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Thursday, July 19, 2018 

LA Times won't look for any of the in depth factors in comicdom's decline

The LA Times published a weak article about the plummet in sales comic books have taken, and predictably, won't explore any challenging answers why movies aren't saving the industry at all, nor do they offer any suggestions:
There is one sector, however, where Marvel heroes are not soaring to new heights, one in which they struggle to find new fans — and in a wry twist, it's in their original medium, in the pages of Marvel Comics.

Marvel comic books, which introduced the world to such characters as the Avengers, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Deadpool and Venom, is still the brand to beat in its sector — over the past decade, Marvel has locked down the No. 1 spot in its annual market share competition with rivals including DC Comics, Image and Dark Horse.

But the picture is less rosy when Marvel competes with its own past. Today's comics sell one-tenth the numbers Marvel expected in the 1960s and 1970s glory days when comic books were cheaper than candy bars and just as easy to find at the nation's newsstands, corner markets and drugstores.

Now, a new comic book costs $4-$6 and the only shelves they reach are at the 2,500 comic book specialty shops doing business in the U.S. and Canada — and even that number is in decline as stores (among them Meltdown Comics, the Sunset Boulevard landmark of 25 years) lose their leases or downsize to online merchants.
Well that's partly because Marvel/DC pulled out of bookstores a second time in the past few years, and the prices obviously didn't help (no doubt, many bookstore patrons were discouraged). Some trade paperbacks cost less than the single pamphlets, one more reason why I consider it better to read a whole story that way, just as I would a textual novel.
There's an even steeper challenge: For young consumers, could any comic book ever stack up against video games, smartphones and Pixar films?
If they were better written, they could. Why else do they think sales plummeted after the early 90s as prices rose? People were becoming more disillusioned with the storytelling quality. X-Men was one of the biggest victims of crummy writing, including that atrocious excuse for a crossover called Age of Apocalypse.
All monthly comics by Marvel, DC and other leading publishers reach readers through Maryland-based Diamond Comics Distributors, which reported that in 2017 single-issue sales were down more than 10%, while graphic novels (which reprint the most popular multiple-issue storylines into the "trade paperback" format sold at bookstores) were down more than 9%.
And that's because, if the story's bad, even overly political, then why should a paperback do any better? If people know the story was horrible as a pamphlet, there's no point in waiting for paperbacks/hardcovers either. On which note, why are they claiming the stories now reprinted are the most popular? Secret Empire certainly wasn't.
The monthly comics are written to appeal to longtime fans, which means they often have very little in common with the current storylines of films such as Disney's just-released "Ant-Man and the Wasp" or television shows such as "Legion," "Daredevil," "Punisher" or "Jessica Jones."
Must they have anything in common? That's not what matters, and the new garbage isn't written for longtime fans either. They're written solely to please the writers hired and their leftist politics. What should matter is that the stories entertain, plain and simple, yet that's not what they're doing. They're only being exploited for left-wing social justice propaganda, so blatant in tone it alienates even the leftists themselves, if they even read them at all. Regarding this year's SDCC, the article reveals yet another eyebrow raiser:
Curious fans of the screen heroes that manage to find a comic book store might not recognize the heroes they find in their namesake comics. (In the case of Netflix's "Luke Cage," the same character that merits his own television series wasn't popular enough to hold to his own monthly comic book.) At Comic-Con, the Marvel television shows will be packing fans in to panel presentations with stars, but they will be separate and unconnected to the panels for comics readers. (The cinematic Marvel stars and filmmakers will not attend this year's expo in San Diego at all, a testament to their secured spot as a commercial dynamo that no longer needs the promotional opportunities of Comic-Con.)
Are they so sure the movies don't need the convention? Personally, I see the sudden absence of the filmmakers as peculiar, because there's far more moviedom at the SDCC now, and you'd think it would serve their cause well for promotion. So it's a surprise that this year's convention may not even see the filmmakers this time. On the other hand, it may not be a surprise that a most unworthy commentator was quoted for this article:
It adds up to a frustrating disconnect, according to Heidi MacDonald, editor in chief of the Beat, a comics industry blog.

