Oh yes, in terms of direct cost comparison it’s an expensive hobby (although digital may be changing that).
Oh, a million times ‘yes’
Yeah I get what you are saying and sometimes I completely agree.
Then other times, like right now, after bottle of wine, I think ‘fuck those guys’.
To be fair, those people do exist but I don’t think they are going into comics shops and looking at the new release shelf.
Infinity War, Infinity Gauntlet and the Aaron Thanos TPB are selling gangbusters in bookstores right now. A quick look shows Gauntlet is the top seller on Amazon US and they’ve even run out of copies. The top Kindle/Comixology seller is an “Avengers vs Thanos” compilation. So clearly some people are going from the movies to the booksellers.
The numbers show that the movies don’t translate to direct market sales of floppies, and maybe not to the direct market at all, but the books do get a bump from the movies.
Movies sell trades, that’s what casual comic fans will buy. The walking dead show has translated into millions of trade sales.
You just don’t sell floppy books, or sell many continuation of the story books.
Walking Dead was huge in trade collections before it was huge in TV form. But Fables was huge in trade collections, and it didn’t make the relatively similar Once Upon a Time huge in TV. It was just another network TV show existing in the general malaise of the current network TV landscape.
Getting back to things like Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics…that and the original Thrawn books were responsible for keeping interest in Star Wars alive in the ‘90s, a time when it seemed like there’d never be new Star Wars movies again. But they couldn’t compete once the era turned and there was a new Star Wars film every few years, because they had been doing their own thing all that time, and it didn’t really jive with the new movies.
Star Trek books actually had the opposite effect. They were actively competing against a bevy of new Star Trek TV programming in the ‘90s, and by and large the core fanbase started to prefer the relative predictability of the books to new material with new characters they often found derivative or too demanding (Deep Space Nine may be beloved by some fans, but it garnered little real interest from viewers, so they did gimmicks like adding Worf, and then whatever they wanted to do because nobody was watching, like the Dominion War). And the books easily segued to an era where that was all that was new, and now, even with new Star Trek movies and TV episodes, they’re still doing their pocket (heh) universe, in some ways more heavily than ever before.
As far as comics go in relation to movies…I don’t think there is a relationship. Studios see that comics can readily provide blockbuster material, which has become the dominant method of moviemaking since the turn of the millennium, and so that’s all they care about, and they have no reason to care about anything else. This in turn doesn’t translate into massive comic book sales, because these movies are doing their own thing, drawing on stuff that has no relation to what the comics are currently doing. And we even see with a TV show like Agents of SHIELD that it’s impossible to get the same mass viewership of movies to care what a TV show tangentially related to those movies is doing. Those movie fans are inherently uninterested in a TV show that was obviously conceived as a far more cheap derivative experience with practically nothing in common with the movies.
Where Marvel’s new Star Wars comics succeed, and all the recent books, is that they do have obvious relevance to the movies. By necessity, the old material didn’t. Even the original Marvel comics back in the day purposely avoided any significance to the movies. They were doing their own thing, and so they had general rather than targeted appeal.
Marvel Unlimited was interesting the last week too. Normally the ‘popular this week’ section is 90% the latest ones added and the odd classic like Civil War appears. This week there’s a lot of Guidebooks to…various Avengers characters, War Machine from the early 2000s has suddenly appeared and Spider-Man: The Lost Years #1.
I’m assuming most of those are the free samplers but you can clearly see the movie driving people to the app.
Comics can do a ton of things that movies can’t. Something like I Hate Fairyland could never work as a film but it works phenomenally as a comic. As much as Hitch and Cassady’s photorealism laid the groundwork for what comic book films could be, I think that stopped being a selling point for the comics once those films picked that up and ran with it (and I don’t in any way mean that as a slight on the current work of those two artists - they’re fantastic, but I think the pendulum is swinging back to a more stylized look).
It was, Eric Stephenson claimed they sold 3 million copies of the trades before the TV show came along, it did boost them even higher though. There was one Bookscan analysis about 4 years back where TWD on its own had sold as much as Marvel’s entire line (calculated in revenue).
Video games should also be a part of this conversation. In terms of time/entertainment/cost, I’ve gotten more value out of whatever I spent on the Arkham games than on the same amount spent on comics, and I’m a massive comics fan. The average Batman fan could spend hours immersing themselves in Batman’s world and playing as the character for the cost of a single Batman trade that they’ll read in an hour or so (at most).
The video game argument is a popular one, but I think games and comics are two very different mediums. They have different ways of telling stories. There’s virtually no character exploration, just adventuring, and it’s the exploration that’s what comics are all about, and what separates them from movies, too. Movies have two or so hours. A good comics run gives you a lot more time with one creator. There are tones in comics that can’t be matched in impatient movies. Even in a TV show it feels different. “Return of Barry Allen” would feel very different in any other medium. This is a Wally West story that is ultimately about much more than just another clash with the Reverse-Flash. It’s kind of like Empire Strikes Back, where he receives advice from a number of mentors and grows in confidence of his abilities, but that visceral sense of Barry Allen’s effect on him, long since gone, is something a movie would have to represent with some actual time spent with the real Barry Allen, which Mark Waid never had to do. Comics in a lot of ways thrive on history. And that’s why “The Flash of Two Worlds” worked, too, or bringing Captain America back to join the ‘60s Avengers without much preamble. In the movies they had to have his backstory showed. And that’s why the pre-New 52 Superman, and his whole family, worked so well, why comics readers eagerly embraced him in Rebirth. And even the idea of Rebirth itself!
