Monday, 16 January 2012

Response Time is a Factor

Comics seem stuck in a mire.

I've mentioned before the problem with the cycle of supply and demand - that comics play the same beats because that is what sells, but it is what sells because it is what is offered at most stores - and think that comics will continue to spiral down until this changes.

Firstly, and I want to make this clear, I do not think the blame rests on any one group here.

Stores are business and need to be run as such. They will order books that sell, and get better deals on well known publisher's titles. Better deals, better return. Well known books sell better. No brainer. Space is limited in most stores, and the rotation of stock is such that most people do not want to be left holding too much of one thing. Supply and demand. Scarcity drives up prices.

Publishers have to create what sells. For the most part, that is well known properties. However, the bigger publishers have an unfair advantage in that they get preferential treatment in the distribution model, often have the backing of a bigger creative force, command free advertising in the form of press releases to internet and other news outlets, and have a 50-80+ year brand recognition on their sides.

What sells is events. What will they produce then? In a shrinking market (a target audience with no back door, no new "clients") it is best to not try anything too risky. Even the big apparent risks are little more than distractions, gimmicks under different names, which ultimately lead into the status quo.

The reader demands a certain type of book. They have flocked to see the big-budget, multi-character, moment-minus-character type story telling. It's mostly about the moments collected in trade-sized story chunks. And they love them. They want violence, questionable morale and ethical stances, the same old stuff, but like a mega-budget movie - comics are not for kids!

Here are the problems though.

Comics should be for everyone. Not aimed at kids, but suitable for everyone, regardless of age, gender, race. Why? Because it just makes good business sense, that's why. Aim for everyone, get more people. Aim for a select few, you might get some of them.

Also, comics need to stop limiting themselves to the mega-budget movie model. They should be trying to be more than that. Here is a quick-response cultural art form, limited only by imagination and talent, and yet it continues to aim low.

Too many creators are limiting themselves. I understand why. You create a book that gets you noticed by the big boys, maybe they'll give you a chance. Maybe they will actually pay you to do this, rather than you losing money to put out your book!

Then, maybe, just maybe, you'll get a little name recognition and people will go back and order your creator owned series - the one that you hoped would make you rich.

Indie and self-creators can be a new hope.

I think that the books being created away from the direct market, away from the confines of the need to pamper to a small audience, and free to actually try new things, could invigorate the comic book medium in a huge way.

Benefiting from the ever-green model, and free to ensure that a book is available always and readily could really help make something happen. It may take time, but I think it is the future.

But everyone has to join in.

Stores have to provide an outlet for these titles.

Creators have to put the effort in to make the books something special.

Readers need to take a chance on something new.

Maybe together there will be a future in this funny book business.

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