The Future Is Now!

There’s an interesting article by Valerie D’Orazio about how the digital revolution will happen in the comix industry, but it has big flaw, it forgets that the revolution already happened. What she predicts for the 12 months of change, is happening now. It’s true that comix in digital formats aren’t the rule, but they are very commom. Please do not mistake digalt formats with webcomics, one thing is the comix published online; and other is the download of pdf version of comics and other the comix for mobile devices like the iPhone.

To clarify my point let just give a few exemples:

  • Zuda, Act-i-vate and Girlamatic – are sites that publish webcomics, there’s also many that aren’t published without a group umbrella, for more compreensive list go to Fleen, he has links for more than a dozen of those.
  • Wowio is the most popular example of comics that are downlodable, it was free downloads in the begining but today there are the majority are paid downloads, with some oferring the option of free online reading.
  •  iVerse  Media is one of the companies that is repackaging comics to be read on mobile phones, and that’s a business that follows the iTunes business plan, it isn’t accident that the iPhone is the mobile device of choice to mobile comics.

3 diferent formats, 3 diferents businnes plans, 3 diferent sources of revenue.

This is the present, but not the present that Valerie is worried about, because the post is really about Marvel and DC and in special about their super-heroes, wich she takes as the whole comix industry.

The funny thing is, if the industry made it a point to cater to the mass audience, and not just a niche, many of the niche readers would probably read the comics anyway. But in order for this all to happen, there needs to be management in place who not only have the balls to refocus on the wider audience, but actually knows how to get that wider audience.

This is about Marvel and DC super-heroes, not the comics industry because there are many comix being published that don’t belong in that niche that she mentions, actually, the majority of the books published in the DM aren’t about super-heroes, although the bulk of sales is generated by that niche.

What Valerie is worried is with that niche, that she clearly identifies, but assumes as the whole.  So she expects that we’ll have:

  • Even more “niche” and exclusive pay-for-paper monthly content, for the hardcore. Don’t look for the great strides in true “mainstreaming” in this department.

Hey! this is what DC and Marvel are about in the DM, that is the reason for all the big events, to cater to the hardcore fans.

  • Higher-priced pay-for-paper monthly content.

This is what has been hapenning with montlhy comics for the last year, and $3.99 comics is only news for those who only buy super-heroes, and even those…. 

  • Cheaper digests/collected editions of children’s content, though the monthlies will still be pricey.

This is what Marvel and DC do with their kids lines, the rest of the DM isn’t publishing many comics for kids, and those that publish them (in particular manga publishers) have switched of business model long ago. 

  • A sudden and sharp turn to showcasing first-run “true mainstream” content online. There will be multimedia components to some of this content, as well as a focus on movie/TV/video-game spin-offs & synergy.

Hard to understand this part, specially because I can’t fandom what she considers mainstream, because the most sucefull TPB/GN of the lasts years where Sin City, 300 and Watchmen that used that sinergy of multimedia tie-in.

Them she goes in a clear attack to Marvel and DC:

They came of age in the Silver Age, got into power in the Bronze Age, and decided to just reproduce obsessively the entertainment of their childhood (instead of coming up with unique concepts). Then some awkward fanboys who came of age in the Bronze Age — raised on this regurgitated Silver Age bullshit — got a boner for that regurgitated Silver Age bullshit and decided to turn it into third- and fourth-generation regurgitated Silver Age bullshit.

She is right, that is what they do, that is what they’ll continue to do, and that is what their reader want, just look at the sales of the “fourth-generation regurgitated Silver Age bullshit”. It’s  that bullshit that dominates the sales charts of the montlhy comics, and it isn’t by lack of alternative or diversity material in the market. Jizus! Even but DC there’s a lot of comics that aren’t super-heroes, but Jonah Hex or the Vertigo titles don’t sell half of that “fourth-generation regurgitated Silver Age bullshit”.

If you don’t like it don’t buy it, there’s a lot of diversity in comics, beyhond Marvel and DC’s super- heroes, there’s Vertigo, Dark Horse, Image, IDW, Avatar, Oni, Fantagriphcs and so many other publishers of non-fourth-generation regurgitated Silver Age bullshit.

