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  1. #1
    Mild-Mannered Reporter
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    Default CBR: Shelf Life - Dec 30, 2010

    This week, Ron Marz looks at the current state of comics and it's over-reliance on super heroes, positing that for the industry to grow in the future, it needs to expand into and embrace a wider variety of genres.


    Full article here.

  2. #2
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    Default Too little, too late.

    The fact is, outside of about the 100,000 or so babymen that gather in comic shops every Wednesday, nobody knows comics exist anymore. Even if they did, one look at most of the shit that comes out these days would put them off. Comics as we know them are dead. Time to face the truth people.

  3. #3
    More Donald than Charlie stealthwise's Avatar
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    First of all, pizza is god. I would eat pizza every meal if it wouldn't make me 400 pounds and/or cause me to perish of scurvy.

    Secondly, this article feels like something Warren Ellis wrote about 10 years ago for his "Come in Alone" article. I recall it well because I just spent the past week at work re-reading Ellis's articles. Nothing said here that's not new, and nothing new being offered. Not to discredit Marz's points at all, but I find it sad and bemusing that we're still sitting around discussing the ubiquitous continuity-heavy genre and it's sadly aging and diminishing audience.

    This much is clear: the direct market is eventually going to die, take some shops down with it (those that can't or won't adapt to selling toys, anime and other shit, if there are any still left in existence), and we'll be either downloading things or getting them via bookstores/Amazon/etc.

    The saddest part is that there was an opportunity to do what Marz suggests by growing outward when Crossgen came along, but of course those were all adventure books for the most part, all linked together (albeit loosely in many cases), and they didn't seem to do much to move away from the situation he's talking about.

    Thankfully we do have a ton of other genres being represented thanks to Vertigo, IDW, Dynamite, Oni, Image, Dark Horse, and a ton of other publishers, and I'm suspecting that they will end up being the forebearers of a new kind of comic, rather than Marvel and DC, who exist primarily (solely?) to keep trademarks and copyrights intact and tell stories about things that sell underoos and toys.
    - Art is whatever makes you feel human.

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  4. #4
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    Not to mention Manga, and the rebirth of the graphic novel in children's literature.

    My friends' children are reading Bone, and Dragonbreath and manga series (which has superhero stories in there, too)

  5. #5
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    I am totally and absolutely agree with Ron Marz in everything he has said. It is a perfect article that describes very well the reality of the comic in the USA today.

    really need the world fourteen Avengers series?

    Oh, come on, Marz .... talks with Marvel to write you to relaunch the new Crossgen Scion.

  6. #6
    Seasoned OG xgeek52's Avatar
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    i said this over at rita's, forgetting that this thread would pop up...

    i hadn't really thought about me being a 'wednesday warrior' until my financial trouble forced me to eliminate my trips to the lcs...since then i had pretty much decided to go the trade route (along with the monthlies when i could work comics into my budget again...

    yet, what marz said got me thinking that when i started up again, i wouldn't be looking at the non-superhero titles...

    that will change...
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  7. #7
    ... snarkbunny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xgeek52 View Post

    yet, what marz said got me thinking that when i started up again, i wouldn't be looking at the non-superhero titles...

    that will change...
    There is lots of good stuff out there, while you are still money strapped, have you checked out your local library for GNs and manga?

  8. #8
    Thanos Copter Marak the Merciless's Avatar
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    Default Price is really the issue

    I like every analogy that Ron uses in this article, and I appreciate the general sentiment - but I don't buy this ongoing argument that continuity is to blame for new readers not joining the fun. I got into comics as a wee lad in 1985, and quickly favored Marvel (as did most of my friends). At that point, there was already *decades* of continuity to learn about and absorb -- and that's what made Marvel so great! I see that vastness of the Marvel and DC U's as a selling point, not a deterrent (an easy enough conclusion to come to, when you compare sales from the Big Two versus everyone else).

    The real deterrent is price -- at $4 a shot, there will be very few new readers and the existing faithfuls will wise up eventually. Start printing on cheaper paper and sell those books for $1.50!

