Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The End Is Nigh... And Other Popular Headlines

Less aimlessness, more reading!
I've been a little preoccupied lately with "real life" to read my comics as of late (see previous post), and it has also put me behind on following the industry. Boy have things gotten ugly in my RSS feed. Science has yet to prove this theory, but negativity is a contagious and all-consuming force. It's why bad reviews seem to get more attention than the glowing ones; and why painfully embarrassing moments caught on film are so popular on YouTube. We are a race enamored with bad news; that's how a fiasco like the Balloon Boy incident can garner three hour non-stop coverage on CNN. When it was revealed to be a hoax, people were pissed because they can stomach needless tragedy more easily than intentional stupidity.

That was a bit of a tangent, but I am making a valid comparison: coverage of the comic book industry is susceptible to sweeping negativity just like any other media coverage. Is the industry really headed towards inevitable doom as some have implied, or are sales down because like everything else, the economy sucks right now? True or not, the rash of stories focusing on a changing tide certainly could fall under the sensationalistic category (and yes, I realize that writing this post does contribute to the Debbie Downer mentality). Here are several of the blog posts with tones ranging from "sales are down" to "farewell to the serialized medium":


8/ 28/10 Bleeding Cool - A New “Name Withheld” For The Comics Industry
8/31/10 4thletter! - Darwyn Cooke on Cape Comix  
9/9/10 CBR - Quitters and Cutters 
9/10/10 Techland - Emanata: The High Cost of Comics 
9/13/10 The Comics Reporter - Comics Industry Picking Up Its Own 2012ish Doomapocalyptigeddon Vibe 
Update* 9/14/10 Comics Alliance - Comic Sales Plummet, No Issue Breaks 100K in August

I do think that some valid points are being made here - many customers are looking at their pull list a little more carefully these days, myself included. But this whole "mad as hell" mentality feels a lot like another group of disenchanted individuals. Is this the Tea Party movement for the comic book industry? Well, maybe not quite. If we see fans complaining that there are too many minority characters getting redistributed story space, then we're in trouble. What does worry me is the constant "can't things be like they were in 1978" mantra, or any other year of which you feel most fondly. Yes, comics are more expensive. And believe it or not, styles evolve and change, and that includes how writers treat the characters. But what people never seem to own up to is that 95% of everything sucks, always. This is a fact people. I may be fudging the numbers, but the majority of what is popular today will not stand the test of time. This applies to movies, musics, television, comics, and any other mass-produced art form. Even wildly revered works may seem dated in ten years (if that). How many of you look at the comics you bought in the 90's and think, "What drug was I on when I purchased this series?" Or, if you actually give those books a second read, realize they are enjoyable purely for nostalgic purposes? Let's not kid ourselves into thinking that we live in a drought of talent these days. Writers and artists complaining about the industry they work in is pretty normal, until you get into the kind of broad sweeping statements like "All super hero comics sux!" (those were not Mark Waid's exact words, but here they are for those who are curious). We live in a time when money is tight and we expect more for it, so let's not pretend we've all acquired better taste over night.

Lastly, there are good books out there, so stop complaining. Talk to your local comic book shop owner, and they will set you straight. I'll also do my part and promise to only write about the comics I actually enjoy - for the next month.

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