"With Marvel Comics, they're definitely down from where they were five years ago even as the movies have gotten huge," MacDonald said. "But over that time, they have also been No. 1 in the direct market for something like 99% of the time. So their point of view is, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

“The movies and, to a lesser extent, the television shows have made Marvel a household brand name and when you have a film that is tied closely to a specific storyline — like [the Fox film] 'Logan,' which was based on the graphic novel 'Old Man Logan' — there is definitely interest in that title. But when you see the brand power outside of comics the question people ask is 'Are they doing as much as they could with that?'"
So they turned to one of the Big Two's worst apologists, MacDonald, who has no business claiming Marvel's doing well despite the fact they're not really at all. The reality is that even today, there's quite a few stores who had to close not only because they weren't selling well anymore, but also because some of the products they stored were non-returnable. Couple that with the bad stories put out by the Big Two and you can understand why businesses are going under.
Few people in Hollywood have more history with comic books adaptations than Michael Uslan, who began writing comic books in the 1970s and used that expertise as an executive producer on Tim Burton's "Batman," the 1989 hit that launched a new generation of superhero movies. Uslan recalled recently that top Marvel Comics executives treated him to a lavish Manhattan meal after the movie stirred fan interest in all comics and gave Marvel a hefty spike in sales.

"That was the case for years, big superhero movies brought new fans to comics, but it's not the case now," Uslan said. "The biggest comic book movies now have little or zero impact on the comics sales. The movies aren't rescuing the comics; they're replacing them. So now I really worry about comics. Any entertainment medium that can't connect with new generations, doesn't it have one foot in the grave?"
Sadly, yes. But then, how come he didn't get more involved in comicdom than movies, and why didn't people like him voice similar visions to Bob Layton, that pamphlets have to be phased out in favor of paperbacks? In fact, why don't guys like him admit forced partisan politics are another factor in the decline? How does he think he'll be doing any better if he won't acknowledge the elephant in the room? The following definitely isn't reliable:
Uslan and most longtime observers agree that on paper, at least, the future of Marvel appears far smaller than its past but that's not a world view shared by Dan Buckley, the president of publishing for Marvel Entertainment and an industry veteran who responds to the chorus of doomsayers with a survivor's chuckle.

"I've been managing over the demise of the print comic book business since 1991," Buckley said. "That's all anyone has talked about — how this is going to end. I find it fascinating that there’s a certain cynicism built into the beast. I've been fighting against it for a really long time.”

The truth, he says, is that, “it's a pretty fabulous business to be in."
Well it figures he'd lie, because for ignoramuses like Buckley, anything that puts money into their own pockets in the present is great to work in, even if they have no respect for the material they're working with, mainly because being Disney property now provides them with room to exploit for their own selfish benefit. If he was really battling the perception, he would've taken a lot of the steps I'd advocated and made improvements in their talent and publication format approach. That he's never done it speaks volumes. Heck, how come he never even did anything about Joe Quesada's maltreatment of Mary Jane Watson?
There are few places where kids might even bump into one by accident — Marvel's monthly issues aren't sold at Target, Barnes & Noble or even 7-11, where, in recent weeks, you could have found Marvel's fan-favorite character Deadpool on every Slurpee machine in America but nowhere on the magazine rack. At movie theaters Fox's "Deadpool 2" is the biggest R-rated film of 2018 — but would his comics sell like popcorn if they were available in the lobby?
At $4, probably not. And like Layton said earlier, Disney doesn't publish comics based on their classic cartoon casts anymore either, and probably haven't since the mid-90s. They probably don't even reprint them in paperback, because the modern staff for Disney's proven just as bad with their own wares, and already screwed up the Star Wars franchise to boot with the Han Solo film. (Update: IDW does print some under license, however.)
DC Comics is challenging the status quo with a just-announced Wal-Mart partnership. The retail giant will sell four different 100-page monthly anthologies of comics stories (mixing reprints with some new and exclusive content) that will not be sold to comics shop. The move was met with complaints from the comics shop community and curious interest by rival publishers, making it a topic of high interest next week in San Diego.
I still think it's a short-term answer to a much bigger problem, and besides, what if some of the stories inside are reprints of recent atrocities, including what's turning out to be more bad Bendis garbage in Superman? If the audience thinks the stories are bad, the anthologies won't avail for long.
Technology has helped somewhat in the form of digital comics, but after a decade on the scene, the screen versions of comics have been a middling success at best and even there, again, the in-demand product is primarily tailored to the sensibilities of longtime collectors, not newbies.
Umm, if you won't give sales figures, then it hasn't helped at all. Though it does hint nobody found the stories any good.
When Marvel got into the digital game back in 2007, a reporter for The Times asked Buckley about the key challenge facing his company. "We don't have a natural lifestyle interaction point for kids anymore," he said. Reminded of the quote by the same reporter, Buckley admitted that not much has changed over the past decade. "I was right when I said that and, you know, I'd be right if I said it again."
And that's because they're not truly dedicated to entertainment and escapism first and foremost; they're dedicated to leftist politics. Isn't that incredible Buckley, after claiming it's a great place to work despite blacklisting even some liberal writers along with conservative counterparts, goes on to admit they're not doing very well at all. So what was his point? Somebody in the comments made a much better one:
I've been a comic book reader (mainly Marvel) from age 10 since the mid 70's. What I see as the biggest reason for the decline of comic book sales, especially with Marvel is the decline in hiring qualified professional writers who can tell compelling heroic stories. The quality of storytelling has become increasingly sub-standard, it almost reads like terrible fan-fiction. Diversity has never been a problem in super hero comics, but the forced political ideologies of leftist writers and lack of adventurous tales over the past decade has definitely contributed to lower sales.

