Bran Hibbs returns to express his delight at the continuing and growing success of Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead" and explains why the hit zombie Image Comics title is the model he hopes more creators will follow.
"the promise of the Direct Market was never about efficiently selling Marvel and DC characters to Marvel and DC fans (though, damn, do we do that well!), but rather it was about "Elfquest." It was about "Cerebus." It was about "Love & Rockets." It was about "Bone," and "Scott Pilgrim," and it certainly is about "The Walking Dead.""
The direct market gets demonized so much solely in terms of how annoying it sometimes is in terms of Big Two comics. But without the direct market SO MANY of the greatest comics of the past 30-35 years would simply not have taken off.
Think of things like "Cerebus" and "ElfQuest". And "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". They established themselves quite well indeed within the first few years of the existence of the direct market. Well, we're more than a few years into "webcomics" and "digital comics" -- and where are our big success stories to complete with those indie hits of the early '80s? Where's our digital equivalent of "Love and Rockets"? Is the "unprecedented creative freedom and reach" of digital/webcomics providing us anything close to "American Flagg" or Eclipse's "Miracleman" imports? Because that's what the direct market gave us.
Before too long into the history of the direct market, Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" took off and found an audience to tell stories that it probably couldn't've told unless there was a more mature, reliable direct market readership. Will webcomics or digital comics provide such a breakout hit that grows the industry and what can happen within it, upping the bar for quality and maturity? Looks doubtful. Instead, for the most part, digital/webcomics have given us the equivalent of videos of cute cats playing. "But anyone in the world can access them!!!" Yeah, but that means little, because if people WANT something of QUALITY they'll just walk to their comic shop.
In terms of the current, unprecedented (in its way) tour de force success story of the medium -- The Walking Dead -- one would think that the digital or internet component would matter more, since we're "in the digital age", supposedly. And yet The Walking Dead has been succeeding in those "old-fashioned" avenues of print, bookstores, the direct market, and -- dear God -- appointment television (so pre-internet!).
This isn't to short-change digital, or webcomics, but -- damn -- the direct market is still able to give the comics medium success stories that it otherwise never would've had. To complain about it solely because "Someone who liked the Avengers movie isn't able to find [the overhyped continuity porn that is] AvX #7!" is impossibly short-sighted.
I'm a big fan of the direct market for comics, too, but just a few years ago, Perry Bible Fellowship, the hardback book fromDark Horse, sold something upwards of 300k worldwide, and it was a collection of a very popular and funny web comic. Webcomics do different things than periodical comics do at this point. But who knows what the future will bring? Acme Novelty Library are all reprints of weekly strips, remember.