Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Recession and Comic Books

With layoffs at Diamond and DC Comics, people are understandably worried about the state of the comic book industry.

Here's my two cents, worth probably a little less than that.

Comics will never die. Comic books as we know them may evolve (I sometimes think the pamphlet/single/floppy will go away within a couple of years, but I thought that five years ago and they're still here), but they will not die. Some creators have already moved successfully to a web format, some have gone to trades only without a major web presence. While I tend to think that Studio Foglio is leading the way and watching them will tell us the state of the industry, there are plenty of other examples out there. Comic books are evolving.

I think DC Comics and Marvel Comics are the dinosaurs of the comic book industry, not the leaders. They aren't making money off the monthly books any more, and they market their books to an ever-shrinking clique of fans instead of seeking new fans. I think they should take a serious risk and start putting old comics up on-line for free with prominent links to buy the collections, and start rebuilding a fanbase from the bottom up. That they probably never will, at least not in a format that's easy to read (like simple images without anti-piracy crap that makes it impossible to view properly), just means that they will continue to lose their audiences. There will always be a core of fans, but I don't think we've yet seen how small that core is. And if you look at actual sales of comics, that's a frightening thought.

I don't read much DC now. Not enough Aquaman. I'd rather read PS238 or Girl Genius than yet another crossover. I think I could actually drop DC entirely except for my desire to keep up with my favorite character.

Anyway, I don't think comic books are going to go away. But I'm not entirely sure they are going to be around in the same form we get them now for much longer. Especially of the heart of the industry doesn't start taking more risks in order to sell more books.