Just grow-up! Stop complaining! Stop buying the “fourth-generation regurgitated Silver Age bullshit”, and buy and read the quality material published outsided of that niche. And don’t worry with the diversity of on-line comics, to start, take a looke a Act-I-Vate, Zuda Girlamatic, and Modern Tales and you have a glimpse of what is the diversity of webcomics.

This is nothing personal against Valerie, it’s just the reaction that I have to the usual fanboy/fangirl complaints.

Then there’s something she got totally wrong:

As a person who knows all this is going to happen – and happen damn fast too – I’m sitting here asking myself the question: what will be the most vital comic news and material to focus on? Not just in the short-term, but in terms of the new comics economy.

The mix has to include:

  • a focus on trades & graphic novels
    comics for children
  • pop-culture related topics like movies/TV/video games/etc

That’s what CBR, Newsarama and so on offer, but they are focused on the “”fourth-generation regurgitated Silver Age bullshit”, focused in the hype mode that the DM works, where all the news that matter are about what is going to happen 2 month or more later. Is the 6 month of news about the next big event that will happen, the speculation that that is then fed by the blogs, where the complains about said events apear.

The information is already there, but buried under the hype machines of Marvel, DC, like much of other pubisher new about other works; comics; TPB and OGN. Even the news about a Vertigo OGN get’s burried under that noise.

There isn’t a lack of sites,  there a lack o sites with is select news, selected reviews. A site that covers everything will always be flood by the news of those who publish more, in special those who published the regurgitated Silver Age bullshit. There is a lack of sites about the rest of the material, about the rest of the industry.  What lack is a news site that filters the noise, that understands the diference between reviewing a monthly comic, a graphic novel/TPB and a webcomic.

A site that isn’t after the quick hit of the faux-mainstream. But that is hard to find, because the majority of the those who cover the industry came from the time of the when comics where only published in monthly instalements. Something that only started to change some 10 years ago. TPB and GN are common today, but I still remembre when 10 years ago Warren Ellis (and others) was talking about the lack of collected editions of many relevant works.  Webcomics have been around for even less time, so like everything new, you can only find extensive coverage of them in niche sites, of niche that the comix market is.

In the space of 5/10 years there will be a merge of the 2 worlds, when more bloggers, journalists, critics and authors come from that finge of industry.

Until then, digital publication is steal looked up like something that will happen, but not now. In a interesting comment from Dick Deppney about the future predicted by Valerie, he also misses the obvious.

Instead, I think that as better e-readers become available, other publishers will blaze the trail, and it’ll only be after they create proven revenue streams that the New York City corporate-comics industry will begin moving in. Even then, they’d be smart to use their existing talent pool to create new, non-superhero genre comics for the initial entries into the online world. Mustn’t kill the goose laying all those golden eggs, after all.

This is only futorology in the case of the e-reader (that if works with pds, well there are already many titles in that format), but already is happening in a small degree with the mobile device edition, and online.

Dick Deppey is right in the way that the Big Publisher will act, because they are already doing it. It is what is happenning with a small diference. Marvel is using their talent pool to create new, orignal content for the web using their proprieties, while DC is using a new talent pool to create “non-superhero genre comics for the initial entries into the online world“. 

This is the present. What Dick and Valerie are foretelling as the future is past and present.

Tomorrow like today there will be comics serielized in paper instalements, comics serilezed in the web, comics to be downloaded for mobile devices and  pc.

The “fourth-generation regurgitated Silver Age bullshit” will continue to be published while there is people willing to pay for it, but comics are already much more than that.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow, there will continue to be a lot of work from wich to choose, because the days Marvel and DC where the only game in town, are gone. The days when the only way to publish a comic was in the monthly format in a work-for-hire contract, are gone.

To make money with creator-owned comics, be it print or in the web, is dificult, but no impossible an many are already doing it. Which is one of the reason why Marvel and DC are all about the same old characters, every author that goes to work for them, is there to play with those toys. If there some new character that they create, it will be to do as creator owned, or with a similar deal that will be creatively more challengeling, and can be, money wise, more rewarding.

Besides that, Superman, Spiderman and friends, are characters of a never ending story, where change is never permanent, and everything goes back to the status quo. Just like a Disney cartoon or a Simpsons episode. That how things work in those worlds. Want something diferent look elsewhere, there much diversity outside those worlds in print and online.


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