Yesterday, local comic book creator Jake Ekiss sent me an e-mail:
Robert Kirkman just posted a video on CBR that I think is a topic a lot of us should be making some noise about. You might not agree entirely with what he says, but the point of it all is something to consider. Since most of us are at least semi-indie if not totally indie comic creators, we should be talking about the future of comics and how that future can be adapted to us and our game plan. How do we get the returns we expect and deserve for our hard work? How do we as a community make comics the kind of landscape we want to live and work in?
Like I said, apologies if it's a little odd of me, but I think it's a good discussion to promote. Forward this around if you will: http://comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=17705
My own thoughts?
Ever so often, we have a prominent creator step out with their manifesto on "saving the industry." I'm not saying that in a demeaning or sarcastic way. It's a good thing. We have a lot of people concerned and invested in the success of comics. And I completely agree with Kirkman. If the top writers/artists did more creator-owned work, it would help grow our industry. Marvel and DC could still be top dogs even with (for lack of a better term) upper mid-level talent. Yet, with the money that Marvel and DC have at their disposal, why would they settle for that? They want the best names on their titles. A writer or artist, with a mortgage and a family to feed, would want a steady paycheck and insurance benefits, which, in theory, Marvel and DC offer. Yes, creator-owned work has the potential to be more lucrative, but it's also riskier. Most of us are not Robert Kirkman. Maybe in an ideal future, the industry would grow, and there would be 10,000+ to buy my books. That's not the reality I'm dealing with. Instead, for me, it's more viable to consider The Long Tail, i.e. treating what I do as a niche business. I can't find 10,000 readers, but can I find a smaller more dedicated readership? Can I find my audience? Then that smaller group acts as ambassadors for my work. It's a nice problem to consider, but I'm still just trying to get books published. My problems aren't at the scale of Kirkman's.
Kirkman suggested a conference to discuss the state of the industry. However, any creative entertainment industry is such a complex system. It would be hard to faithfully represent all facets at a conference -- creators, publishers (small, independent, mainstream, manga, international, web comics), distributors, journalists, printers, retailers (direct and book market), fans, readers, critics, agents, and more. The loudest voices would dominate. What you'd probably want is to enlist some brainy Harvard/MIT level economists to do an audit of the comic book industry. They'd look at it from all perspectives: historical, social, financial. Then they could write a detailed response to that favorite at-the-bar-after-a-convention topic: "How do you save the industry?"
Although, when I said "I can't find 10,000 readers" that's not completely true. I write a semi-monthly comic for D Magazine that gets easily 30,000 readers in the Dallas area. I might be one of the few comic book writers who has those kind of numbers and hardly any one has heard of me. My comics do fairly well locally and in Norman, Oklahoma. Publishers take note.
I don't know. For the most part, I optimistically believe in the free market's ability to self correct. Problems in the industry won't stay problems for long. Also, throughout the history of art, I realize what is commercial and what is critically acclaimed hasn't been one in the same. That is the world we live in. The market needs to grow/expand if we want there to be more room at the top for people to make a good living in comics. We need a market that allows for better stories. We know this stuff. I agree with Kirkman. He's a smart man. The top writers and artists should be telling their own stories, not revisiting and doing variations on established standards. It's a conversation that needs to be had, and I'm glad Kirkman is taking the initiative.
Now, I have some creator-owned comic book proposals in need of a publisher.