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Thursday, January 29, 2015 

Vox sugarcoats the 90s again

While writing about why they think people can't resist Image offerings today, Vox has once again taken the easy route writing about mainstream comics of the 1990s, and independents. First, here's what they say about Image themselves:
The company began in 1992, when a band of very popular Marvel artists like Jim Lee (now the publisher at DC) and Todd MacFarlane dreamed it up. Image was founded on the idea that creators owned their work and consisted of six studios (led by each of the founders). Image rode the popularity of titles like Spawn and Savage Dragon to nearly 15 percent of the market share in 1993.

"With the departure of Jim Lee's Wildstorm studio, purchased by DC in the late 1990s, its market share retreated to the single digits," Miller explained, bringing into context what Stephenson referred to as "not a great period for the company."
How come they don't note the effect of the speculator market, which brought down values and sales? Image was no exception, and they did variant covers and other stunts not unlike the Big Two's, so how is it not possible that had a long term effect of failure on them? Then, when they talk about how the audience changed, they say:
...things are changing slowly. Comics are as accessible as ever. Trips to the comic book shop, like trips to the record store, are no longer needed. Comic shop gatekeepers are an endangered species as downloading comic books every Wednesday is no more complicated or intimidating than online shopping. And digital comic book sales at companies like Comixology have grown exponentially year after year.
Except they don't specify which titles are being downloaded, and whether they're independent or mainstream. In fact, they don't tell whether they're older or newer products being bought.
With each wildly popular Avengers movie, Groot toy, or Batman debate, the stigma of comic books being for the nerdy is slowly fading away. Comic books are mainstream. And you can see that in the heroes readers are consuming.

Back in the '90s, the X-Men comic books were the top-selling books month after month, year after year. The X-Men were portrayed as outsiders and outcasts. For the last decade or so, Batman has become the go-to comic book. Of course, Batman/Bruce Wayne is depicted as a very rich, powerful, handsome, and ideal man (despite George Clooney's best efforts).
I'm sorry, but the stigma hasn't disappeared so easily. Movie adaptations and merchandise are mainstream. Comics are not, and the dearth of sales in major bookstores does nothing to dispel it. It's true some independent comics like Walking Dead have been rising up the ranks, but even their sales aren't spectacular.

They don't even acknowledge how X-Men sales diminished during the 90s, and after Grant Morrison came aboard, that's when they began to dip below 100,000 sales units. Nor do they note how X-Men was one of various franchises that wound up being marketed based on popularity rank and iconism, not story value, which Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza provided little or none of. Even X-Men became a victim of the speculator market, when stacks of premiere issues for the sans-adjective spinoff from 1991 gathered dust at many stores long after going to press. Their take on how artists and writers function is no better:
And on Twitter, writers and artists have followers in tens of thousands range. Their fans will follow them everywhere. Accordingly, companies like Marvel and DC ink many of these talents to exclusive contracts, meaning no writing for the competition.

But Marvel and DC primarily care about each other. And that means writers are allowed to create and write their own comics.

This is how Image thrives.
Image, maybe, but Marvel and DC? What a joke. They've long become gated communities where "creativity" is reserved only for overrated embarrassments like Brian Bendis. And the problems with followings for some of the creators is that a lot of these fans don't seem to take an objective view of the creators they're following, meaning that they'll read their stuff while predisposed to liking it, and continuing to buy a sour story even when they don't. That was the case with Morrison in years past, ditto J. Michael Strazcynski.

So Vox is still deep in a box, unable to take a meatier view of the medium. They say the insanity in some of Image's products are why people can't put them down. But what if they can? I'm sure some could put down the 9-11 Truther comic they once published, if they even buy it at all. Besides, Image's sales today are no better than what they had in the 90s, and probably sell worse.

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The medium is the message, and when the medium is comic books, the message is either, "This is for kids," or "This is for nerds." (Or both.) The stigma is still there. The general public still tends to think of comic book fans as weirdo Sheldon Cooper types.

A lot of people will go see the latest Batman or Iron Man movie, but would not be caught dead reading the comic that the movie was based on. That's why the boom in superhero movies has not been matched by an increase in comic book sales.

In fact, the last time a movie or TV adaptation really affected comic book sales was in 1966, during the Batman fad. And sales dropped back down when the fad passed.

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