(Disclaimer: I totally copped the WSJ image.)
Tim Marchman comments on the failure of comics publishers to gain any market bump from the massive movie successes of some of this properties, the industry's overall continued poor treatment of creators, and the irony of these situations at at time when it seems comics is enjoying a time of great creativity and expansion in other areas.
My initial reactions:
- The US superhero-reading community has shrunken considerably over the past two decades, and the 1990s speculator bust and near bankruptcies of major companies did not help. Nor does the dwindling number of specialty shops, which are the main places to find comic books. These situations make for a small, specialty audience.
- Comic book publishers keep pushing out lots and lots of padded six-issue storylines so they can publish them as trade paperbacks. This strikes me literally as the "1000 monkeys pounding on keyboards" theory of writing. Eventually they hope they will strike upon a perennial best-selling book, like Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, or The Infinity Gauntlet. In the meantime, this process makes for a whole lot of junk coming out and precious few quality books.
- Also, there is no substantial reward to any creator to make one of those books for a big publisher when in the long run it seems that if their work is successful, they will only get some royalties (which seem like peanuts in compensation) coupled with having little or no creative control. I cannot see why anyone would try to be creative at one of these companies then, other than to fulfill a dream to work on a property they themselves enjoyed, which is a sentimental but ultimately not-so-profitable endeavor.
- Furthermore, creators are lucky apparently to have their names mentioned in the credits. If anything, having your name in the end credits is the equivalent of legal small print. As long as they give some credit to the creators, no matter how slight or buried, the company is covered. Not much of a career aspiration for a comics artist, to be three lines up from Best Boy or Catering Services...
- I have not been impressed by any of J. Michael Straczynski's comic work (thus no links from me), and Marchman's line that the upcoming batch of Watchmen sequels was the "rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese's 'Taxi Driver'" was particularly well taken.
In any case, go read it and see what you think...