Feb 1, 2006

Comics At The 7-11

Time's up.

Earlier, I asked you readers what was wrong with the following paragraph:

Reinterpreting the Superman mythology from its roots, SMALLVILLE was developed for television by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (“Shanghai Noon,” “Spiderman 2”), based on the DC Comics characters. Gough and Millar serve as executive producers, along with Greg Beeman, Ken Horton, Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins and Joe Davola. The series is produced by Tollin/Robbins Productions, Millar/Gough Ink and Warner Bros. Television Production Inc. SUPERMAN was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster.

The answers were the unpunctuated name of a popular superhero and a misspelling of a creator of an iconic hero. Spiderman is supposed to be Spider-Man; otherwise, he's just a member of the Law Offices of Birdman, Spiderman, and Associates. And Joe Shuster's name is misspelled Schuster. Sure, you can easily blame it on proofreaders who are untrained in comic book history, but I like to blame it on one simple thing.

Americans don't care about comics anymore.

Oh, sure, comic fans and publishers will say the success of shows like Teen Titans and JLU, movies like Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman Begins, and video games like Ultimate Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and they do. Afterall, people like television shows, movies, and video games. But that still doesn't help their argument.

Americans don't care about comics anymore.

Comics are an expensive business. Everybody in the country knows about the big two companies, DC Comics and Marvel Comics, basically from their memories of youth. Afterall, back when the mainstream was introduced to these characters, they were mostly seen in comics that have either been around since World War II or the 60s when heroes became more human. It also didn't hurt that comics costed under a buck. Like manga today, comic titles became the inspiration of numerous productions. Of course, in the middle of it all, people saw comics as kids fare. Guess the ghost of Doc Wertham took over the planet afterall. Yet, the rising costs of paper and printing costs were contributions to the rising costs of comics throughout the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. Of course, when Image came around, pretty, glossy paper and a high price basically made comics a closeted industry. The whole collector's market basically made comics an investment, even though they're illustrated stories. Some are good while others are very, very bad.

The comic industry is filled with five different types of creators:

- Those with a reverence for past creators and stories
- Those who show a love for the characters and not just seeing them as a job
- Those who have a story to tell that could only be told in a comic book
- Those who want to just make and sell comics because it's the cool thing to do that moment
- Those who want to sell a concept for another medium

I've seen a lot of comics out there that are mostly illustrated plots for movies rather than actual comic stories. I've also seen a lot of celebrities creating comics because it's cool and could become a plot for a movie franchise for them to star in. But comics in the mainstream is of little interest.

The comic industry hasn't really helped convince them to check out comics. Free Comic Book Day is a joke. It's an utter disappointment that was only made to promote Marvel comic-based movies, and anybody who says otherwise is a Marvel Zombie. The first FCBD was tied in to the 2002 release of Spider-Man. FCBD II was tied into X2. FCBD III was tied into Spider-Man 2. FCBD IV wasn't tied into anything, even though Sin City, Batman Begins, or even Episode III could have been the movies tied into the event. Not surprisingly, this year's FCBD will likely be tied to X3 rather than Superman Returns, thus proving the event is nothing more than a promotional event tied to Marvel movies.

Also, Free Comic Book Day is a pretty elitist event, only aimed towards the choir who already frequent comic shops, even though a lot of comic books are sold in bookstores. You'd think that the comic industry would try to get people to get comics in places where they don't feel like they're in a basement. Comic shops are good, but seven out of ten comic shops make the average person feel like they're searching for the fuse box with a dimly lit, musty environment.

It used to be a time when people could buy comics at a 7-11 or a drug store for pocket change. Now, the average comic title is about $3 a pop. DC Comics' upcoming 52-week project 52 is going to cost the special low price of $2.50 an issue.

Let me say it again to those that didn't understand what I just wrote.

DC Comics, whose basic comics costed 75 cents 15 years ago, are selling a 22-page ad-supported comic book for $2.50 an issue. $10 for four issues a month. $120 for the entire series of 52 issues. $1.50 I could understand and tolerate. $1, which they charged for a 40-page ad-supported issue (you know, the one that jumpstarted the whole big storyline in which 52 will delve deeper into), would have rocked. But $2.50 is too much to be paying for a weekly comic. Oh, DC would probably say "Well, the average reader spends about $10 for a month of Time or Newsweek." Yeah, but Time and Newsweek are news magazines and have more than 22 pages in them.

Maybe comics will once again be looked at as something other than a place where entertainment companies can find a profitable movie franchise or television series. Maybe comics can once again find their way in convienence stores at a price of a candy bar again. But that's only if comic companies are willing to admit that they're, if you pardon the turn of phrase, comic companies. Sure, outside entertainment is nice, but if you forget the fact that you began life as a comic company and not worried about the 15th variant of your character's action figure, the success of a particular movie, or the fact that these loyal consumers known as "fans" are making their video game characters look like characters they enjoy reading about, then maybe they could work harder to bring comics to all folks.


Chris Sobieniak said...

This is so true! :(

I miss those days when I used to buy comics at a nearby "corner drugstore" in my neighborhood. I don't see places like that anymore, and I find it hard to believe I'd have to travel to one of those "basements" to buy comics from.

I only wish this was Japan, and comics have better respect (if not, printed cheaply in black & white on multi-colored paper and usually never saved afterwards besides being printed as graphic novels later).

Enoch Allen said...

This is an exceptional post. But then again, I’m being to sound like a broken record. You consistently hammer that nail on the head.

This is a very timely editorial as well. However, I’m more worried that comic companies will soon adopt outsourcing as a viable business practice, and the quality of the product will go down. Waaaaaaaaaaay down. Not to the bottom of the barrel, mind you, but the plummet in artistic standard could no less be dramatic. All in the interest of cutting a buck.

Keep writing about comics and animation!

Jaguar said...

(I actually thought one of the mistakes in the paragraph was that the first sentence should have said "bastardizing the Superman mythology from its roots", but I guess I should leave that alone.)

I totally agree with you. Americans don't care about comics anymore. But honestly, with both major companies either having constant retcons in their stories and all this BIG EXPANSIVE UNIVERSE-ALTERING events every three weeks, it's hard to care. There are still some great writers out there (Frank Miller, Joss Whedon, and Jeph Loeb immediately come to mind) but even they sometimes seem to be overshadowed by this corporate monotone that has been established. And yeah, FCBD is a joke which just seems to get even more unfunnier every year.

The closest thing to finding comic books outside of a shop (which around here, are, unsurprisingly, elitist and somewhat scary to the newcomer/casual reader) is a haphazard handful of Marvel titles thrown into the magazine section of the supermarket I work at, and a tiny rack in the corner of Waldenbooks. For the mainstream, that's what the comic industry has been relegated to. That and movies/TV.

It just seems that comics are just there now. Not for any true reason, just there.