Monday, January 19, 2009

Another nail?

It's a good thing that the comics medium is expanding. Obviously, the success of the films has helped bring a new awareness to the comic book and although most people still associate it with the superheroes, the harder edge is being accepted more with the likes of Dark Knight and likely, Watchmen. And with other non-superhero movies coming out, it pushes the boundary of acceptance with the non-comic fans.

Will it lead to a renaissance of the medium? Some feel that the comic culture could tap into the mainstream like never before whereas others feel that a few gems are thrown up there but soon to be weighed down by substandard fare…for every Iron Man, there’s Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and Fantastic Four.

Me? I don’t know. I feel such a disconnect with superheroes. About the same I do with Saturday morning cartoons and fairy tales. They were a big part of my youth but now, not so much. I never saw the revamped Hulk or Ghost Rider. I thought Dark Knight was good but not great although I did find when Heath Ledger was on screen, it was interesting. Outside of him, only Gary Oldham held my attention. I thought Iron Man was just okay. But I am looking forward to Watchmen. Wolverine, not so much (although I thought overall, the X-Men movies were pretty good…better as a group than the Spiderman ones). However, when you look beyond the superhero stuff that is coming out into the market, it’s incredible on the diversity and quality that is there.

So, why is it good that the comics medium is expanding? Because with the new announcement by Diamond Comic Distributors, it’s unlikely that the old ways would have allowed many of the independent comics to survive. Diamond has raised their minimums on offered product so that each item essentially has to sell about $6,000 in retail in order to be carried by Diamond. Of course, Diamond has no way of knowing exactly how much something is going to sell so it will be up to their discretion on whether they feel something has the potential to sell that well or not. That means a lot of smaller press publications will not be going through Diamond.

If this happened a few years ago, it would be a definite death knell to many of those publishers affected…and it still may. But there’s a lot more chance for success nowadays outside of the Diamond monopoly than there used to be. Of course, there’s the Internet and all that brings, not just in digital format but means of exposure. There’s a lot of book publishers looking for product so that could be a new avenue for some creators. And the simple fact is that it is so much easier to get books out now and the stigma of “self publishing” has faded dramatically.

But…and this is a big but, it certainly is going to ghettoize the comics market into what it has always been attached to, the superheroes. The comics medium will grow (as far as number of titles, not necessarily in large sales) but the comic retailers will have a limited palate of superheroes and more superheroes. Many of them have no problem with that and others will resist and maintain a wide assortment of product but they will have to go outside of Diamond to do so. I know that many have already looked away from Diamond to get product, specifically for the smaller publishers and that may have impacted Diamond’s decision. After all, above all else, Diamond is a business and they have to make the smart business move, regardless of all the protestations they are likely to receive. It is because of Diamond’s adherence to being fiscally responsible that they are here at all, unlike so many other distributors that have faded away.

Yes, there are comic stores that offer incredible diversity and are not just superhero stores. But those are the exceptions. I can just take a drive around my area and most of the stores are Marvel-DC with a few licensed titles and Image heroes thrown in. Instead of carrying trades from Fantagraphics and Top Shelf, they carry superhero games. Instead of Desperado and Slave Labor, they carry superhero statues. They are not so much comic stores, but superhero stores. And I live in an area that has some really, really good shops but the fact is that the Detroit-Ann Arbor is mostly full of superhero shops…not comic shops. Yes, I’m making the distinction. I don’t read superheroes so those stores have absolutely no appeal to me.

What about the new policy at Diamond? How will that affect me? Not much. It’s not that I can guarantee my books (whether written by me or released from Transfuzion) will sell above that but more of a case that I’m not dependent on Diamond for my livelihood and in some cases, not for the success of the books. I have great sympathy for those that are and I also have sympathy for Diamond who have to issue such a policy. I’m sure Diamond wishes it could carry all the titles but it just isn’t feasible any way you look at it.

Well on another subject, it’s the awards time for the film industry. As usual, I’m behind in getting out to see movies and some I will just pass up totally. Although I didn’t think the year was particularly strong (in appeal to me), the end of the year had a flood of interesting films which I’m likely not to see. I didn’t see that many movies but some movies that stood out to me as being good, better than expected were The Bank Job and Slum Dog Millionaire.


Wesley said...

Great post. I think you pretty much nailed it with how most comic shops are (or eventually will be) "superhero" shops.

Independent publishers need to consider Diamond as just one of potential distributors for their product. I hate to use this term, but indy publishers have to "think outside the box" now so more than ever. They have to get creative and look at how other media industries are surviving and growing their businesses.

By the way, I agree with on The Dark Knight. It was good but I dug Batman Begins more.

Indy Comic News

Anonymous said...

There was a box?
nobody ever told me about any box?

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