Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Future of Comics


Don't call me an expert by far, but this is a question that is being bandied around a lot lately. What is happening to the industry? Why do our numbers keep going down? Why don't people read comic, we have movies to prop us up?

I'm going to blame one thing and that is distribution. I know, Diamond hasn't done anything wrong, and the direct market kept publishers in work and made comic shop owners capable of getting comics into our greedy little hands, BUT this system has done nothing to promote the industry or get comics into the hands of the next generation.

In my mind, the comic book industry should be blessing their lucky fucking stars that manga has picked up the slack, pressing their digest-sized novels into the hands of kids that want and like graphic format reading. Thing is, Manga is better at this game than conventional North American comics, because Manga has targeted a broader audience for years, and they have an industry based on making comics for people other then 35 year old males. Sure our comics industry has attempted to woo part of this market, but one or two titles written by an editor's cousin isn't really going to tap that market potential well, especially when that title is only sold in comic book shops.

So, we come to my solutions. Diamond, do something about it! Your dinosaur parts are going to fail and distribution models change, but I don't think you can see that because you are making a shitload of money off of a dying market (or at least that is what they say, buy I tend to believe them). Maybe a magazine distribution model with an order policy with no returns, making the store owner responsible for getting rid of the comics (while orders will be low while the comics sell, there is the potential to pick up new readers and entice old readers back in. I talk to a lot of people that used to read comics that get excited about talking about them).

And digital distribution and print-on-demand through the internet. Giving the public a comic and the choice to buy it with the click of a button if they want a hard copy sent to their door. As with how music and movies have had to change their game, we are seeing this creep into the comics industry really, really quickly. You've got the big boys slapping their apps around, you've got the small boys coming up with really cool, interesting apps, you've got people with webcomics everywhere (and high quality ones), plus a whole swack of people with printing presses giving us options to print-on-demand (which is totally awesome, but it is getting hard to wade through all the titles on some of the websites).

This leaves us where? Working on it. One of the good things about having Disney and Time Warner owning the big two is that they have money to pump into market research and I don't think that they're willing to have a company that just sits and watches change (at least I hope not), but this movement is going to come from the little guys. Guys that know what they're doing with programming, and people move quickly in this realm, rocking and rolling all the way.

Not solving much, but hoping that things change.

Martin

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