ITEM! It seems that the comics industry is in peril, and every Wednesday is turning into “Black Wednesday” as the sales figures continue to slowly decline. For a comprehensive compendium of this week’s frantic fallout, go see this story over at Heidi MacDonald’s The Beat blog. Things look dire indeed. One might be inclined to ask at this point, whither comic books?
Don’t you believe it, Fearless Ones! Take it from my octogenarian outlook. The comics industry has struggled before and folks have been predicting its imminent demise starting all the way back in the early 50s (thank you, Dr. Fredric “Rabble Rouser” Wertham). The only difference between then and now are the miles on the odometer, baby.
Are there fundamental problems in creative content and distribution channels that need addressing? Absolutely! Has the game changed almost entirely with the introduction of new technologies and new digital media? You bet’cha! But is it really the end of serialized graphic storytelling as we know it? Not on your life, pilgrim! The comics industry isn’t any different from the auto industry, the banking system or the housing market. The comics have just got to get with the times and figure out how to best take advantage of the new media opportunities and stop trying to fight an Information Age battle with last century’s editorial tanks and planes.
You know, it’s times like these that I really miss Jolly Jack Kirby. He had a prescient practice of prophesying these portents and omens way before the rest of us caught up to the future. For example, Jack foretold the coming of graphic novels and their sale in chain bookstores decades before the practice became commonplace. If he was here with us now, he’d probably just rattle off the entire solution to the industry’s current problems over a turkey and gravy sandwich at lunch! Still, there’s a solution out there. All we have to do as an industry is find it. So keep the home fires burning, True Believers. And until Joe Quesada reveals that Aunt May is secretly a Skrull agent, keep Making Yours Marvel!