Reviews for The Fall of the American Comic Book Industry
An Insane Video Game Nerd chapter 1 . 12/23/2005
You have a talent for writing essays, my dear. :-)

This was a bit longer than I'm used to reading, but you managed to keep me entertained throughout. That's quite an achievement.
S.T. Lawrence chapter 1 . 12/12/2005
I have to admit, this was well argued. Though I have to disagree, I believe comic books are beginning to finally shake their 1980s shrouds and return to their realm of popularity, albeit slowly, like they did in the 60s when Marvel exploded onto the scene.

The 80s hurt comic books in two different, and very seperate ways. In one case, comic shop owners and antique houses began circulating claims that comic books would be valuable in the years to come. That caused by far one of the biggest spikes in buying-huge mistake. Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, etc, began to flood the market with books, and like you said, begin the multiple cover thing. Soon people were buying the books in bulk but not truly reading them or getting any value out of them. Once comic books were stuck with the stigma of being something you collected, and not something you read, they began to fall off the market.

Meanwhile, the authors themselves, hold-overs from the strongest period (60s and 70s) took off, making way for a new breed of writers and artists who were raised on the old guard's style of work but felt it was their turn to inject something.

Enter the worst mistake in comic book history: The Phoenix Saga. Quite possibly Marvel's biggest mistake was attempting to make the most complex character possible and then expecting anyone short of a Ph.D in astrophysical philosophy to understand it. Then came even more bizarre things (though, mind you, very cool) like Black Spiderman, or the death of Robin...then bringing him back in about 14 different people.

Of course DC doesn't escape the truly bizarre with the unimagine complexity of the Speed Force or whatever it is they're calling the power the Flash has these days.

Likewise, the Green Lantern Corps and power of the Spectre have become so convoluted (a problem of the late, late 80s and most of the 90s), reader's were turned off.

However, look at video games. Explosive was the Nintendo Entertainment System in the 80s, followed by Sega Genesis. Two cheesy 16-bit systems that are insanely popular in college dorms, etc. Can you name the systems that came before the rise of Playstation? Allow me: Sega CD, Sega Saturn, Super Nintendo, various Atari Jaguar systems, N64 (which began the push towards PS1), and finally the Playstation 1 unit. Since the entrance of the PS1 system, video games have become explosively popular, and now have their OWN FRIGGIN' AWARDS SHOW!

I think comic books are beginning to see a slow rise similar to the one that video game systems saw. Here's why:

1) Comic book movies HAVE generated more comic book readers. You underestimate the drive for someone who is inspired by a comic book to really explore the character. The Punisher promotion was brilliant, and people LEFT the theater with the books.

2) Two words: Identity Crisis. While DC attempts to do everything in their power to fuck up their huge gain with that line by confusing as many people as possible with Infinite Crisis, I think Meltzer's Identity Crisis was JUST what was needed for comic books. The artwork was phenomenal, combining elements of old and new techniques, and the storyline was nothing short of gripping. But what made Identity Crisis work was that the characters were the character readers ACROSS the generations loved, and that way the less-intensive fan could enjoy the story as well as the move involved fan. Because Meltzer was able to clear certain continuity issues up, the storyline was accepted by all and extremely believable (in a certain setting)...but at its heart, the story did was comic books have been lacking-tackled more human issues. X-men was a brilliant concept when first launched, but since then, it has become too philosophical in its own created universe. What started out as an experiment to challenge social diversity taboos became something far more confusing. Instead of the X-men fighting for acceptance, the X-men and millions of sudden mutants were staving off doomsday a multiple number of times and even saving whole universes, thus abandoning the purpose they were created for. Same goes for alot of the old heros, but with recent new titles, they've found their way back. With Identity Crisis, Batman has returned to being the conflicted Bruce Wayne, who continues to struggle to find balance between his vengeful soul, the Bat (which he continues to deny is vengeance and continues to proclaim he can turn off whenever) and his identity as Bruce Wayne, orphan. That's the Batman people have loved-a normal man who goes to extraordinary methods to deal with the pain of his murdered parents.

OR Superman, who's Frank Miller offshoot Red Son was one of the best versions of Superman I've ever seen. We got to see Superman who could never understand he can't do EVERYTHING.

Spider-man, who's life has seen a resurgence because of the movies, is returning to his roots-struggling with the responsibility of being a superhero.

What comic book needs is more Brad Meltzer's, true story tellers (even Kevin Smith's Daredevil was pretty good) who can make us conect with the characters. And they need stories that work better with reality, that deal with real problems. Captain America has a HUGE opportunity in front of him, and the writers blow off daily. Same goes for any of them-comic books, like science fiction in general, are made to specifically attack social taboos, to take a hard look at the way society is acting and challenge those taboos and assumptions. Furthermore, comic books are supposed to explore what it means to be human. The Punisher, a violent vengeance filled character, is an exploration of man's need for capital punishment and how we deal with evil-or how we should deal with it, etc.

Comic books are getting back to that-the Ultimate Avengers made a strong move and things are working out there. The story and the character-what people fell in love with to begin with needs to come back strong, with added tweaks.

I would love to hear your thoughts on my comments. I have provided my email
Grandmaster chapter 1 . 12/10/2005
I found your a essay a good one and I have to sadly agree. The comic book industry is a mess and as The Icicle pointed out in rec-arts-comics-dc-universe the state of comics right now is much like the pulps in their last days of the 1950's. While I don't beleive the industry will totally die I do beleive it will go back to the semi-obsure nitch it had in the 19th century when _Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck_ saw print.
Typewriter King chapter 1 . 12/10/2005
A lot of people seem to like the 'Teen Titans' stuff, so maybe a Supergirl manga would work. It wouldn't be for me, though. -

I knew someone with such a Sailor Moonish user name would endorse manga at the end, but you're probably right. The Japanese have their own tiresome conventions, however, and I'm skeptical about how much that market can grow.

I disagree with the thesis. It seems to me that if used comics are valued so low, then we're in a buyer's market, which should drive up demand. This could actually be a cause for optimism, because it could lead to a fresh demand for newer better comics.

It would seem to me that a well-meaning collector, if he owned enough of the used comics, could develop a guide for which contenuity for a fandom was best to follow, and rate those comics as the best in the, say, Superman series. Others could be labelled as trash, and the used buyers could then confidently buy those of a better stock. Purchasing for collecting purposes could then be forgotten.

Markets for new American comics, in the meantime, could now be staked out in the developing world, where electronic media isn't quite as readily available yet. South Africa, India, and the Stans may all be able to absorb marketshare. I hear the ones lecturing kids about the dangers land mines and cluster bombs are being read by children.

Lastly, the comic book industry may find a convenient alliance with another failing print industry, the news paper. I've no idea if action comics could compete for space with strips or political cartoons, but I see no reason why a three panel short couldn't be fit next to a syndicated columnist. Heck, depending on the series, it might help if the comics even comment on contemporary news events!

Besides that, there isn't much to criticize here. It would have been nice if you'd calculated the inflation rate, though. As a rule of thumb, the United States has an inflation rate of a little less than three percent since the first Reagan administration.

Good work!