  9. #9
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    First off: it isn't *possible* there are only 100k readers -- if that were true then 100% of the readership would be buying the #1 book each month. I doubt if even a third of "comics readers" do so, at best.

    Second, if you're going into stores that are 80-90% superhero books, you're going into the wrong stores. At Comix Experience it's only just about 20% of our racks...

    Third: the reason something like SAMURAI: HEAVEN & EARTH sold 25% of GREEN LANTERN should be fairly obvious -- GL is a character with 50 years of history and readership behind him; "SAMURAI" isn't, and it is too generically named to make an impact.

    If you want non-"name" books to sell, then they have to be MARKETED -- you can't just drop books onto a market and expect them to succeed. GL, in Marz's day, had AT LEAST 24 impression a year in the market (12 in his own title, 12 in JLA) -- SAMURAI had 5 in a year. It's only logical that it will sell but a fraction of GL.

    -B

  10. #10
    Seasoned OG xgeek52's Avatar
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    yeah i have snark, and i've gotten some good ideas from it and there are a couple of lcs here in vegas whose shelves aren't 80 percent marvel/dc superheroes...
    XPOTM: APRIL 2012

    be sure brain is in gear before engaging mouth...

    i'm lost...i've gone to look for myself...if i should return before i get back -- please ask me to wait...

  11. #11
    More Donald than Charlie stealthwise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Hibbs View Post
    First off: it isn't *possible* there are only 100k readers -- if that were true then 100% of the readership would be buying the #1 book each month. I doubt if even a third of "comics readers" do so, at best.

    Second, if you're going into stores that are 80-90% superhero books, you're going into the wrong stores. At Comix Experience it's only just about 20% of our racks...

    Third: the reason something like SAMURAI: HEAVEN & EARTH sold 25% of GREEN LANTERN should be fairly obvious -- GL is a character with 50 years of history and readership behind him; "SAMURAI" isn't, and it is too generically named to make an impact.

    If you want non-"name" books to sell, then they have to be MARKETED -- you can't just drop books onto a market and expect them to succeed. GL, in Marz's day, had AT LEAST 24 impression a year in the market (12 in his own title, 12 in JLA) -- SAMURAI had 5 in a year. It's only logical that it will sell but a fraction of GL.

    -B
    100,000 readers doesn't work at all, I agree. There are so many more that don't even frequent comic shops, I can think of at least four or five of my friends or family members who never go into comic stores but will go to the library or order from bookstores when they want a comic.

    My local (and the only within 500 kms) comic shop has roughly 50-65% of its shelf space dedicated to superheroes or pseudo-superheroes (basically adventure books). The rest is for indie books and some children's comics, with some shelves for manga. Which is way better than the 90% it used to have over 10 years ago.

    I too have no idea what the hell Samurai is/was. I remember picking up Green Lantern for the first time since the 90s because they were bringing back Hal Jordan.
    - Art is whatever makes you feel human.

    - "You are what you love, not what loves you." - Donald Kaufman

    - "Deserve's got nothing to do with it." - William Munny

    - "Acquiescence. It's not so hard, really. You. Just. Give. In." - Col. Ives

  12. #12
    Say WHAT?!?!?!? FanboyStranger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stealthwise View Post
    First of all, pizza is god. I would eat pizza every meal if it wouldn't make me 400 pounds and/or cause me to perish of scurvy.

    Secondly, this article feels like something Warren Ellis wrote about 10 years ago for his "Come in Alone" article. I recall it well because I just spent the past week at work re-reading Ellis's articles. Nothing said here that's not new, and nothing new being offered. Not to discredit Marz's points at all, but I find it sad and bemusing that we're still sitting around discussing the ubiquitous continuity-heavy genre and it's sadly aging and diminishing audience.

    This much is clear: the direct market is eventually going to die, take some shops down with it (those that can't or won't adapt to selling toys, anime and other shit, if there are any still left in existence), and we'll be either downloading things or getting them via bookstores/Amazon/etc.

