped doing, but still can buy it. What a lame kind of thought. That should have been room for everyone who tryes a little more - or much more harder.
But if things keep going that way, maybe I'll be just another one to fall. I don't think fandom is the solution for nothing. Thanks Kyle Baker on that long interview at Draw's. That was a huge eyes-openner, for sure. Try sharing some hope with us, Mike. Little brothers need it.

Mike Manley said...

Fabio, don't despair too much. Like I said, I think we are in a transition phase where old media, new media are really changing fast. Waht's the comic scene like in Brazil? I would bet you guys get a mix of the manga, US stuff and Euro stuff.

I think the web is where a lot of this is headed, and print has a lot of shit to shake out. I think if you really have something great and put it out on the web, network a bit, promote, I think you can build an audience. There are artists all over the world in a lot of media who are doing this, from comic artist to painters.

Silvio Spotti said...

We have to put comics for sale on Wallmart.
It is a product. Wallmart sales bullets.Why not comics?

About the cyber enviroment we live in these days...
Can you believe that an Indy publisher from states, still demands to have the originals at hand?
This one issue that I have do get done in no time...I had scans for every page in 600DPI. Sent it to the publisher, because the book was late for color.
And the publisher never used the scanned art I sent in.
He waited for a Fedex here from Brazil to get the material.
We got some weird publishers in these busyness dude.

Peasily said...

The manga digests are good for children, but we superzero babymen are aging -- we need LARGE PRINT (why it's silly those French books are getting the shrink-ray treatment from Marvel, and the detail disappears). Though I do buy the digests Oni and SLG produce. The answer will be COLOR e-ink/e-paper 'books' in varying sizes, with zoom function. Went and toyed with one of the primitive first gens at the Sony Style store; exciting!

Mike Manley said...

You'd think selling comics in Wallmart, where America shops would be a natural, however I bet they'd want the comics much cheaper, maybe too cheap for the companies to produce. Wallmart is famous for squeezing the margins of their vendors.

Peasily, I agree, some hybred will be the thing. We are just on the fron of the new switch and like VHS vs Beta, or Blue Ray vs whatever-the-other-color-ray things are yet to be sorted out.

new generations of readers will be different an a variety of ways, mostly in that they will have always had a lot more entertainment available. Comics is one that just doesn't have much push.

warren said...

I'm a nobody, but I think once the accessibility is solved, mainstream comics in North America will level out.

I love reading how in Japan, you seem to be able to pick up a manga before you get on the train, read it during your trip and toss in the recycle at your station. Easy to get, a quick entertainment, and a new one every day. Cheap paper, constant production, easily consumed. Hopefully well drawn and written.

What about that won't work for regl'ar superzero comics? Didn't they do that for decades anyway? All of this 'cost of printing' talk and newspapers still run and almost any indie DIY can print-on-demand??

Just release a superhero-of-the-summer title like that, make it affordable for a cheap distraction and bang-o...I think. Offer some ad-space like a proper magazine to cover your butt, and where's the catch? I think these DC and Marvel guys might need to hire some hard-nosed magazine managers or something.

I live in a town 100 km from a comics shop. Kids here can get their hands on manga through a couple of bookstores and the library. Not one of them in my kids cartooning class were aware that Iron Man was a comic book hero. They thought he was a game. That's nobody's fault but Marvel's.