Part of Marvel’s problem really is that it finally shook itself free from decades of uninterrupted canon, which for all that time was its hallmark. Where DC played, heh, infinite tricks with continuity, you knew that something that happened in the ‘70s in a Marvel comic had still happened in a ‘90s comic. And I think Spider-Man was really at the heart of Marvel forgetting that, first with the Clone Saga and later with the dissolution of Peter and MJ’s marriage.
So really, one would almost argue, having a sequel to “O.M.I.T.” where they finally get back together as if the separation never happened (and I realize there was/is a comic where that family exists, just like Superman’s family, but I think it was dismissed as extraneous).
And maybe even admitting that Grant Morrison’s radical evolution of the X-Men really did happen, because that was another huge retcon. You could even use Scarlet Witch to fix all of it, after the sensational precedent of House of M, which was kind of the culmination of Marvel beginning to play fast and loose with its continuity for dramatic effect.
Steve McNiven has been posting a lot of his warm up work on Instagram and his newer stuff has a very strong BWS vibe to it. A lot of the sketches have been Fantastic Four. So this only reinforces that.
Holy crap, you’re not kidding. If I saw some of those images just randomly on the web I would have assumed they were BWS, not McNiven.
Comparing video games to movies to TV shows to comics is like comparing lobster to Taco Bell to Ramen Noodles to Sirloin Steak. Entertainment has all sorts of different price points, like everything in life. We’re ok with that. In the same way a 60c Ramen Noodle meal would feed you just the same way a big juicy steak would, that doesn’t mean you’re going to only eat noodles. Nor does it mean saying stuff like ‘steak should be sold at 60c each - they’d sell more’ make much sense. You can get really cheap comics these days too - digitally there’s always sales, there’s Marvel unlimited which lets you read tens of thousands of comics for $6 a month, and there’s all sorts of retail sales for trades, or eBay for cheap runs. Price is not a barrier to reading comics.
Comics actually have a very modest cost. I’d guess the cost of one Infinity War movie would be enough to fund 100 Marvel Comics every month for 16 years. And if each of those comics sold 25,000 units for $4 each, they’d net $2 billion in revenue. It’s just that Infinity War can sell 100 million tickets in 2 weeks and it’d take Marvel 3 years to sell that many comic books.
It’s simply that comics is a niche hobby these days. And becoming more niche. How do you reverse that trend, or can you reverse that trend?
I’ve said this many times but the answer is Yes! (and No!)
Following monthly comics is difficult, it has been driven increasingly niche with a safe model for publishers that means it’s hard to lose much money for them but quite easy for the retailer. If a title bombs they take on the unsold issues and have to chuck them in the dollar bin at a loss. So they work more and more to standing orders and that makes it even more difficult to just saunter up and browse for what you fancy.
Meanwhile they’ve entered the book market. It’s hard now to remember that it was actually Titan books in the UK that first collected The Dark Knight and Swamp Thing, DC didn’t think it had a market at the time and that’s really the basis for the Watchmen/V for Vendetta complaint, that copyright was meant to return when out of print and in 1986 everything in comics went out of print. Marvel barely collected anything until the Quesada period, it’s amazing to think how recent that is.
In the early 80s there were no comics in my bookshop (maybe a bit of Asterix and Tintin, no US stuff), now there’s a lot. When I was a member of the Scholastic Chip Club in primary school there were never any comics, now with my kids bringing back the catalogues there are there are 5-6 every month.
Can you reverse the trends? Digital is the only way you can. Whether they can do it correctly or not will have to be seen but it removes so many barriers in cost and distribution. Even with the shift we’ve seen to collections the physical book market is also dwindling, Borders went bust.
Exactly. And I don’t think Comixology is cutting it.
There’s some asshole here that always perks up when someone says that to remind everyone that they still exist in Malaysia. I thought I’d save that guy the trouble.
One thing I don’t think we’ve discussed so much here is that Borders going bust was more complex than physical books not selling as well. The book industry as a whole grew on the back of the Harry Potter and there was nothing to sustain that momentum once Rowling was finished. Borders also wasn’t able to capitalize in the online sector or eReader market enough to keep them relevant. Their partnership with Seattle’s Best (by that time a sub of Starbucks) was too late in the game to have the deal that B&N did with Starbucks.
My local Borders store has been replaced by another book store. It’s not selling books that’s the problem. In the same way Toys R Us aren’t going bankrupt because they can’t sell toys.
That’s all a bit unnecessary but even in Asia the shops are shrinking.
I do think comics really need a subscription model digitally or cut prices a lot (after all they make much more profit from selling a digital title to a physical one, if you buy a $4 from Comixology they make $2.75, a physical copy, maybe 75 cents or so).
That really though will kill comic shops that currently sustain the business for most. There’s a knife edge there.
I don’t think comics will die, I don’t think cinemas will, or books or TV or video games, they will and do transform though. In 1985 I bought video games on cassette. Now I download them.