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Saturday, November 14, 2009 

Should comics maintain their future on the web?

James Hudnall at Big Hollywood is talking about the death of the printed medium and how that's affecting even the comics business, not to mention the 4 dollar price they've already reached. He's also suggesting that going digital on the web may help give them some new life.

Now their is some truth to this, that the internet may yet help save the comics industry, and at the same time, trade paperbacks can also help. But there's still a few things here I'll need to take issue with, such as:
To complicate matters, the stresses of running a comics distributor in this economy has hurt the last remaining company. They have had their share of layoffs and warehouse closings. If that wasn’t scary enough for comics pros, Marvel just got bought by Disney, DC just reorganized under Warner Brothers, and long time publisher Paul Levitz was moved out. There is now a Hollywood person running DC. The future of the direct market may be uncertain at this point.

This situation is reminiscent of the industry in the late 70s. Newsstand distribution for comics was dying off and Marvel and DC were on the ropes. DC was looking to go to reprint material. No new stories. But a couple things happened that saved comics at that point, the birth of the “direct market” and the success of “Superman: The Movie,” and a few years later, the movie “Batman.” These re-energized the business in a big way which lead to a new boom in the early 90s.
The problem is, the direct market later proved to be the medium's downfall: comics left the bookstores and other forms of newsstand almost entirely and ended up doing what we call "ghettoization". They took to pandering to a smaller audience and even now, they're not making any serious attempt to bring in new people. Nor did Paul Levitz make any serious effort on his part to turn that around.

And while it's not such a great thing that a Hollywooder is running DC now, I can't feel too sorry to see Levitz leave after he gave Dan DiDio the keys to the kingdom and let him ruin the DCU's common sense and continuity, something Hudnall sadly but unsurprisingly doesn't bother to mention. Because that too is something to consider: the future of the industry depends on good storytelling as much as it does on visibility and availability to the wider public. If DC and Marvel's storytelling is poor, how do they expect the "big two" to survive?

It could take more than just the internet for veteran companies to get an audience today. Also, I've personally thought that it'd be better if comic books were to go for a format more in tune to trade paperbacks, which could help them to avoid the folly of crossovers and publicity stunts, another thing that's been killing them off. For comics to survive, that's why they have to cut out those stunts that are taking the place of real storytelling and making it impossible for writers to have real freedom, and to tell stand-alone stories.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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