Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Death of the Big Two?

So, I have something on my mind about the state of the comics industry, and it involves a deep look into our personalities as comic readers.

When I started reading I started comics I was just a kid, picking the comics of spinner racks like so many people my age did. I'm 33. I've been reading comics for longer than I've known most of my friends, and my relationship with them is a long and crazed one, with ebbs and flows. I've picked up plenty of books throughout my life and I think I know a good one from a bad one, and I believe we are in an upswing in this industry. But I'm noticing something. Most of the books that I'm reading are no longer books from larger companies, and this makes me fear for the big two.

This is not a fear that comics will die, but a fear that the larger publishing houses will just shrink, and I'm going to tell you why. Comics companies aren't taking risks at the moment. They are dipping from the well over and over and over. For example the big two are only putting out Avengers, X-Men, Batman and Superman titles. That is all. There is a movement towards putting all of the titles under the same banner, and playing in the same sandbox and playing with the same characters again and again. I liken this to fucking your cousin, it is creating a lifeless universe with little that I want part of, and I don't know if anyone else is taking notice.

Marvel and DC will always have their pick of the best creators from the comics sandbox, or at least the ones that are interested in writing superheroes monthly, so their titles will always have some excitement and some quality behind them, and creators would be stupid to refuse going to either of these companies as the exposure that they offer is pretty amazing.

I worry about the audience. It seems that Marvel and DC are going to hit their core audience until the point they can't hit them anymore. Is there a point where the audience just doesn't care anymore? Is there a point of overexposure to certain ideas that these franchises offer? I've hit mine, but that doesn't mean this will happen to everyone. I can see a point where a lot of readers just drop off and find comics elsewhere.

Now Marvel and DC still seem to be able to entice new readers into the fold with a convention presence and the big movies they are putting out, but do those readers turn into lifelong readers, or are they just tourists? And that begs the question as to whether the big two would rather target the tourists rather than the hardcore readers? I think that they are targeting the tourists, because the hardcore readers are a tiny little amount and the tourists are a rather large amount.

But comics are fucking expensive! I've heard this a million times. And they are. I don't know how I afford them, but I like them so much that I budget for them.

So, I see this happening. I see hardcore readers finding books that are finite, and have more emotional resonance for them in their day to day lives. And I see them finding that in the pool that are indie creators, under the many publishers that are indie publishers, or on the internet.

Or I could be completely wrong on all this, and things will continue on as they started. One of my major gripes is that the characters on the fringe that you used to be able to experiment with have taken a low priority with the major companies. So, experimental storytelling seems to have been left to the seventies, the eighties and the indies. And that signals something of a death cry for me.

Get it?

Martin

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