Dialogue Year In Review Questions
What is the biggest challenge facing the comics industry today?
The recent collapse of the sports trading card market presages the biggest threat now facing the comics industry.
Collectibility is an advantage intrinsic to the comics medium. However, during recent years, so much emphasis has been placed upon the collectible aspect of comics that the entertainment aspect has been neglected. This trend has been fostered, promoted and exploited by publishers, distributors, retailers, fans and creators. Lately, a great many tricks that can only be pulled once a decade or so have been used to add collectibility to comics, including new number one issues, various cover gimmicks and even the “death” of Superman! That’s how enamored we’ve become with the short-term benefits of collectibility.
Comics are an entertainment medium first and collectible merchandise second. We as an industry, must resist the urge to turn comics into a fad.
I believe that the onus falls first upon publishers and creators to change the industry’s self-destructive course. Publishers must begin emphasizing long-term growth and success, and creators must learn their craft and become good entertainers above all else.
Storytelling has thrived since the dawn of time, and will always be a viable industry. As a storytelling medium, as entertainment, comics will endure. Hula hoops, Pet Rocks, trading cards and such come and go.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing comics retailers?
Comics retailers must take the lead in expanding the base readership of comics. Retailers are the front line troops in our industry’s battle to win and maintain an audience. Every retailer should make acquiring and developing new customers a high priority. This will take dedicated effort at the retail level and increased communication with distributors and publishers.
What are your (or your company’s) goals for 1993?
My goal for 1993 is to launch a new comic book company that will be a significant factor immediately and quickly become the leader in the industry. Watch.
The Beginning of the End?
My second comic book company, DEFIANT launched the following August, 1993, the very month that industry sales fell off the edge of the table and began a plunge into the abyss. Industry sales volume fell catastrophically starting that month. DEFIANT did well for a while, against all odds, but eventually was swept down with the rest.
P.S. A spurious trademark infringement lawsuit against us by Marvel helped speed our demise. They lost, but it cost us over $300,000 to defend ourselves. Bleeding that much money out of a small start-up is lethal. Their true mission was accomplished. More on that story later.
Back to the point:
The comic book business has struggled ever since August 1993, and right now, it seems that the future of pamphlet comics is in doubt. Bellweather title the Uncanny X-Men is selling around 57,000 copies a month, less than a tenth of what it sold regularly when I was at Marvel.
What now? I don’t know. The crystal ball is cloudy….