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Monday, May 27, 2019 

What store managers say about where the medium's going despite the movies

The York Daily Record spoke a few weeks ago with comic store owners about whether the Marvel movies like the Avengers have had any positive effect in the past decade since they really got going with the Iron Man movies one of the biggest starting points:
“I think the bubble is only getting bigger. They're only making more movies and TV shows," said Jeff Mathison co-owner of 4th Wall Comics in Lancaster.

In 2017, comic books topped $1 billion in total sales, according to reports from Comic Chronicles and ICV2. Those figures are miles away from the '90s when the comic book industry was on life support with sales dropping by 25 percent between 1993 to 1995.

Yet, while superhero movies rake in billions at the box office, the comic book industry suffered a $70 million loss between 2016 to 2017.

"There's a lot of tricks publishers do to pump up the numbers," said Zane Zerman of AA Comics & Cards in Lebanon.

The data compiled from Comic Chronicles and ICV2 is based on the total amount of comics and graphic novels purchased by retailers, it doesn't account for direct consumer sales.

"Just because a publisher distributed it, doesn't mean [direct] sales," Zerman said.

At face value, one might believe the popularity of superhero films would directly translate to more comic book sales. For some local shop owners, that's not the case.

"Comic book sales have been going down," said Rob Barem, co-owner of Comix Universe in Hanover.
And that's why sooner or later, the bubble will burst. Story quality's taken a huge plunge in the past few years, and when it's that bad, it won't recover so easily.
"We don't see much happening in terms of customers coming in because of movies," Barem said.

Barem said his store has seen a decline in sales recently. But he puts the onus on publishers, not an over saturation of movie and TV shows. Barem blames an increase in multi-issue crossovers that span dozens of comics and the continuous re-starting of character series for the lack of interest.

"It makes customers feel like the series isn't important," Barem said.
This is accurate, but I hope they realize bad storytelling and art also contribute to the downfall of comicdom and sales. If that's not cited as one of the major factors in the coming collapse, how does anyone expect sales to improve in future marketing?
"I've got mixed feelings," said Mathison. "A lot of people see the movie and don't buy the comics. I don't know if it directly helps the comic book industry."

Comic books — like most literature — often differ drastically in comparison to their big screen counterparts. For some regional shops this difference often leads to a visitor, not a customer.

While Mathison has noticed an increase in foot traffic thanks to the MCU, he has also noticed movie-going fans tend to research a particular comic or series online rather than purchasing a hard copy.

"They never read the story, they just know the facts,"
he said.
In other words, they don't love the medium at all, and they're not going to see the movies because they do, if all they're interested in is superficial data.

Another store manager who took a positive view said:
Senft credits the change in publishers shifting away from catering to collectors. In the '90s and early 2000s there was an abundance of variant covers — many of which would sit on shelves or in boxes — and now he believes comics are being marketed more towards readers than collectors.

"If you're not reading it, why are you collecting it,"
Senft said.
I can't understand why he's acting as though the practice isn't still dominant today, when there's still variant covers to some degree, and even Archie's made use of them at times, and some of the most talented artists have taken the ill-advised route of becoming variant cover artists at the expense of the more challenging interior assignments. I think Alterna is one publisher who aren't relying on such a cheap ploy, but there's still some small outfits who're doing it, along with Marvel, and possibly DC too.

And if story merit is poor, that's one more reason why you can't say the books are marketed more towards readers now. Certainly not Marvel/DC's books. At least the guy's got a good idea to criticize anybody who'd buy only to collect, and never for the entertainment value. If I were one of the classic creators and learned people were only buying my creations for the sake of money value, I'd be outraged. These collectors have only slighted tons of decent, hard-working people in the past who wanted to entertain the audience, and instead, they buy all this stuff just in hopes it'll become valuable for money.

Evidently, some store owners are waking up and acknowledging why comics are failing. But they're not telling enough, and they'd do a lot better to show the courage to pan the higher echelons who've brought everyone to the situation we're at today.

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" If I were one of the classic creators and learned people were only buying my creations for the sake of money value, I'd be outraged. These collectors have only slighted tons of decent, hard-working people in the past who wanted to entertain the audience, and instead, they buy all this stuff just in hopes it'll become valuable for money"

Although, as Stan Lee used to say, 'we don't care if you buy it for the staples!'

" some of the most talented artists have taken the ill-advised route of becoming variant cover artists at the expense of the more challenging interior assignments"
The more challenging interiors probably pay a lot less than they did in the 1990s which why you see very little work from the most popular and talented artists in the comics industry. The diversity push is an attempt to hide the fact that no comic company can afford to hire decent talent on a large scale anymore. It is understood that the diversity hires will work for less wages--mostly, because many of the ones being hired aren't very good. However, many of the diversity hires have a social media following, which the suits assume means an audience for that artist's mediocre work.

Rates more likely have gone up; artists are doing less pages because they can get more per page. Neal Adams, who avoided regular comics work for a long time, has recently done work revisiting all his old characters from the 60s and 70s (Deadman, X-Men, Batman, Superman). He doesn't come cheap. Sergio Aragones, Matt Wagner, Stan Sakai, Erik Larsen, Mike Mignola, are fan faves still doing work in the medium. There is a generation gap, though; young editors want to work with artists their own age, ones who don’t look like their grandparents.

The art at Marvel and DC in the 1990s was gawd offal. Herb Trimpe for example, a talented artist, was deliberately trying to dumb his work down so that it looked like Jim Lee, far less talented than he was; it was a real turnoff. People who knew anatomy tried to pretend they didn’t so that they could get work. And the medium almost collapsed as stores were flooded with product noone would buy and Marvel went bankrupt and the comics of that time are selling in bargain bins now at five for a dollar.The artists now are way better than that overall. Lots of bad ones still, but the good ones are good.