It's not diversity or politics that have hurt Marvel's comic sales, rather it's the bad storytelling from many of their writers who spend way too much time on social media sprouting their leftist ideologies and inserting it into the books. Being explicitly rude to fans/customers online is not going to bring in sales. There is no social media policy to keep Marvel employees from embarrassing themselves and the company they represent.

Furthermore it has been the infestation of identity politics that has spoiled Marvel Comics. Stan Lee used to say in the 60's that the Marvel Universe was “the world outside your window" it used to be "fiction with a subtle message" but not always. The representation of the "world outside your window" regards ALL people of society, without bias and discrimination. Any political message was subtle with a fair and balanced perspective. Super-heroes should never be primarily defined by their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political ideology.

Those traits are secondary to character development which is severely lacking in many Marvel comics today, where heroes don't really face adversity or hardships, they're not really overcoming anything or being victorious. Instead you get a leftist political lecture. Marvel comic book stories used to be dramatic, action-packed, full of adventure, and fun. The super heroes were flawed human beings but through their trials and tribulations, readers were inspired and entertained. But not anymore, there are maybe a couple of good books produced by Marvel Comics these days, but I gladly now spend my surplus income on comic books from smaller better publishers producing quality products.

Marvel Comics today ham fists the reader with moral relativism, unwanted political ideologies, with stories and plot lines that go nowhere. The original founding super heroes have been cast aside and replaced with bland teenage legacy characters that are supposedly better and smarter. The writing is so bad that characters sound like they're from a Disney teen sitcom.

One has to ask the question why have DC Comics listened to fan concerns and as a result their sales are increasingly healthy in comparison.

Also this notion that (until fairly recent memory, the majority of comics creators were white men creating stories about super-powered white men) is a fallacy. Marvel Comics was progressive in the right way and had male and female writers and artists over the decades of different ethnicities.

In the mid 60's we saw the introduction of the Black Panther, Falcon in the late 60's. The early 70's with Misty Knight, Luke Cage and Brother Voodoo and the biggest introduction of all was the ALL NEW ALL DIFFERENT X-MEN which featured Storm and a cast of mutants gathered from all over the globe - very diverse indeed.
I will have to just dissent about DC supposedly listening to fan concerns, because if their hiring Bendis says something, they've never strayed far from their own leftist leanings either (not to mention social justice propaganda), and they can be pretty heavy-handed too when they want to be. (Let's not forget Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis from the mid-2000s.) Save for that, this comment is a lot more honest than anybody's comments in the article proper.

If comicdom - or the mainstream superhero genre - collapses, it'll be the fault of all these apologists who tiptoe around the meatier issues and refuse to admit ultra-leftism as seen today played a part in the demise of a once fine medium. And sadly, they won't admit their pathetic approach to the issues has to shoulder some blame.

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The iconic Disney characters are appearing regularly in comics, published by IDW.

I see, I'll try to edit that into the post, thanks. It does suggest though, that Disney inexplicably doesn't have what it takes to publish them under their own banners, which is odd.

IIUC, the Disney Studio had a unit producing comic strips from 1962 to 1990, but only for the European market. In the US, Disney usually outsourced the comic book publishing to other companies. Over the years, the comics with Disney's iconic characters (e.g., Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck) were published by Western/Gold Key/Whitman, Gladstone/Gemstone, and Boom.

Disney Studios tried publishing the comics themselves from 1990 to 1993. Evidently, that did not work out, and Disney went back to licensing them out.

From 2011 to 2015, no Disney comic books were published at all. Then IDW acquired the license, and have been publishing the "core four" Disney titles (Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, Mickey Mouse, and Walt Disney's Comics & Stories) for the past three years.

Layton's basic point is still valid, though: Disney and Time-Warner do not have to publish the comic books. They can maintain trademarks and copyrights by using their characters in other media (movies, TV, video games). And if they want to publish a comic magazine or a children's book as a promotional tie-in with the latest movie, they can make a licensing deal with IDW or some other publisher.

Pamphlet, Pamphlet, Pamphlet. Do you honestly have some sort of mental block that prevents you from saying, "comic book"?

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