Sunday, April 15, 2007

Are Comics A Dying Artform?

I have had this discussion with numerous people all the time and the last couple of years have seen so overall increase in sales numbers (pure $$ generated), but are monthly comics really a viable artform or are we just circling the drain?

All printed media has taken hits, CD sales have taken a nosedive and I'll willing to guess DVD sales are not what they used to be for many movies. The internet and the massive amount of free content has reduced the demand for many things.

Monthly comics have taken some dramatic hits also. The 10 year numbers are pretty damn strong evidence that those of us buying the monthly comics are that last ones left standing. In 1997 (according to CBG) the sales numbers for books #25, #50, #75 and #100 for February 1997 were 70,300, 45,800, 35,100 & 27,300. 10 years later the same sales numbers for those books were 62,780, 36,529, 25,582 and 21,570 respectively. Those are decreases of 10%, 20%, 27% and 21% respectively.

Those are really horrible numbers. Now all of these numbers are based on the direct market and the trade sale via Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other outlets are not covered by these numbers. Also the real money for comic come from the marketing of the brands via movies and other branding of toys, video games and clothing. The comic books are lost leaders in a sense and the reason for publishing some books are tied more to copyright needs and other contractual arrangements versus actual sales figures.

Still I just really wonder how much longer we can stem the tide of the end of of this industry. I believe the graphic novel will continue to exist (Magna proves you can have sales that are still strong), it is just in what format.

It is also sad to realize that our favorite books may only be enjoyed by a few others (50,000 is .02% of the US population). How marginalized can we be? The good news is that with the advancing of technology at $3 or $4 a book it can still be profitable to produce a magazine that has guaranteed sales, but how long will a corporation continue to fund a product that has such a small market segment. If I have talented people wasting their efforts against .02% of the population it is really just pissing money away.

Still at least remember if you drop a title you are actually having an impact in this type of market place, where with most places, Wal-Mart won't notice you have stopped buying from them to protest them for some reason.

I just hope the market continues to survive as I have enjoyed this method of entertaining too long and would miss it if it dies before I do. At least I'll finally have time to read all the trades and hard covers I have accumulated.

As a side note I also believe that 50% of the community has blogs or "reports" on the industry, but we have very few people who really report of examine our industry.


  1. It's not just comics, but all print media is dying away. Newspapers are going belly-up as more and more people get their news online or via cable tv. Magazines are going bye bye at an increased rate. Look at poor TV Guide, a mainstay for decades but now having a really hard time making a profit. They may be going the way of the do-do soon. And as comics go over the $3 pricepoint I see many people switching to trades, which are cheaper, or dropping the hobby altogether. High prices and dragged out storytelling(ie JLA under Meltzer) are the death knells of the hobby. Personally, I am the only one of 6 people I know who live locally to me who still buys comics. The others, fans for decades, dropped out over the past 18 months. I'm the sole survivor and I only get about 10 titles a month when I used to get that many a week. Comics ain't what they used to be. Not a bargain for your entertainment dollar at all anymore. I can see the monthly die for good once a comic costs $4, which many are slated for come the end of this year. Man, I don't know which goes up faster, the price of comics or the price of a first class stamp.

  2. New News Column.

    Lots of links to cool stuff. If nothing else it's worth it for the link to LOSING LOIS LANE a funny fan film, and for ME casting myself in a liveaction GREEN HORNET film.

    Go. Enjoy.



  3. I can't believe I would ever say this.... but Jeff has a point.

    $4 may be the end and fewer and fewer young people collect. Actually fewer young people can read but that's another rant.

  4. Ah, the blogs of yesterday where such issues seemed more important than today...

    But as a Hokie civil engineering graduate who spent many classes in Norris Hall...well, this is a good distraction for me. I'm sure we'll all get to talk about today soon enough.

    I dropped Wonder Woman on Wednesday and the next thing I know Gail Simone is named the writer. (One reason I dropped WW was that the Linda Carter WW and the JLU WW are so much better, if I'm not reading that one, I'm not interested.) I also dropped Nightwing. Long gone are the days of collecting a title just to continue the run (except for Spider-girl of course), they're too expensive and you just can't afford to ride out a bad storyline these days and since they threw out continuity... Especially, when there is so many good hardcover collections coming out. Jim has a point, I could stop buying comics and just reread what I already have and still probably not finish them all (my reading time is considerably reduced these days). I really am amazed that there are enough interesting stories to keep me coming back week after week. I guess as much as I like the old, I still desire to see new stories, but when the stories stink (WW), I'd rather pick up a classic pre-Crisis run or something I know is good and fun.

    I'm a little lax in getting Trades and HC, but I think I'm finally coming around that I have to really consider them. I want to get Star Wars Legacy in Trade. I plan on getting Spidey Loves MJ in HC. I could never have afforded 52 and Countdown might be beyond my budget too. Once you miss an issue, it's easier to miss the next one.

    I try to get my kids cheap back issues whenever I can. When I can get lots of "good" books for the price of a few "new" books, it's much easier to drop the new. I was really excited about the Classic Avengers title coming out, but they're doing it all wrong. Most of that material is already available and I really don't care about those new fill-in stories (I hope they're good though). I do plan for the short term to get this book for my son, Eric. I think a better idea would have been to do all reprints, use old style cheaper paper and set it up this way:

    Classic Avengers #1 (contains #1, #50, #100 and #150) then in four years you'd have 200 issues worth of Avengers and you'd jump right in to the good Buscema and Perez stuff.

    I wish they could make them more affordable. The Essentials and Showcases are great, but kids hate B/W these days...

  5. Matthew-

    Hope you're reading the lines... Space:1999 is on the way. Rusty should have it in store on Wednesday, with some help from Jim.

    Enjoy, and just return to Rusty. I will get it back later.

  6. Thanks Lee, something to look forward to. Now that we're finished watching JLU, the kids need something new. And Jim: Pam and I are finally finished with the first season of Buck Rogers (one more to go). We're really enjoying it. The kids are a bit farther behind on that series.

    I just found out this morning that my Hydraulics I Professor, G.V. Loganathan, was one of the faculity murdered yesterday. I only had one of his courses that I can remember. He was good and very soft spoken. He was a new professor back in 89/90. He received multiple teaching excellence awards, not just by the department but from the students as well.

  7. Matt - Take your time, no hurry whatsoever. Sorry about your teacher.

  8. I think in this day and age, if something sucks it needs to be removed from your list.

    I complained to Ron about SPAWN for years. He complained for YEARS that it sucked. So...why are you still reading, you know. He gave it up. Two years worth of another comic that may have been awesome he missed out on.

    My point is that the creators need to bring their A-game to keep me around.

    So my hope is quality will get better.

    I'll never give up comics.

    They'll have to pry them out of my cold, dead hand.

    And even then I may kick them in the balls.