The WonderCon 2008 Podcast Panel featured personalities from the podcasts “iFanboy”, “Around Comics”, “Comic Geek Speak”, and “I Read Comics” discussing the state of comics podcasting and comics in general.
One of the highlights was when the moderator asked the panelists what they thought were the most encouraging trends in comics today. Here are their answers, (along with my comments in italics):
1) “More Collected Editions.” Brian Deemer (Comic Geek Speak)
“Books in bookstores, because they reach a much huger audience than the comic book stores ever will. Original graphic novels, cheap trade paperbacks, all of that stuff is very, very, important. I think that’s the future of comics. I think the floppies’ days are numbered. It’s all going to be books in a bookstore.”
Ron Richards (iFanboy): “I love single issues, but we look at success by the number of comics sold on single issues in the top 300, but we don’t see any reporting on how many Amazon is selling or how many Barnes & Noble is selling or how many borders is selling and that’s going to be the real key.”
HP – If the floppies do disappear, this would be a major shift in the financial model of comic book companies… and it would shut down all the “mom & pop” comic book stores. It would make it harder on publishers because it would be more money up front to pay the creators for 144 pages instead of just 22.
And you would reduce two financial models into one – these companies make money twice from the same story – once from the floppies, then again from the collected editions. If this shifts, it’d be like television shows being released straight to DVD in entire seasons. You find that many readers buy the same story twice, much like television viewers will watch it on TV and then buy the DVD.
Most companies offer original graphic novels (OGNs) already, that is, they aren’t collected single comics, but a story meant to be printed all together… Except for (as far as I know) the big two (Marvel & DC). Some companies, like TokyoPop release only OGNs and their sales are through the roof.
I’m not sure this shift will ever take place, but it could be heading that way. I suppose it all depends on if the chain bookstores are ready to embrace the floppies. History has shown they aren’t. It’s a very small profit margin for a large amount of in-and-out inventory and floor space.
2. “The best trend in the past 5 years is the return to quality.” Ron Richards (iFanboy):
“You can put as much as you want out there, but if it’s crap, no one is going to buy it. You can have 17 “X” titles and if only one of them is worth reading, then the whole line is not worth anything. It’s got to be really good creators writing, drawing, & making good comics.”
HP – This, of course, is everything. There are some great comic books out there. And there is some crap out there. I wish that comic readers would be harsher with their purchases. Many readers will buy a book just because of the character or to have a complete set, even if the story sucks. This creates a model where publishers can put out any so-so story and readers will buy it. Money talks and if readers stop buying crappy books, then publishers will stop making them. I find that the more willing you are to explore smaller publishers, Top Shelf, Oni, Image, TokyoPop, the better stories you’ll find.
3. “Borders is doing the comic book store inside a store, folks, that’s the future.” Christopher Neseman (Around Comics)
“The Local Comic Book Store’s I love them, I go every week, but that business does not have a real bright future to it. It comes down to foot traffic. Plain and simple. The internet is cutting into that. Other entertainment forms is cutting into it. The bookstores are really looking like they will be the future of mass market sequential art. I firmly believe that’s where it’s going. And that’s a good thing.”
Ron Richards (iFanboy): “We all just lived through the music revolution of the late 90’s to early 00’s and it’s going to be the same thing. You’re going to see the mom & pop stores go under, unfortunately, which I hate because there’s stores like Isotope here in San Francisco, Meltdown in L.A., Rocketship in Brooklyn, that are just awesome stores , but as soon as the big boxes get involved you’re going to see the small stores go and you’ll see the internet cut in.”
HP – I’ve talked about this on numerous occasions and I completely agree. It is time that comics moved past the geeky little subculture it is and become a media in the forefront. The main reason I got into writing this blog is for this very reason. I want to see the comics I love be loved by millions. In order to break past that stereotypical subculture (whether it lives up to that stereotype or not) the industry needs to prominately settle itself where the majority of people already are – the chain bookstores.
4. “Digital Comics.” Ron Richards (iFanboy)
“I know the digital comics thing is a hot topic and we don’t know how that will play out but you can’t avoid that. The moment someone figures out how to read a cood comic on the iPhone, you’re going to watch it explode”
HP – This is a big “wait and see.” I personally can’t imagine reading comics on an iPhone, or Kindle or any device. But if the quality grows and the size, it may be a very natural transition. I’m excited about those that are experimenting with this. It will be fun to follow.
5. “There’s a lot more diversity in the comics you’re reading.” Josh Flannigan (iFanboy)
“Most comics are still superhero comics, but there’s stories about other things than super heroes. Y: The Last Man was a huge book, and having stories like that and having places like Vertigo and Oni and Image. They’re doing all sort of different things. I love that there are books that you can give to people or recommend to people that can challenge all the expectations of what it is. “Read this comic book.” “Well I don’t like superheroes.” This is a story, it moves you like any movie or any book you’ve ever read. I think that when you wanna talk about growing the whole base of everything like like putting them in bookstores and having collected editions, that’s really important.”
HP – This also plays a huge part in marketing comics to a larger audience. Comics need to be easy to find, easy to access, high quality, and of a diverse amount of genres. A lot of people still consider comics books Superhero-only. But this hasn’t be the case… well, ever. But that still sits at the forefront (in public opinion, and sales). But Josh is right, there are graphic novels out there that rival anything in movies, TV, or books. And more and more publishers & creators are embracing other genre’s, from romantic comedy, to horror, to drama, to action.
6. “I think in mainstream comics, the move to other media has been huge.” Lene Taylor (I Read Comics)
“Especially DC doing the direct to DVD stuff that they finally figured out that they should be making animated movies that aren’t shit.”
HP – This, of course, includes comic book movies on the big screen, not just with the big superhero movies (Spiderman, X-men, Batman) but also the smaller graphic novels being adapted well (V for Vendetta, 300, 30 Days of Night, Stardust, Sin City, A History of Violence) This could also be said of books that cross over into superhero territory & television shows like Heroes. I’m not sure how much these works bring in new readers, but I know with movies like Sin City & 300, where you can pick up the stories easily in collected editions, sales have sky-rocketed.
You can view the entire panel at iFanboy.com.