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Sunday, July 22, 2018 

Does Wired magazine have an inferiority complex disqualifying them from commenting on the industry's health?

Wired wrote a pretty biased item about the state of comicdom today, asking if comics culture has inferiority complexes, and it's predictably biased against fandom, to say nothing of wearing rose-colored lens:
Here's the truth: Comic book publishing—yes, just the business of selling printed comics—is a billion-dollar industry. This month, 1,194 new comic books and 391 new graphic novels and collections will hit shelves. That's a lot of titles for a single month, and those aren't uncommon numbers. Comics are everywhere; even your grandma knows who Thanos is. If anything, comics are a bigger deal now than they've ever been.
Sigh. No, they're not "everywhere". At least, not as monthly pamphlets, and stores have been closing because of poor conduct within the medium.
And yet, many people who care about comics seem to live in perpetual fear of the industry's demise.

No matter how many metrics and how much anecdotal evidence shows that things are looking up, there's a persistent undercurrent in comics fandom that seems to want things to go down. Every new storyline is lambasted. ("It's just a gimmick!") Every new publishing initiative is criticized. ("You're disrespecting the real fans!") Every single store closing is met with a strange schadenfreude. ("See? I told you it was all going to hell!") And it's been this way for years.
Does that mean it's impossible for the industry to collapse? Realistically, it's not impossible, just as it wasn't impossible for story merit to collapse as it did. Besides, most smaller publishers, unlike Marvel and DC, don't get the exact kind of criticism they do. What concerns fandom is abuse of the superheroes by the corporations who own them. And to say stores closing isn't a big deal is also dismaying. 50-plus stores closing in a whole year tells quite a bit about how badly the medium is going now.

And, here's where the article really begins to fall apart:
To quote a well-known comic villain, why so serious? And more to the point, why so sad? Does comics have an inferiority complex?

"We shouldn't, but sometimes I fear we do," says Joe Quesada, chief creative officer for Marvel Comics. "This kind of doom-and-gloom thinking started with Dr. Fredric Wertham [and his 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent], which then trickled down into American society in general. For decades, comics were labeled a dumbed-down kids medium. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth."
No kidding, because Quesada couldn't be any further himself. He was one of the early proponents of censorship in the early 2000s after he banned depictions of smoking cigarettes in a lot of Marvel's comics, and he may have extended some of that censorship to reprints of 70s horror thrillers they published as well featuring nudity. He even objected to the idea of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy having sex, implied or otherwise, yet he had no qualms about Ultimate Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver being an incestuous pair of siblings in the Ultimates? It's hypocritical of him to complain about Wertham when he was more or less a precursor to Axel Alonso's own censorship and SJW pandering of recent.
Back in the 1950s, Wertham's book caused a panic over comics. Parents freaked out that the books were warping children's minds. Eventually publishers, fearing the worst, formed the Comics Code Authority, which for years regulated anything even remotely edgy to within an inch of its life. The industry took a big hit, creatively and financially, and ever since worries persist that the business isn't bulletproof. Fans stress that comics are struggling, an (untrue) notion that leads people to believe their beloved medium is shifting focus to save itself, being coopted by Hollywood, or just not what it used to be.
Well today it's the leftists who're freaking out, often selectively, whether over female sexuality or even conservative viewpoints, which are almost entirely banned in today's medium. Even positive views towards America are almost wholly taboo in Captain America, if the hiring of Ta-Nehisi Coates says anything.
A lot of these apocryphal narratives stem from perceptions of Comic-Con International, which starts this week in San Diego. Generally considered a snapshot of the industry as a whole, it's increasingly become a festival of pop culture—not comics. Tenderfoots, who call it Comic-Con, show up looking to grab the latest Mattel toy. Hardcores, who go to multiple small-c cons each year, call it "San Diego." The former group seems to grow every year, while the latter becomes harder to find.

One of those hardcores is Bud Plant, an exhibitor who was at the very first San Diego con and who has managed a booth on the main convention floor for 48 years running. Now, Plant has pulled up stakes, saying that while more and more people go to the con, fewer and fewer are buying his books.

"Expenses kept going up, and the revenue kept going down," Plant says. "I used to be one of the main exhibitors, before Marvel, DC, and all the movie companies started setting up giant booths. Now I've become a tiny player. Unfortunately, the people who are putting on the show don't seem to be too worried about keeping people like me."

