Where do you see comics in five years’ time? In ten years’ time? In twenty years’ time?
I think that in the short-term of five years or so, we’ll see a continued shift towards the prominence of artists, similar to the 1990s. I think we’ll see digital continue to gain ground, but I think it’ll still be secondary to print. And I think we’ll see a continued ‘brain drain’ of successful creators moving out of the Big Two to do creator-owned work with the likes of Image and elsewhere.
In the medium-term, I think digital will become more significant and we’ll start to see companies really start to take advantage of the opportunities that it can offer in terms of reaching wider audiences. I could see digital sales reaching parity with physical within the next decade or so. But I think the hobby will remain a fairly niche one. And I could see people starting to turn away from the company-owned properties in greater numbers as they become essentially IP-development farms for other media.
Twenty years is a long time, so really we can only make broad predictions about where things are going. I think physical books will become increasingly the reserve of collectors or high-end publications (I wouldn’t be surprised if physical monthly floppies had died out by this point), with digital accounting for the majority of readership. I think we may see a generation of creators being popular who didn’t have to go through the larger publishers’ systems to establish themselves, hopefully offering a much wider variety of voices in terms of diversity of subject-matter and style. And I think we’ll see a shift in the selling of these comics over time to be more directly between the creators and the reader, with fewer middlemen (facilitated by digital), possibly on a pay-what-you-want model.