The Good, The Bad, & This Kid: “La Peste Fausse”
By Josh Stone
Another week, another column, and yet somehow, it doesn’t seem old to me. This is the sixth installment of my farce of a column, and I’m glad you’re here. As I write this week’s column, many of my peers are at the San Diego con, while I continue upon my daily routines. I’m sure you all read Brandon Thomas’ daily accounts of the industries biggest event, along with the countless other daily updates and news briefs regarding the San Diego extravaganza. Now, this would seem like a most perspicuous topic for this week’s column, with all the talk about conventions and all. However, those who know me, know I’m not one to take the easiest road, that is, in regards to writing. Besides, the sad truth is, I’ve never even been to a comic book con, let alone THE comic con, so what would I write about? That being said, I’ve decided to talk about a topic that I’ve given a lot of thought to in the past few months. A topic near and dear to my heart, the topic of our beloved industry’s downward spiral. It’s been said, over and over again until my head feels like it’s going to explode, that the comic book industry is going down faster than a drunk girl on prom night (I managed to fit a clichéd illustration into this column, YAY me). Everyone from comic book professionals to comic book columnists feels that the industry is in one of its worst states.
If you sit down and take a gander at the numbers, or listen to a lot of the press releases it does indeed look bad for our little business. The most recent thing is Nick Barrucci's (the President of DF, the guy who is always on HSN at like 2 in the morning screaming and flipping out about what a great offer he has) call for a better industry. Between all the companies in the red and people spouting from the mouth that comics should go back to the glory day super-heroics, you’d get the impression that the comics’ industry is hopeless and has nothing to offer. And that’s just bullshit. If our industry is so damn bad, then why are there so many things being made in the mainstream based on comics? You’ve got the truck load of comic book based films, the new Spidey cartoon, the Teen Titans/JLA/ X-Men: Evolution cartoons and countless other things being produced. How self absorbed does an industry have to be to cry poor mouth when everywhere you turn there is some kind of comic book related garbage out? When Spider-Man and X-Men make more money in the box office then several countries combined economies, you’d think that would be enough to boost the sales of comics a bit. You get your average teenager who just watched X2 and now thinks comics are cool, so he heads down to the bookstore and buys a couple X-Trades, next thing you know said kid is going to the source, the comic shop, and not only purchasing X-Books but now he’s looking at some of the cool small press titles, or sees some half naked lady on the cover of a manga title. From there, he tells his friends, his friends tell their friends and a new little comic fan group is born. This on top of the already rabid comic fan core, would be enough to sustain any industry.
Not only do you have all the comic related mainstream hype, but what about all the new creative people waiting for their shot to tell new and interesting stories? If you look at many weekly release schedules the same names keep reappearing. Bendis, Johns, Winick, Austen, etc…sure these guys are talented beyond a shadow of a doubt, but there are so many writers and artists out there just salivating for the chance. When professional writers give their advice to rookie writers, the first thing they always say is, “I hope you like being poor.” First off, all the new writers are poor for three reasons; first Bendis, Johns and Winick write everything leaving the “Big Boys” no money for anyone else, second they are newbies, when you start off in any profession you start off making shit and third, this isn’t the movie business, if you come in thinking your going to be pulling down a paycheck with more zeros at the end of the number then you’ve ever seen, you are in the wrong line of work. That’s one of the things that always bugs me, I’m starting to think a lot of people judging the success of comics are judging it as though it’s the movie business. They’re books; we live in an era where the printed word is always turned into the moving word with flashing pictures. Comic books are like the final step between actual literature and a movie. However, since Vin Diesel isn’t jumping out of a car in a comic book, people just aren’t willing to shell out the money.
One of the most frequent testaments I hear, is that comics should just solely be super-hero books, it’s what sells. Unfortunately, they’re right on this one, in the sense that super hero comics are the biggest profit margin in the industry. My statement for this, what are the companies that go against Marvel and DC called? Small Press/Independent Publishers. Once again, referring to movies, what do we call movies that go against the big-budget Hollywood shit? Low-Budget/Independent Films. So, my point is, your average comic fan only really buys super hero Marvel/DC books, just like your average moviegoer only goes to the Summer Blockbuster/Jerry Bruckheimer film. Now, sprinkled in the mix of the mass is the guy or girl who is tired of over done comics and movies, so where do they turn? Independents. That is what they’re around for, to be the alternative, to be the story that no big company wants because there is no name value and no guaranteed cash flow. However, even your average “I like to see half-naked chicks and large explosions” fan has respect for the more artistic value of the small press/Indie flicks. The only real difference is, in comics, a majority of the “Blockbuster” titles are done by folks who started off small, and know the value of a well-crafted story. So, the only reasons super hero comics bring in the big bucks is because that’s all people care to know, and the ever present T&A factor. Which brings us to quite a paradox, without the mainstream bank, there wouldn’t be a comic book industry, which means we’d lose the great independent books being done as well as the cultural icons from the past 70 some odd years.
All of this was to get at the point that comics, in my opinion, aren’t in the sad state people perceive. Our industry just doesn’t have the finical means it once did to reach the potential people would like it to. The only way we’ll ever get back to the days when the industry had tons of cash, is if we go back to the early 90’s, and I don’t think any of us are really that desperate for comics to be accepted. Then again, the people who really started this mass hysteria are the same people who are pimping 90’s like “collector’s items” at the ass crack of dawn on cable shopping channels.
Last week I talked about the new Spidey show on MTV, and how it sucked. So, this week I’ll talk about the new Teen Titans show on Cartoon Network. The months leading up to the new show I heard all about how “kiddy” the show was going to be, and it was nothing like Batman or the Justice League cartoons. Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant. Five minutes into the show I was hooked. Sure it’s kiddy, but in a cool sort of way. I really liked it, and even my girlfriend thinks it’s adorable (but she likes comics and cartoons, so she would). I’m definitely going to be watching this one every week, if for nothing else, Robin, Beastboy and Raven were bad ass. Well, when isn’t Robin bad ass?
As you can tell, I’ve finally come up with a name for the segment where I talk about, you guessed it, what I think is worth checking out. Now, I know this isn’t the coolest name in the world, but it fits. Anyway, this week I’m promoting a web comic that I’ve been addicted to for quite some time. It’s called Voices In My Hand by Bill Charbonneau. Basically it’s a weekly panel where the morbid meets the funny. It’s really worth checking out, I crack up laughing every time I read them. The Grave Worms are the best, just plain good entertainment.
Well, there you have it, another column down. Like always, drop any comments to me by e-mail or posting on the soapbox message board. Hope everyone has a good week, until next time…
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