    The saddest part is that there was an opportunity to do what Marz suggests by growing outward when Crossgen came along, but of course those were all adventure books for the most part, all linked together (albeit loosely in many cases), and they didn't seem to do much to move away from the situation he's talking about.

    Thankfully we do have a ton of other genres being represented thanks to Vertigo, IDW, Dynamite, Oni, Image, Dark Horse, and a ton of other publishers, and I'm suspecting that they will end up being the forebearers of a new kind of comic, rather than Marvel and DC, who exist primarily (solely?) to keep trademarks and copyrights intact and tell stories about things that sell underoos and toys.
    When I read it, I thought the same thing: he's ten years behind. Yet seeing how little things have changed over the past ten years, I couldn't help but laugh. Comics are getting by-- that's the reality. It doesn't matter what genre, they're living month to month like many folks these days.

    Samurai was a decent book. Probably the best work Marz has done.

  13. #13
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    2010 was the year I decided to move away from superhero comics. Instead, I sampled books such as Love & Rockets by the Hernandez bros., Underground by Parker and Lieber, Mysterius The Unfathomable by Parker and Fowler, Four Eyes by Kelly and Fiumara, Age of Reptiles: The Journey by Delgado, Phonogram: The Singles Club by Gillen and McKelvie, and The Playwright by Campbell and White. There's a lot of awesome stuff out there for people who are looking for something different from the standard superhero fare as published by Marvel and DC. Though the aforementioned comics sold quite poorly in the direct market, I am certain that they have much more potential to appeal to a non-comic book readership than their superhero counterparts. We must get non-comic book readers to see these titles for what they are - namely great stories worthy of their time and money.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Hibbs View Post
    First off: it isn't *possible* there are only 100k readers -- if that were true then 100% of the readership would be buying the #1 book each month. I doubt if even a third of "comics readers" do so, at best.

    Second, if you're going into stores that are 80-90% superhero books, you're going into the wrong stores. At Comix Experience it's only just about 20% of our racks...

    Third: the reason something like SAMURAI: HEAVEN & EARTH sold 25% of GREEN LANTERN should be fairly obvious -- GL is a character with 50 years of history and readership behind him; "SAMURAI" isn't, and it is too generically named to make an impact.

    If you want non-"name" books to sell, then they have to be MARKETED -- you can't just drop books onto a market and expect them to succeed. GL, in Marz's day, had AT LEAST 24 impression a year in the market (12 in his own title, 12 in JLA) -- SAMURAI had 5 in a year. It's only logical that it will sell but a fraction of GL.

    -B

    First, what I said was: "I've seen estimates that put that number somewhere around 100,000." I don't think anyone has a real sense of the number of overall direct market customers. But I think anyone would agree that whatever the number of customers is, there aren't enough of them.

    Second, fair point, but the vast majority of stores aren't like yours, Brian, with only 20% superhero comics on the rack. You can't dismiss the point by saying "You're shopping at the wrong stores" -- many readers don't have a great deal of choice.

    Third, you're absolutely right -- I wasn't surprised by the Samurai vs. GL sales, it was exactly what I expected. I used it only as an example of the market being generally unfriendly to new material, instead favoring the tried-and-true superheroes that have dominiated for decades. That was kind of the point of the article.

    I appreciate the feedback from someone with your retail experience, Brian.

  15. #15
    Spy Guy Ultraist's Avatar
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    I've thought a lot about this.
    The short version of what I've come up with is this:

    Because comics are words and pictures, iconic imagery makes for the best comics. Superheroes have built-in iconic imagery with their costumes and powers.

    The best non-superhero comics also have built in iconic imagery: Sin City with it's high contrast characters (who are all iconic caricatures). TMNT and Cerebus and Mouse Guard (funny animals). Star Wars (iconic character designs). Archie (funny cartoon designs). Bone (funny cartoon designs). Even Manga draws from a specific iconic design with it's characters.

    To be successful with a non-superhero comic, this is something that should be considered.
    Mike Kitchen - Ultraist Studios

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