The comic book industry, as we imagine it, does not exist.
I realize that what I’ve just said is rather controversial. I realize that what I just wrote may make some heads explode. The truth, sometimes, is a bitter pill to swallow. But, it must be said so that we can proceed in a positive direction.
To be an industry, it must be self-sustaining. It must provide goods and services that the public can’t live without.
With that being said, here’s another truth:
Industry does not care about what you think.
As a business, dollars are the only thing that the industry cares about, its bottom line. It doesn’t care about diversity, it doesn’t care about civil rights and the industry doesn’t care about the honest representation of any culture. As long as that money is coming in, as long as people are lining up to consume what the industry has to offer, then the industry is good. The industry keeps on truckin’.
Comics do not fit this category. The comic book is a medium by which I, and others, choose to deliver the most important component of the entertainment industry…
With the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment by The Walt Disney Company, the medium of the comic book is officially part of a larger industry known as the entertainment industry. This industry is made up of many facets including literature, video games, television, music, merchandising and animation. These are the different mediums by which we disburse entertainment to the masses. Disney bought Marvel because Disney was lacking in properties directed at young boys. Throughout the 90s and the early part of the new millennium, they focused so much on their live programming and the “Princess” line (i.e. Mulan, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), they forgot about the boys in their marketing strategy. They weren’t getting that (In my best TF Curtis impersonation) “Little Boy Munnaaayyy”….
The boys didn’t care that they were being ignored because they were satisfied with the properties that other companies provided (i.e. DC Entertainment and Marvel). Now, DC and Marvel make their money through their properties. The properties are disbursed through the various mediums that were identified earlier in this post. Comic books represent a small, but crucial part, of their bottom line. Comics are the first step in getting their properties to the masses. If the comic book is successful (indicated solely by how many units are sold), then the property can be further exploited through other media. Marvel Studios’ successful exploitation of their peoperties (thanks again to the Blade property, for getting the ball rolling) in the cinematic realm made Marvel Entertainment attractive enough to be acquired by Disney.
The deal was a win-win for both companies. Marvel now has the resources to continue doing what they do, and Disney has a ready-made and thriving think tank to develop more properties that could be marketed to the young boy demographic… And they want more. That’s why they bought the Star Wars property for over 4 billion dollars (Dr. Evil pinky close-up).
We, as comic book readers, are the focus group in this Grand Hustle of marketing. If we don’t support a property through our dollars, and our dollars alone, then that property will not be successful. Hollywood picked up on this. That’s why it’s even more difficult to get to and attend the San Diego Comic Con these days.
What does that mean for the independent creator?
If you want to do comics and have true control and (hopefully) success in this business, first understand that comics aren’t just comics. It’s all about creating a strong concept, a strong property and disbursing that property through as many channels as possible. You can’t wait for DC and Marvel to create that property. You’ve got to do your own thing. The only thing standing between creators and success are themselves.
At this stage of the game, you don’t need Diamond for distribution. POD outfits like DriveThruComics.com and IndyPlanet.com not only provide digital and print books to the buyer, but retailers can order multiple copies at a discount as well. In terms of merchandise, using online companies like Zazzle.com can provide those at little to no start-up cost to the entrepreneur.
What does the mean for the fan?
Your dollars dictate the success or failure of these properties. Your dollars determine whether or not your favorite characters, or the idealized version of yourselves, become part of the global fabric of recognized and beloved properties. If you do not pay for these properties, they will not grow and flourish, but wither and die in obscurity.
The only thing that stands between satisfied and unsatisfied fans are the dollars you spend. Spending money on companies that create properties that speak to you ensures that they will continue to exist. This game ain’t easy and if you’re gonna play it, it’s gonna take hard work and being on your grind each and every day. That’s the reality and I want to see more projects of quality rise to the challenge.
The comic book industry does not exist, but it is a business… And business is good.
Speaking of business, please support the amazing properties displayed in this article. And, there’s only 21 days left in the Outworld: Return of the Master Teachers Round Two campaign on Indiegogo. We’ve raised $60.00 of our $1500.00 goal to get our next property out to the masses in May. To support, click here:
Next up: The standard… Cheers!