Harsh Truth About Comics

I just read a fascinating article about the top 10 harsh truths about comics and I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one thinking about these issues. I agree with most, if not all of them, and have pontificated on this topic ad nauseum.

Here is the original story link:

WhatCulture.com Story Link

Here are my thoughts.

10 and 9. “They Are Kinda Childish”, “But Barely Any Are For Kids Any More”

Yes yes yes and it’s not a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with appealing to the child within with escapist fantasy. I’ve gotten vitriol from so-called fans who lambasted me for saying, for example, that superheroes are inherently childish. I don’t care how bad-ass you make Batman, he is still a guy who dresses up to fight crime. It’s a kid fantasy. Disney embraces this but aging fanboys do not. The irony is, the times it is the most IMMATURE, is when they try to forcibly make these childlike fantasies mature, often having the exact opposite effect. The author points this out perfectly with the examples. Batgirl getting raped doesn’t make you a cool writer or the character more mature, it shows how immature you really are. This subset of comic fandom wants to up the ante and have the comics grow up with them and in the end result, they bare little resemblance to not only what made them great, but have ruined them for the mainstream audience. Marvel’s movies get this far more than the comics themselves. There is far more camaraderie, humor, fun escapism in any of the best Marvel movies than in all the marvel books combined.

8. “A Lot Of Them Are Total Garbage”

100% true. A lot of this is because of the sheer volume of books that come out every month, which waters down the talent, and makes the characters less special. Here is one of those “when I was a kid” moments. When I was a kid, I could buy every single Marvel and DC book every month. That would be an impossibility today for 99% of the kids and even the adults. With multiple Bat books, Spider books etc. they have watered down the specialness of these heroes. And have killed the delicious waiting for the next issue that fans like me used to have, waiting 30 painful days for the next Wolfman/Perez Titans or Frank Miller’s Daredevil. And like anything else, when you put out such volume, 99% will be crap. When you’re selective, like Netflix or HBO, you not only have creators competing to be on the channel, you get the best for the most part. Imagine a Marvel with one main Spiderman book, where the best writers and artists fight to get hired on to, the cream will rise to the crop.

7. “They’re The Geek Equivalent Of Soap Operas”

When done right, it’s a good thing, an enjoyable escape from the real world. When done bad, oh boy. You get obsessive continuity laden stories that prevent a newbie from getting hooked.

6. “Crossover Events Are Total Rip-Offs”

Without question. Now there is a difference between a mini or maxi-series that is an event and a CROSSOVER event where you need to buy all these books to keep up. That is a plain ole rip-off, strong-arming you out of your hard-earned money. I wonder if years of doing this, along with the previously mentioned volume of junk, are part of the reasons why fans have dropped off. It used to be I’d stick with a title for completist sake. Now with the constant renumbering and expense involved, I haven’t done it in years.

5. “There’s A Whole Lotta Sexism Going On”

Here is where I partially agree with the author. They are sexist in many ways but it IS supposed to be fantasy and I have no problem with male and female heroes looking a certain way or wearing fantasy costumes. And I’m not the only, see the growing cosplay trend. The problem is when they go too far. Wonder Woman’s costume was NOT a problem. But there is a difference between how someone like Darwin Cooke or Bruce Timm draws her (in my opinion far sexier but tasteful) and how many of these artists do it today with their stripper bodies, breasts falling out, thong up their crack look. And when you really on fanboys who have barely left their mom’s basements, who are now the writers, it’s cringe-inducing.

4. “Artists And Writers Make No Money”

Partially true. The big names make a ton of money and you’re not starving if you work for the big two companies as a regular writer or artist. But for indie creators or those who can’t get regular gigs, it is very tough. And mile many big businesses, comic companies care only about the short term dollar, not the long-term investment and care nothing about Karma. The only time they do anything “unselfishly” is when the PR gets real bad and they have no other choice (see Siegel and Shuster’s settlement when the first Superman movie came out). Now some people say these creators knew what they were getting into and that’s true (though many were conned or bullied into the situations). But how about being decent? Would it kill your company to help someone like Bill Mantlo who helped make you hundreds of millions?

3. “And It’s A Colossal Waste Of Your Money”

Very true. For the value and the entertainment time they provide, they are NOW way overpriced. When I was ten, comics cost $.20.. That’s twenty CENTS. In today’s dollars, that equals to about $1.10. Comics now range from 2.99 and up and you are being hammered to buy far more of them. I’ve heard all the arguments about rising print costs etc. but for the most part, its crap. They get away with it because they’ve convinced the fans it’s the norm. So now you have books that are 3-5 times more costly, that are far less likely to become collectibles one day, that give you a bathroom trip of enjoyment for the most part, and YES they are a waste of money.

2. “We’re At The Whim Of Movies”

True but sometimes, it’s not a bad thing. If the movies show us what the mainstream audience likes, then why not pay attention. However, like most things in the industry today, they take the superficial elements and not the core reasons. Then make impulsive decisions that can alienate the long-time reader.

1. “They Haven’t Got Long Left”

I’ve been STUNNED on how long the shops and print comics have lasted. If I had to guess, I’d say it was partly due to those same aging fanboys and their weekly habits, along with the visceral enjoyment that reading a paper comic brings. Plus some of the packaging on the trades and compiled editions have gotten very creative and beautiful and something you would want to display, but with an aging customer base, how long can it last? You have a sporadic group of retailers, many of who are unprofessional in their business running (see previous comment about aging fans taking over, same with retail), who are far apart and offer little to no opportunity for impulse buying (which could lead to an ongoing customer), combined with a niche market catering to existing older readers and not bringing in new ones to stem the flow of dropouts, and how can it last? I don’t have an answer but on the surface, it doesn’t look good. The move to digital, in theory, could help (available everywhere, no print and lower distribution costs), but will that kill the community aspects when the stores go away? Conventions are bigger than ever but will that matter in terms of driving digital sales? Or is it true that just like the pulps, comics’ time has passed and is just holding on? I don’t think so but I do believe it will take a visionary like a Steve Jobs, who has the power to enforce long-term planning and the charisma to get the buy-in, to save it.

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