Monday, 30 January 2012

Comic "fans"

I had breakfast with a friend yesterday, someone who it is always a pleasure to see.

We spent a long time talking about the range and reach of comic book creators.

The industry wide slump has everyone navel gazing, looking for causes, finger pointing and the problems - distribution, creators, fans, pirates, etc.

One thing we did talk about was to speculate on what the actual number of comic book fans there were out there.

If the top selling book on Diamond at the moment is around 150,000-200,000 (it's hard to pinpoint exactly because return numbers are hard to factor in) does that mean there are that many "fans"?

Are books shared? One report years ago suggested each book was seen by at least three sets of eyes - so half a million fans?

But most books sell way below that. Most are lucky to hit the low teens to mid twenty's range - something which could sustain a book for years!

So who are we aiming the books at? In the past writers created great stories which elevated the reader, made them think, brought new ideas to the fresh, and lifted the medium. Artists matched their writers.

Now books feel more and more disposable, but costs are at the luxury point. My wife, a most-definite non-comic book fan commented the other night "they are awfully short, aren't they - a few pages and then a lot of ads!" - and the costs keep rising.

Are books aimed at the small group of readers who obviously aren't buying much of anything? (the drop off from top selling books to medium is sharp, fast and hard). Are books aimed at the group of store owners who obviously are not taking time to stay abreast of their product (apart from Marvel and DC, most stores could care less about titles new, creators interesting, books with buzz)?

Are we, the creators, not doing our part to lift the books up in quality - not just physical quality, but creative quality - and elevate the medium?

Why are we writing for this fickle group who seem intent to ignore our work?

Should we all be striving to create for the rest of the fans?


jason said...

This was a very insightful and fun entry to read! Keep em coming!


Ken said...

Right on, brother. I can of course of only speak for myself... But I gave up writing for "comic fans" before I even started Nix. I just wanted to make the comic book I would personally want to buy. (I guess I'm my own number one biggest fan, which I hope isn't as egomaniacal as it sounds)

Javier Hernandez said...

Ken brings up the idea that he was writing for himself. And I've heard that line mentioned so many times from creators.

I have to agree, in that I create the stories I want to create. I don't try to come up with ideas that I 'think' the public wants. I sure as hell don't do 'market research'! We're not selling a new flavor of soda pop, here!

I have two jobs as a self-published creator: One is to create what I consider fresh, original stories that interest me greatly. Two, I have to find the best ways to get that work out there. (But not by creating things I think will be a hit).

Now, I will say that I have so much more work to do in getting the work out there. But I do know that I am very satisfied with the work I create, in that they're the exact type of stories I want to do.

I want to reach a way larger number of readers than I have in the past, but I'm not about trying to convince certain segments of the comic reading public that they should like my books. They either will or they won't, but I can't engage in pointless marketing to the audience that wants the same 70 year old superheroes over and over again, or reasonable facsimiles!

About 'elevating the medium': I think I understand what people mean when they say this. To me it means I have to keep challenging myself as a storyteller to be imaginative and daring and bold in my creative choices. Continue to develop my own voice, my own signature 'style' in how I tell stories. In the end, I will have a body of work that people can look at and hopefully say 'Oh yeah, that is definitely a Javier Hernandez comic'. I'll let others judge if I raised any level of the medium. My goal is to not end up in the slush pile of mediocrity!

Sounds like this would have been a good breakfast to be at. However, Jamie, I was on the other side of town meeting Val Mayerik and Herb Trimpe! Two men who have left their own marks on the industry. With some style and grace, I might add.

Always a good topic, though.

Jamie Gambell said...

Thank you for the responses, everyone.

I was thinking today about the books I have liked recently, and the titles that I enjoy - and most of them are not the typical block-buster megaplex titles. I really have been finding more pleasure as a fan from indie and smaller and more creative books.

The best selling book at present, from the DM, is just horrible to me - but from blog responses, is a big fan favourite.

I still feel like I'm finding my creative voice, and still struggle to "pitch" my own titles, but know what they are and know what I like about them...

Maybe that will be enough for now.