Sunday, May 08, 2005

Free comic day

Saturday was free comic book day.

Free comic day is an attempt by publishers to revive a dying industry. We went to Queen City Comics in Buffalo, where they had set up boxes of back stock for kids to grab as many books as they wish. Children crowded the tables, lured by the promise of free stuff. Great idea, right? Well, sorta.

The comic industry is in bad shape. When I was reading comics as a kid, an issue was canceled by the publisher if it sold under 500,000 copies. Today a best seller is an issue that sells 100,000. Today kids are more aware of the characters than they ever have been. Just not from the comics. Every kid can name Spiderman, or Wolverine or Batman. They've seen the cartoons, they've played the video games and paid big bucks for the movies. Why aren't they buying comics then? Well, many reasons have been offered. Some suggest that kids just don't read any more. Of course, you would have to ignore the sales of Harry Potter or a Series of Unfortunate Events if you wanted to believe that. Another suggestion is that kids don't have the disposable income to spend on comics. They cost 3 dollars after all. Is this the reason? Well, take a look at video game sales. Kids plop down sixty dollars without thinking every week. Kids today have more cash than ever. So why are comics dying?

The real reason is that comic book writers are making comics for people my age and they need to stop it. Read an article about any comic book writer. They all dismiss the notion that comics are just for kids. They'll stick their nose up and sniff that graphic novels are an artistic and mature art form and it deserves respect. Most of us in the real world will scratch our heads and wonder why if it's a mature art form everyone wears spandex and carries a big gun, but don't expect that to stop the comic book writer. Superman has become a murderer, Batman an unhinged psychotic, Spiderman a married man and every single other beloved character a dark vigilante driven by sinister urges. Whatever happened to the colorful spinner racks in the 7-11 proudly screaming "Hey Kids! Comics!"?

Comics today are unfriendly to casual readers. They're even more unfriendly to the people who should be reading them...children.

So was Free Comic Book Day a success? Well, Joe loves his comics. He's excited by a promise that once he can read I'll buy him a comic each week. I just don't have the heart to tell him that there really isn't a comic each week that's available for him to read. I don't have the heart to tell him that even if he can read he wouldn't be able to find an issue of Spiderman written for someone under the age of twelve. Because of that, he'll never have the box of comics. He won't have the hours spent reading comics under the covers of his bed with a flashlight that so many kids have in the past. He'll never be a regular comic reader, and it's the comic book industry's own fault.

Ten years from now they'll still be scratching their heads wondering why sales have fallen even more than they have today.


At 2:30 PM, Blogger David Campbell said...

I Agree With What You Said - totally. This is not to say that I don't think adults should make comics for adults, but that's a game of ever-diminishing returns...

At 4:29 PM, Blogger G. Bob said...

Yeah. It's not that I'm against comics for adults or anything....seeing how I buy them. The question I have is if all the great works for adults (Maus, Sin City, etc.) is worth the price of throwing away everything which has been really great about comics over the last century. My solution is for companies to get back to the core business of making super hero comics for kids. We grown ups need to give up Batman and Superman for the next generation. If someone wants to make some distopian deconstructionist fable with guys in capes then make up your own damn characters. Don't steal iconic characters from children.

Of course, with the direct market this may not be possible. If DC said "let's stop this suicidal death spiral" and made books for the youngsters they would see a massive sales dip for the next half decade as angry fan boys shout angrily for a return of their beloved continuity. What a mess.

Then again, if copy write laws were ever fixed then we could see characters return to the public domain and perhaps someone would get off their ass and make comics for kids again. It won't happen, but one can hope.

But now I'm on an angry rant again. I'll chalk it up to the surprise of having a comment on my page.


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