The Year Ahead in Comics

I was going through a garage clean out this week when I came across a box of old Wizard Magazines from the mid to late nineties.

For those that don’t know, Wizard was the magazine you picked up to find out about the latest happenings in the world of comics if you lived this side of the pond. This would have been in the days when web access wasn’t as pervasive or as fast as it is now, so your best shot at finding promotional art or getting a peek into what was coming down the pipeline was Wizard magazine.

Putting my garage cleaning duties on hold and sitting down to read through a couple of issues, it’s interesting to use Wizard as a barometer of how things have evolved in the industry.

For instance, Wizard used to run a section called Casting Call where fanboy daydreams pigeon-holed actors for key roles in comic book films– a precursor of the comic-book-to-movie adaptation trends prevalent today.

One issue highlighted the then-première of Grant Morrison’s Justice League title as a short 250 word news article. Grant’s run on the book would go on to become legendary and re-purposed a lot of DC for the next few years. Flash-forward a decade and there is another re-boot of the Justice League. Seemingly, the more things change the more they stay the same.

While the quality, agenda and influence of the magazine were criticised by some, the magazine was able to act as a snapshot of the comics scene at a point in time. Together with the Previews catalogue you could trace a line of past trends and how they eventual fared. The bad girl trend, manga, variant and chrome covers, the wave of new publishers and the shock-story epidemic seemed to typify the 90s.

But with fewer magazines left that report about comics, it’s harder to get that snapshot of the industry at this point in time. There are plenty of quality comic news websites out there right now, but if in five years time people were asked to look back and identify what the dominant trend was in comics in 2011, it would be hard to say.

Which is weird because there are arguably more changes happening now than ever before. There is the continued production of Hollywood movies based on comic books which may come to an end should the public grow tired of them. Without this injection of influence, just how valuable are licensed properties?

As digital takes hold and print production gets only more expensive in comparison, will comics shops suffer the same fate as record shops? Bear in mind circa 2003 there were several different record shops to buy new records in central London. Now there’s only one.

And what about the development of new talent—usually a prime indicator of the future health of the industry? Where’s that coming from? Where are the magazines and places people can cut their teeth and earn their stripes and learn their craft?

Not being one to usually make use of a crystal ball, the next five years are likely to see the most radical changes and this will be sped up by the global recession.

A look at the November sales figures show that the top 90 of 300 books were sold buy Marvel or DC (with the exception of the Walking Dead at number 68 and Buffy 64 and they have TV shows behind them). DC had a huge marketing push behind its relaunch and Marvel is still riding the wave of interest from movies. So exactly how healthy these books continue to be remains to be seen.

Major commercial distribution is likely to continue to service the big two at the expense of more progressive works, which would actually open up the industry to a wider audience.

The price point between pamphlet and graphic novel is likely to narrow in the same way the price point between a cinema ticket and a DVD has. Cinema tickets are now more or as expensive than buying the DVD. The reasons for seeing a film in the cinema as opposed to buying it outright on DVD are numerous, but with the pamphlet form of comics there is only one and that’s reading the story sooner rather than later in collected form.

Where it’s all heading, I can’t say. But rest assured the comic industry we know today won’t be the same as in 2017.

posted by admin at 4:30 am  

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