Hiring diversity people because they work cheap? That was more true in the 1940s, when they hired a lot of teen-age kids of Jewish and Italian immigrants, or in the 1970s, when they went abroad to hire Filipino and Hispanic artists because they were worried the local people might go on strike for benefits, than it is now.


"The art at Marvel and DC in the 1990s was gawd offal". No, it was much better than the diversity hirese they're hiring now. At least Jim Lee knew how to lay out a comic page in a way that engaged a reader. The 1990s was the last time Sergio Aragones, Matt Wagner and Sergio Aragones regularly produced work in the Direct Market.Erik Larsen are still around. Erik writes and draws a comic that makes no profit. Mike Mignola supervises the comic work and barely spends any time writing or drawing anymore.

"Rates more likely have gone up" That's called pricing oneself out of the market. I don't think it's a case of older white men being greedy. There may be other factors at play. John Romita Jr. and Mark Bagley still pump out work--of course, they're very quick. Now, come to think of it, so is Erik Larsen. Maybe rates have gone down...and that's pushed artists who work at an average pace out of the industry.

"people who knew anatomy tried to pretend they didn’t so that they could get work. "
Most creators in comics, young and old, today are not really good at writing so this gripe is really moot. People who rely on extensive reference really turn in the most boring pages that don't please anyone but people who demand everything to be as realistic as possible and are embarrassed about reading comics as adults.(the critics= academia, sjws) ERICA HENDERSON is not a good artist because her work is feminist. Davis Hunt and Jamal Campbell are not producing better work than Jim Lee because their work is stiff and timid.
The big thing in the 1990s was that the most popular comics were aimed at teenage boys. Everyone who despises the art from then always reveal themselves to be male feminists people who were disgusted by "the male gaze" and any expression of masculinity.

They also fail to mention many other creators were producing very good work by then and had an audience because they haven't read any comics from that period. After some prodding they will admit they were lapsed readers who hadn't read comics since the end of the 1980s, or reintroduced to them by their college professors in the 1990s.

Don't ever bring up the subject of art quality again. Rob Liefeld had a much bigger audience than all the Tumblr artists who the industry hired put together. The artist of the most "important" graphic novel ever, Maus, is self-admittedly, a lousy artist.

Artists who study anatomy don't necessarily rely on stiff photographic photo reference. If you know how the human body fits together and moves, you can draw it or exaggerate it so it looks alive. John Buscema sometimes used models for his drawings, when Marvel could afford the perk to keep him happy; Alex Raymond used models. Gene Colan and Al Williamson took photos of various poses for use as reference; nobody ever accused them of being stiff or timid. Joe Kubert regularly went to life drawing classes and wrote about the importance of this to an artist. Comic superheros are about the human body in motion. You need to be able to draw the human body.

Artists like Rob Liefeld either don't know what women look like or don't care. That is not macho or sexy or an expression of masculinity; that is incel. Their women look like men in drag with implants and their men look like emasculated monsters.

Art Spiegelman's work was not anatomically perfect; but it is good art. It tells his story well and carries feeling and emotion. As he explained, (according to Michael Levine's Blatant Witness book) " “In making Maus, I found myself drawing every panel, every figure, over and over – obsessively – so as to pare it down to an essence, as if each panel was an attempt to invent a new word, rough-hewn but stream-lined.” That is not the work process of a lousy artist. There are other good artists with that kind of look, like Marjane Satrapi or, more crudely, Sylvie Rancourt.

Sergio Aragones is not working in the trenches every month, but he publishes several books a year. Matt Wagner just finished the third Mage series.

But then, if you judge art according to ideology rather than artistic skill, ("ERICA HENDERSON is not a good artist because her work is feminist."!!), you are really depriving yourself of any understanding of art or any enjoyment of the medium, and living a dull life in the process.

Readers don't care if an artist's anatomy is perfect. They either like it or they don't. That said, the style and content of Rob and Art's work is completely different.

Rob Liefeld's work resonated with teenage boys.

Art Spiegelman's work reasonates with intellectuals from academia who like contemporary art--which embraces "crude" i.e. bad art as long as it's "intentional".

It's weird that you insist on comparing aritsts who made work for very different audiences. I mean, they used to make work for different audiences. I forgot, the entire comics industry's market is academia, now.

"that is incel" You really are an industry insider. This is the go-to insult

(ps, insult aren't arugments. )

when anyone criticizes the The Art Spiegleman(s) of comics. Oh, if you don't enjoy this intellectual and political art, it's because you're an angry white man who can get laid! It's really important that we consider the social impact of Wolverine's whiteness and maleness as they denote a hostility to women and minorities..."

These are the same people who are think superheroes are fascist because their physiques are ideal or unattainable (stylized) and they need to be drawn so they look more like the average unathletic person.

The Liefeld-clone artists were reflecting the changing body style of the 90s. Gays were being ravaged by the gay plague, and no one wanted to look like they had AIDS, so Bowie was out and gym bodies were in. Sports stars were turning steroids from an art into a science; if you weren't on the steroids you were letting down the team. Massive muscles and tiny testicles were the new norm. That was what Liefeld was drawing on and exaggerating. He wasn't drawing on what 16 year olds somehow naturally liked; 16 year olds hadn't liked that before and didn't like it after. He was drawing on what gay guys were going for and what the sports teams and the products of the Russian athlete factories were looking like, and doing crazy super-versions of them. It was a fad for a while because it reflected the body look of the time.

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