Hey, That’s My Cape! – Could Comics Collapse?

There’s a lot going on in the comic book realm these days. There’s more talk about them in the last few years than there was not too long before that and that’s thanks in part to DC’s relaunch and almost every comic company getting their works adapted to the big and small screens the past ten years. But with the rise of digital, lawsuits and lack of public interest looming, how long can that last? Could the comics industry as we know it collapse?

I’m not trying to be a herald of doom here or anything, I’m actually a very positive person usually and I do have hope that the industry will be here for years to come but I’m also a realist and we are in a severely inclined uphill battle. So I’m here to play devil’s advocate and discuss the possibility of it happening, how it could change and what it could evolve into.

Read my thoughts in this week’s Hey, That’s My Cape! at Newsarama.

7 Responses to “Hey, That’s My Cape! – Could Comics Collapse?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    ricksand is right. Line-wide crossover events and long story arcs create a confusing continuity and make it too hard for new readers to jump on. It's bad enough having to buy six consecutive issues of a title to get one complete story. But with the tie-ins and crossovers, you have to buy six issues each of five or six different titles to have the whole thing. At today's prices, that is impractical.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Comics sales are a fraction of what they were in the 1960's. Some titles are probably only being continued so the publisher (or their parent company) can retain the copyright. The most popular characters (Superman, Batman, Spider Man) will go on, but it may be in other media. In fact, many people are already more familiar with them from movies and TV than comics.

  3. Anonymous says:

    "Back in the 40s-50s, comics creators feared the death of comics because of television." And in the 1980's, I predicted that video games would make comics obsolete. But they keep hanging on.

  4. dash_bannon says:

    I love your article. I am in the process of producing a graphic novel, which I hope will be the first of a trilogy.

    I'm thinking digital is the way to go, and to utilized ideas generated by Scott McCloud using the internet, social media like Facebook, and good old fashioned print.

    I also think Comic Cons are another means of distributing comics and getting the word out about them.

    Overall, I think the old school way of buying a monthly book in a store may disappear within a decade. Online/digital comics won't.

    I also think people will want to own and possess the art of the comics as well as enjoy the stories.

    Back in the 40s/50s, comics creators feared the death of comics because of television.

    Since we're comics readers in the early 21st Century, we can tell that comics have survived.

    We now live in a great time for new and independent creators. Lots of new stories can be told, but I suspect with the way the internet works, it'd be very difficult to create new content without a hundred clones showing up mimicking work.

    We'll see.

    It comes down to the art and stories. As technology progresses, comics may be things we have on iPads, Droids, or holodecks.

    Be that as it may, people will still fall in love with characters and want to possess images of them in some format.

    Maybe we could get interactive comics on coffee mugs that access local wiFi networks.

    Hm… that gives me a story idea. :)

  5. Great point about the missed opportunities in advertising during previews. Say, before "X-Men: First Class," it would have been useful to have a brief description of the multifarious X-titles and their relation to each other, or the Bat-Books before "Dark Knight." Or they could promote classic arcs collected in trade paperbacks or whatever.

    Regarding digital, Marvel currently has some portion of its back catalog online, available for $10/month or $60/year. I bought the one-month plan and read over 100 comics; that's less than a dime per back issue. This price might be unsustainable, but this sort of subscription seems too easy NOT to do. (Poor retailers, though. :/)

  6. But hasn't the comic book market already collapsed? I mean, relative to sales and mainstream popularity in the early 1990s, the comic book industry is a shell of its former self and has been for years now. But just like everything using the print model, I could never envision the total eradication of a publishing house – but the model, and comic books as we know them today, will likely continue to evolve and change to some degree. But, say the DC reboot is a bust… the brands of Batman, Superman, etc. are still way too popular for a complete "collapse."

  7. ricksand says:

    Great article, Jill. I don't think comics should collapse, but they need to change. The market is fading for a lot of reasons. I wrote a 3000-word piece on it myself, but I'll try to keep it short here (key word: try).

    I think the collectibles market will collapse, especially if DC and Marvel convert more of their back stock to digital. Publishers have been so worried about the collectibles market, consequently stalling the digital one. They need to just let that go. There's a fortune to be made off digital back stock. Who wouldn't buy a copy of Action Comics #1 or Claremont's Uncanny X-Men digitally for $1 each?

    They also need to move out of the "Gimmick Age of Comics" as I call it. Since the mid-90s we've seen constant gimmicks from variant covers, platinum holographic covers, an endless stream of meaningless and increasingly short-term deaths, and one big huge crossover event after the other.

    Publishers are afraid of the market collapse and are trying to get what they can while the getting is good through marketing stunts. There's no stable long-term plan.

    Enter the gimmick. Constant event stories and deaths/revivals create a complicated continuity for new readers. Why would anyone want to jump into a mess like that?

    Consider the success of books like Hellblazer, Fables, Sandman, Watchmen, Preacher, Walking Dead, All-Star Superman, Runaways, etc: books that are/were completely self-contained. I don't think Done-in-One is essential, but keeping things simple/streamlined is.

    Creative team change-ups are wild, too. If you look at that list above, all those books have consistent creative teams. Now look at Teen Titans post-Geoff Johns. It's all over the place. It's no wonder it lost its audience. New readers need consistency, not chaos.

    I've droned on far too much already, so I'll stop there.