Saturday, September 02, 2006

No One Does Comic Book News

Maybe it is just my viewpoint, but there is no online true "news" source for comics. Most of the major websites actually act as pimps for the various comic book companies and almost have to or they would have probably have no access to the comic world. Lying in the Gutters actually is the closest thing we have to a comic book reporter and he makes it a gossip column to please the fans.

I never see any real news stories out there about comic books or the industry.

Where is an in depth study on the over sales figures on comics. Using Diamond as the only source of sales numbers misses the bigger picture of the sales of trade paperbacks and other collected forms of comics. Based on my own research the actual sales of comic books have continued to decline for the last few decades with only occasionally jumps back upwards. By having a 20% sales jump from 20,000 to 22,000 sounds great, except when the book sold 50,000 copies five years before it dropped to 20,000.

Why no stories on what makes a writer or artist sign up for an exclusive contract and how are these contracts being constructed? Once I turn in my 24 scripts is my two years over? As an artist if I have a five year commitment does it end with a number of pages? How does a company guarantee getting the work? Do they take back benefits, charged the person?

Why no articles on the lack on new characters being created in Marvel and DC books? Is this because the company doesn't want to have to share in any monies made off the characters or because everyone saves their own ideas for independent publishing?

Where are the articles interviewing people who have left the industry and what they are doing now? What happened to Jim Shooter? Where is Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas? What happened to other artist and writers?

Where is the hard line interviews where questions are asked with more substance they "why hasn't Adam Strange's beard grown more in the 17 weeks of 52?". Where is an interview with Paul Levitz talking about comics versus animation? An interview with Joe Quesada asking how he will insure the retailers who are taking a hit for Civil War lateness are being helped? Ask these guys questions that you know the answer for and call them when they are wrong or evasive.

The interview podcasts are even a bigger joke, if I hear one more "interviewer" suck the writer or artist ass I think I'll throw up.

I know this is just comic books and most of us are fans, but there are still some interesting and underlying questions that should be made to the main people running these companies. We should be examining the sales figures at length to determine where is the industry heading. Are the fans just underwriting the book market and being used and abused to buy the monthlies so the book sales can be made?

Is the direct market dying? How many stores are left and how harmful is it that Diamond is the sole and exclusive distributor of these goods?

I had to order Action philosophers Giant Sized book straight from Evil Twin Comics because my store couldn't get anymore from Diamond. Why is that? I don't mind giving the creators the money directly, but are the sales of these type of books hampered by Diamond's practices?

It just seems to be what passes for news and interviews from 99% of the online comic sites is nothing more then press releases and love fests. One interview website's interviewer is so fawning and loving to his subjects that I can no longer even listen to it.

If someone knows of a real news website for comics, please let me know.


  1. I think you've hit on a symbiotic relationship. Comics have become a cult sized hobby. Most books in the Top 100 sell less than 50,000 copies nationwide. That is horrible and far fewer than the average single issue sales for a Top 100 book even 10 short years ago. When you have such a small fanbase and an industry that cannot take another hard blow, the people who make their living from comics will tend to treat comics much more favorably than if comics were healthy and hearty. If comics go down, there won't be anyone to read your Newsarama articles. Who would read ComicBookResources if comics tanked or went fully to trade only? So you have an online comic news media who have a vested interest in seeing comics do well. Note how the increase in comic cover price to $2.99 went completely unreported.
    I hit a lot of comic sites and have noticed a severe decline in posts on such boards as the DC site and Millarworld. Don't forget that higher demand would bring better news coverage. You can still get a lot of interviews online with comic creators. Marvel and DC make sure that their press releases get a lot of coverage. But overall there is not much hard analysis of the state of the medium. ICV2 is probably the best site to find that kind of information, but as you said, they only use Diamond's figures.
    All you really need do to find out the true state of comics is take a wednesday off and spend all day in the comic shop. See how many people come in, what books they buy, how much they spend, how old they are. Since it's pretty much the usual suspects each and every wednesday you only need do this once to get a nice snapshot view of how the comic market is doing in your area. From personal experience I can say that kids have stopped getting comics altogether and prefer manga these days. The average age of the comic fan is over 25 and graying. Some new interest has been generated from Civil War and 52, but it's only a slight bump up. Comics are still trending down over the past 5 years. Don't see that trend changing until a new generation of readers are brought into the hobby.

  2. You bring up interesting points.

    If you click here to head on to Journalista, you'll see a better version of what I try to do Which is basically report on the things of interest on or around the industry.

    And Sequential Tart has some wonderful interviews and the like from people of all corners of the comic bizz.

    Are you going to get bone-crunching journalism in an industry where the highest selling book at the moment is doing just over 300,000 copies? Probably not.

    As for the new characters from Marvel or DC: The way I see it, Marvel zombies and DC freaks (my term) don't want to see new characters. They want the characters they grew up with.

    People looking for new characters of interest already look elsewhere for them. When I want my capes I look at the Big Two. When I want something different, I look elsewhere.

    And yes, most creators don't want to give up their best creations now unless they own them. I know I wouldn't want to.

    I'd never create a new nemesis for SUPERMAN. I'd pick Lex Luthor and just give him nipples rings made of Kryptonite or something.


  3. Jeff and Shawn - good points, but I think that if we have no level of journalism that we lose something. The Comics Journal (I think) years ago used to do some harder hitting stuff and it was more interesting to me then most of what passes for news in this industry.
    Shawn - The Fray song was very good.

  4. Shawn - Clicked on your link and it was for the Comics Journal weblog, I don't think that was the magizine I was thinking about, but a good website.

  5. Journalism for comics, eh? It's certaintly something I haven't seen tried before, but I believe a large part of it is that the people who write about comics are usually the fans - and how many comic book fans do you know who take the time to look into these things to any great extent? The answer is probably not many. Still, I like the idea - although it seems as if it would take a lot of digging to get to the heart of such things.

  6. Shawn had a great point. If you're looking for superheroes, go with DC and Marvel. Anything else is usually done far better with Indies. Too bad the Indies are on the decline right now. Marvel and DC continue with a business strategy that tries to force the Indies off the racks while umpteen X-books and Batman miniseries take most of the shelf space. Really though, with a little time and research you can find out most things about comics except for how well the trade paperbacks are selling. We have an article in Wizard that tells us Jim Lee takes full blame for the lateness of All Star Batman. We find out about most products months, if not years, before they come out. Where I shop I have very many inside sources who I'm friends with and they haven't been wrong about a single "surprise" reveal in over a year. Guess I'm pretty in the know. If you really want to find out something concerning the comic book marketplace, I suggest you act like your favorite superhero, Batman, and become an online detective. With the web and a high speed connection there's very little that should be able to escape your searching.

  7. Oh, and don't you think it would be worth giving up a creation, be it a new hero or villain, to go down in comic book history as the person who created that character? I'd love to be known as the guy who created Ra's or Joker or Lex Luthor no matter if I didn't make a dime off it. There's something to be said for fame even if it comes without fortune.