I think I may have outgrown comics

Article / 24 February 2020


Ha, the title is self-explanatory, but not in the way it sounds. I don't think I've outgrown the tales of adventure told with sequential art and word balloons, when I say I think I've outgrown comics, I mean I think I've outgrown the comics industry. 

It's an industry I've outgrown through experience. Personal and professional. Sort of the way you hear about some people "outgrowing comics" in the floppy format.

Well in this case, without tooting my own horn or trying to sound grandiose, I've outgrown the industry because of personal-growth, a type of growth that the industry itself has rejected, and in so doing stunted itself irreparably. 

Much like the music industry failing to see digital revolution of distribution before it came, comics have clung desperately to outdated distribution and delivery methods, gimmicks and narratives. 

I, like many others, didn't think that this would happen to comics. Readers in comics fandom seem more technically inclined. Comixology and Drivethrucomics and other distributors have had strength and longevity. Modern readers have accepted the digital delivery of comics. Print sales have gone down steadily, but if you ask any comics retailer they know already that the money to be made is in toys, games, merchandise and other physical items. 

But clinging to print sales figures and desperate gimmicks to try to increase these instead of finding new delivery methods has led the industry to a drastic and speeding decline, and ironically, if the comics industry wants to implode and destroy itself, I don't care. 

There are reasons that I don't care, primarily being that if the comics industry does die, it won't stop me from making my own comics and it won't stop any other like-minded creators. 

I've worked for publishers. Even the world's biggest one. I don't need to name drop, those who really want to know can do a Google deep-dive and figure it out. 

So how does one make comics if the industry dies? Comics won't disappear. Maybe comics as we recognize them now will, but not altogether. Time marches on whether you like it or not. 

For me personally, publishing digitally and in other formats such as video games and visual novels is more rewarding in every way possible than struggling to fight for sales and shelf space with a print book. 

Don't get me wrong. I love comics. They have been the greatest most enjoyable part of my nearly 40 year life-time thus far. I love the Justice Society, Superman, All-Star Squadron, The Mighty Crusaders, Hulk, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and on and on. I could spend the day listing hundreds of characters, but you get the idea. 

Where the problem of the industry lies is with its largest publishers clinging to old formats, reducing creative control and having corporate overseers from parent companies dictate content, to protect the value of the acquired intellectual properties. Otherwise, they might not make as much money with the movie adaptations. They don't want to lose money from ticket sales or streaming deals with negative press. 

Going mainstream was the worst thing that die hard comics fans from back in the day asked for and got. Now that publishers and creators aren't allowed to test and explore a wider range of ideas without having to answer to business and financial interests above them, mainstream comics have lost their edge and just keep retreading the same old gimmicks and story lines over and over again at an ever-increasing pace, until the most die-hard fans start to wonder what the point is and why they are continuing to spend money on the same old crap. 

Remember folks, there are more genres than super-heroes. The most successful smaller publishers realized this long ago. 

I have a lot of thoughts and analysis on this and the contributing factors. I'll try to write something about each factor if I have time. 

The heavy hitters of the industry either have no interest in adapting or have become such large near-monopolies that the sheer size of their operations make it impossible for them to adapt quickly enough to changing tastes of modern readers and fans, something that didn't encumber them when they weren't owned by several parent conglomerates and just worried about producing quality and engaging stories. 

And I say, so be it.