Many in the Little Village of comics, Quesada included, were saddened and shocked to hear that Plant wouldn't be back this year. Nor is he the only one to let the con go; Mile High Comics pulled out last year after nearly five decades on the show floor.
I honestly doubt Quesada's "sad" the Comicon's lost dealers attending, considering he's one of the biggest SJWs of all, and since he relinquished his role as Marvel's EIC to Axel Alonso, he's been able to maintain his influence from the shadows, which has all but allowed him to get away with a lot of the worst steps he took. And he never did anything on his part to shed the pamphlet approach to publishing comics, so he's certainly no innovator.
But the handwringing around those departures is in many ways a funhouse mirror reflection of what's actually going on in comics shops, where books of all varieties are gobbled up as soon as they hit the shelves on Wednesdays. "The fact that fans may occasionally say, 'This is the death of Marvel! This is the death of DC! Not another crossover! This is the worst thing ever!' I've been hearing that as long as I've been in comics," says Quesada. "It's part of fandom, and believe it or not, I think it's part of the fun of fandom. It's a fandom built on conflict."
I think that's an open signal he still upholds company wide crossovers too, and they all but ignore the closure of dozens of stores over the past year or so. What he refuses to admit is that their stories have become so poor, right down the universe-wide crossovers, that people have finally had enough, and depending on the merit, readers are turning more to smaller publishers with creator-owned books to offer. But it's no surprise he'll keep whistling in the dark, as he's done it for years, and practically forced that very darkness upon the products he sadly got his mitts on.

They quote a store owner who says:
"If you look at what happened with videogame fandom, Star Wars fandom, you can apply the same to comic books," Higgins says. "There are fights within the community that boil down to 'There's only one right way.' People don't seem to realize that there need to be many different styles, different groups of people all working together. Different groups within fandom just can't see how other people could think they're right."
I don't think there's only one right way, but I do think that when you forcibly shove elements like heavy-handed darkness and politics into the stories at the full expense of entertainment and escapism, you in effect ruin everything. It should also be noted that video game companies that took up politicized maneuvers in the past few years, all because they wanted to appease Anita Sarkeesian's bunch, have been suffering in sales and reputations as they made themselves look jelly-spined, and it's a similar story already with Star Wars.

And I do think the so-called Spider-fans who say Mary Jane Watson is unfit for Peter Parker simply because she worked as a model/actress, and even think Peter has to remain firmly a pauper, are ruining everything because they're either unable and unwilling to appreciate surrealism and overlook what they think is farfetched to enjoy the entertainment value, or, they won't respect that Peter's saga can reflect realism in the sense that there are people who learn how to overcome potential poverty to become more successful. Why, Stan Lee's late wife Joan Lee was a model, so you could say that the developments in Spider-Man in the past reflected elements from his own life. Which suggests these aren't really Spider-fans who lambasted the directions over petty issues. You'd think they believed Stan was allowed to choose his soul mate, but was not allowed to apply similar ideas to his own fictional creations. Except that, seeing how rotten they all actually were towards Stan all these years, it's clear they don't like any of the successes in his life and career.

Here's another part where the article becomes troubling:
Comics writer Joshua Dysart is jazzed about what he sees. "I think we're heading into this massive content gold rush," he says. "We're seeing comics like Infidel, an Islamic horror story, being optioned for six figures. We just need the big companies, when they're releasing a comic book movie that doesn't fit the mold of a comic book movie, to tell the world that it is. I mean, no one knows that A History of Violence was a comic book first. Ghost World—no one equates that with a 'comic book movie.'"
Oh, so he thinks apparent Islamic propaganda is such a big deal, does he? And all because, at least according to him, there's movie deals in the cards. But if that's all comics have come to stand for, then it only demonstrates why they're failing.
Quesada thinks the industry is at a creative high point as well. "I've been working as a comic professional since 1990, and even then people were already talking about the wide variety of comics being sold," he says. "Now it's way wider. The direct market is a boon to creativity. It allows someone with the right idea and a great story to find an audience. And the ability to publish for newcomers is easier than it's ever been. Printing costs are much lower. You can crowdfund your book. There's no excuse."
He's right about one thing: there's no excuse...for desecrating mainstream superhero products at the expense of what they were created for, and fandom. He doesn't belong at the Big Two, and it's time for him to retire already. The industry may be at creative highs, but not if they make leftism the only direction you can take, politically or otherwise. Marvel and DC haven't been very creative for a long time.
And the audience for those books exists. Former readers are replaced by new ones. Yes, stores go out of business, but they too are replaced by new ones. According to Diamond Comic Distributors, which distributes comics for most of the industry's heavyweights, the number of stores with active monthly accounts has increased slightly for three years in a row. And that doesn't take into account the fact that fans can now access comics on an array of digital platforms.
The query is: are the replacements enough? I notice again, they've failed to provide even that kind of sales figure. So how do we know this is true? They don't give names of stores, I don't see what they're getting at.

This article is just another example of countless apologists who won't question artistic merit employed these days, nor whether it played any part in bringing down the reputation of a once fine medium.

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