I've been up to my ears in toy pitches and consulting. I've not had a lot of time for my personal work but I'm hoping next week I'll make a serious push towards getting back on track. With art it's always about doing the paying gigs and finding the time for your own work. I bet if I went back through my entire blog I'm sure I've mentioned that particular struggle many times. Yes it's that big of an issue. If you are an artist you already know and feel my pain. The personal stuff feeds the soul. The paying gigs feed the stomach. Tru-motherfucking-day!
In other news I was talking to a Comic store owner the other day about the news that Marvel is experimenting with releasing their comics digitally on the same day they release them in print form at Comic stores. I think this is a big deal because it tells me Marvel is looking at eventually doing that with their entire line and they are priming the pump for the day when all of the their comics are delivered digitally.
The retailer said that he thinks that the people who come into comic stores are not the same kind of people that would download them. I made the point that what if only 10% of his customers are? Could he afford to take a 10% hit on his business? He sort of went pale when I framed it that way. He brought up the point that Marvel is a "publishing" company and they are not going to just stop being a publisher. To which I said in fact they were not a publisher they are a content/IP company and the publishing is just a small part of what they do as a company. Sure it's how they started but it's not their future. Their future is in big budget 3D Spider-Man movies and Underoos.
Then he said if comic stores go under where will comic fans find out about new comics and ideas? I said comic stores don't carry independent product now so what's the difference? He had a blank stare and he had admitted to dropping certain Indie books he liked because he couldn't develop an audience at his store for them. ("CHEW" on that Image Comics) He said times were tough and people wanted their Spider-man and Batman but with the Marvel and DC books clocking in at $3.99 there was a limit to what customers budgets would allow them to experiment with. I believe as Marvel and DC move more towards digital releases we will see comic book stores that can weather the transition looking for new physical product to sell. Shirts and toys and yes Underoos. I'm not sure that even then they will turn to Indie Comics as a new source of income. There is a trust that is not there between the retailer and the Indie creator. It could be caused by the landslide of Indie comics that went one issue and pulled a Houdini and disappeared into thin air leaving one too many retailers with a 50 cent box filled with one part of a four part story. Maybe it's the complacency brought on by years of consistent Marvel and DC material. Weekly comics are the life blood of Comic stores. They keep the lights on and pay the rent. The trades and the Sin City shot glasses are just tiny contributions to the bottom line. Which brings me to why more retailers are not making more of a stink about the shrinking window (and soon to be nonexistent window) of digital to print release dates. The wolves are at the door and the impression I'm getting from retailers is that they don't believe people want to read comics on I-pads or I-Phones. I think that argument might have worked with an I-phone but not with an I-pad. If not in the next year or two than within the next five years as the I-pad user base grows and consumers get used to getting their digital subscriptions downloaded right to their shiny new devices they will find less and less reasons to make the trek to the comic store. In the same way that I held onto buying vinyl and than CDs there will be a few people who will keep buying the physical media until it becomes more of an inconvenience or a price issue and then they will move on. There will be deluxe hardcover editions of comics made for the best of the bunch but I see the eventual death of the floppy or it's transformation into the weekly download as inevitable.
I for one always loved the Comic store experience. It's charm comes from it's dual identity, part garage sale/used record store, part nerd community center. I liked the cranky clerks that always presented themselves as someone with an "in" with the Comic world. All the wannabe writers and artists that were replaced by the wannabe comic producer types (at least here in L.A.). I'll miss the Comic club house that was the Comic store. Comics will survive and even thrive but not in the current format. The conventions will become an even bigger deal. We've seen convention owners battling for weekends and locations all over the country. Conventions will become more about the comic memorabilia and meeting creators and other fans similar to what Anime fans experience now at their conventions.
In the theme of changing times for the sequential art business here is a link to an article talking about the reasons for the sudden demise of the Manga industry.
Why Did Manga Collapse?
The article makes some interesting points about the lack of a new Manga that captures the imagination of the whole fan base as well as bringing in new readers. Think of a Harry Potter or in Manga's case where is the next Naruto or Akira?
Next time I'll tackle my ideas for how a comic creator can take advantage of this changing environment and I'll pose a few questions every comic creator should ask themselves before they start a project.