The Future of Comics (for balance)

The Future of Comics and Other Publishing
James Hudnall

You can probably date yourself by remembering how much comic books cost when you were a kid. Was it a dime, a quarter, a dollar? Can you believe they cost $4 now?

As the greenies would say, that’s unsustainable. Comic books used to be common. If you went in any kids house in the 50s or early 60s you would probably find some. Not so much anymore. Comics once sold everywhere magazines were sold. You could buy them in drug stores, supermarkets, seven-elevens, newsstands, even some liquor stores. But the so called “newsstand market” was a hostile place to comics publishers, and a shrinking one.

These days, it’s hard to find comics anywhere outside of the comic book store. That means that comics have become a “destination product.” It’s something you need to know where it’s sold, you have to physically go there and if you’re lucky, they might have what you’re looking for. However, most comics retailers order to sell out. So the odds are, you may be unlucky if you don’t come on “comics day,” the day the books come in from the distributor.

And that’s another problem with comics these days. There is only one distributor.


B-chan said...

I see nothing with which to disagree.

Of course, there's the question of what people who don't have the money for a tablet are going to read...

DVC said...

Yep, I like that he laid it out matter-of-factly.

I still do most of my reading from books, and the death of the direct market/newsstand makes me wonder what will become of all that retail space out there -- will we soon have all our groceries delivered electronically in addition to movies, pizza, and what once comprised print media?

I'm no technophobe, but the idea of eBooks interested me more upon introduction over ten years ago than today. The technology has so far failed to deliver in the manner initially promised, and even as Hudnall describes the devices here it smacks of more starry-eyed wishes.

And while I can see the Japanese subscribing to cel phone manga content, after buying yet-another p.c. this summer I'm not looking forward to buying yet another dedicated, standalone *anything* in the future.

Tohoscope said...

Welcome to the endgame.

Steve Harrison said...

I know that person from somewhere, and I recall I didn't have a favorable opinion. I think he was old C/FO.

anyway, welcome to the party, he's talking about crap I've been talking about for a number of years, in terms of how the entire 'ecology' of print has decayed due to poor thinking and even more poor choices.

I'm just gonna paste this here,it's in reference to the Japanese manga market but I think this part is useful:

As far as I am aware (and please, correct me!) they never underwent all the things that have pretty much killed the Americomi industry-shutting down newsstand distro in favor of the direct market, the war between distributors resulting in a monopoly in distro; the experiments to bump up profit margin by decreasing page count, switching manufacturing tech (remember the first years of flexi printing plates?) and then moving printing from the U.S to Canada, playing with paper stock quality, perfect binding vs. saddlestich, variant covers, killing long run titles to 're-invent' the title as a series of 6 issue miniseries,cutting ads and raising prices, raising prices...Japan did none of these things.

Print will continue until the Greens outlaw the making of paper, it'll just become more and more expensive and boutique. Look at the comic marketplace, they're pushing for collections, for the TPBs because of the increased margin and bookstores will carry them, BUT Bookstores are dying and few people WANT to pay $20-50 for a flippin' COMIC BOOK.

200 pages of full color comic for about $6? sell like hotcakes. $29.99? no.

to paraphrase one of the legends of Hollywood, 'reading comics on a cell phone ain't reading a comic'. YOu're conveying information, yes, and no doubt there IS some entertainment value accrued in that act, but it's not the SAME. How the hell do you handle a 2-page spread? What about some of those experiments Frank Miller did with a 4-page gatefold spread? or a non-standard format in page layout?

"well, the creators will have to adapt their style to the new medium like they always have" I hear someone say.

Adapting to a new medium has pretty much always been a GROWTH, an expanding of the format, this brave new world calls for simplifying, reducing, pulling back, contracting not expanding.

Do we WANT comics to become single panel webcomics? Even as I'm not into comics that much anymore I say no.

DVC said...

Steve, unless my memory fails me Hudnall got his start at First Comics and moved up the food chain.

Thanks for the thoughts! I'm right there with you.

I hate to say I saw the writing on the wall when Diamond gobbled-up Cap City, but there were certainly signs even then.

I used to buy comics everywhere magazines (and tobacco and gum...) were sold. Nowadays you're lucky if you find the latest superhero flick on DVD marketed as widely., much less the fact that tobacco is unhealthy and so is everything else. What's next? The Greenies gonna outlaw paper?

On the plus side, the scenario in "Fahrenheit 451" could never actually happen due to the damage it would cause to the environment, Kyoto Treaty and all.

Steve Harrison said...

This is going to be a ramble.

I just don't LIKE digital publishing. I don't TRUST it.

Most folk don't know this, but last year (I think) something very very scary happened. Amazon sold a digital version of Brave New World for their Kindle reader, and something came up and somehow it turned out that the company that sold them the rights didn't have the rights after all, or something like that.

So, Amazon pushed a button and ZAP, everybody, EVERYBODY that had bought that digital book had it ERASED from their Kindle. Just like that. I don't know if they refunded money or gave credit, but it doesn't matter, books aren't donuts.

Just like that, a book vanishes as if it never existed. How fitting, given which book it was.

I don't like the idea that different 'readers' have different 'formats' because then you get into exclusives that are only available on one reader, which is a problem with the videogame industry. No, it's not the same as the Beta/VHS days. We got past that. It's more like you can only watch Spider-man 4 on Sony DVD players.

I don't like the DRM. I don't like I can't move the file from one thing to another.

I don't like the concept that the digital book (comic, magazine, paper) will 'phone home' and tell somebody what I'm reading, when I'm reading it, how long I'm reading.

I don't like the concept that they may decide to 'lease' books (whatever) and if you want to 'own' it it costs more, or there's a regular fee, or you're charged every time you 'open' it.

I don't like that if you have a system crash you might lose your entire library.

I don't like that the content can be changed. It might be decided to remove 'objectionable' content or words.

Call me a dinosaur if you will.

DVC said...

Steve, I recall that Kindle thing, and at first it struck me as being too damned-ironic to be anything other than a poorly-executed publicity stunt.

If it had been Fahrenheit 451 the irony would've been double.