Monday, February 14, 2011

Thinking Out Loud

Kind of dropped-off the face of the Earth there, didn't I? Too many plans and things that have to get done in the real world, and way too little time to do it all.

When I named this blog "My Opinion Doesn't Matter" (since shorten to M.O.D.M.), my intention was not to let my personal opinion influence what I said about the stories or artwork I posted. If I though an artist stunk, well, that was my opinion ... which shouldn't matter to someone else who might be a fan.
... psst! I'll let you in on a little secret, too ... it's also a backwards shot at everybody who is a self-proclaimed "expert" on something and has an over-inflated ego, thinking the world of themselves ... so like, if they read it out loud, they would actually be saying (to themselves) that their opinon doesn't matter!!!
Sometimes, though, I DO have an opinion on something and I feel a need to vent a little. Today is one of those times.

Today, I'm just rambling about something ... I swear I'll post some Golden Age comic stories (or more humor digest artwork ... not sure which yet) at some point this month once I get some things settled in "the real world".

Something I just read today:
Michael Netzer has created a petition in which he hopes the result will be comics' two big publishers, Marvel & DC, will do what they can to revive the comic industry. You can check it out here:

Netzer points-out that Marvel & DC have neglected comic book publishing, instead focusing their efforts on licensing their characters. He also states that comics are sold through "a monopoly distributor and are sold only in specialty shops". Netzer puts the health of the industry squarely on the shoulders of The Big Two and paints a pretty bleak picture of independent publishing.

I'm all for anything that raises public awareness of comic books, from crappy movies & cartoons that get young whipper-snappers into their local comic shop, to causes like Netzer's that (perhaps) make the general non-comic-buying public aware that comics are something that can be taken seriously both as an artform & as a business. On the other hand, I think this petition is a waste of time.

First, the government has already looked into Diamond and the alledged "monopoly" they have on distribution (that's IF I can believe anything I've ever read online). They ruled that while Diamond may be the only company handling comic book distribution, they aren't the only company that distributes material to newstands, book stores, etc etc etc, and therefore, Diamond wasn't a true monopoly.

Second, Netzer makes it out as if only Marvel & DC can "save the industry", that anything published by any other company is largely ignored by fans & creators working for an independent company are basically fending for themselves career-wise. Sure, Marvel & DC currently dominate the market, but that hasn't always been the case. It probably seems like ancient history to some people out there in the world, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past where The Big Two were looking over their shoulders at a few upstart publishers (Image, Valiant & Malibu) who were all getting a lot of attention from fans & the comic press.

Anyway, here's why I think the petition is a waste of time: Scream all you want, but as long as Marvel & DC are making money somewhere (movies, toys, cartoons, underwear, paper plates and all that garbage), they aren't honestly going to worry about the comic market until that aspect of their business becomes their bread & butter. Yeah, they'll do some nice PR moves, like dropping the $3.99 price-tag after fans made enough noise about it, but at the end of the day, they are going to do what's best for their company. Let's face facts here: If the comic industry finally did crash & burn and every comic shop in North America shutdown, Marvel & DC would continue to operate & (probably) still make money.

What I think should be done ... a better use of everyone's time who is concerned about the comic book industry ... is to forget about Marvel, DC and Diamond. Dont' worry about them and let's focus our attention elsewhere. In the world of sports, you see organizations "re-build". They let-go of their top stars, go with a "youth movement" and begin plans for future success. Sure, there's (sometimes) a long period where things look bleak, but eventually, if done properly, the team returns to its winning ways & may even surpass its past success.

It's well past the time that the comic industry, specifically fans, retailers & creators, take the same approach sports teams do rather than wait for Marvel or DC to do something that will bring-in new fans (you know Diamond doesn't care so why talk any more about them?). Here's my thoughts on this, and in no way do I think I have the answers here, so maybe we can all just look at this as a starting-point, some thoughts to pick apart while looking for more solid ideas that will benefit the comic book industry for the long-haul.
... OR we can all sit around doing nothing about the problem & continue to complain about it as the industry continues to get worse.

Creators should work together to form strong companies instead of starting-up yet another creator-owned imprint. Give-up a little control over the things you create in exchange for creating a company that 10-20 years from now new creators will be dying to work for because they want to work on a character you created.

Retailers should do whatever they can to promote quality Indy books. Off the top of my head, I'ld suggest that if you have a little display next to the cash register (where the "impulse-buy" comics are located), you reserve that spot for Indy books only and never let a Marvel or DC title sit in that spot ever again. I would hope that it can go without saying that any book in that spot is appropriate for any age. And hey, if you've got a decent back-issue run of a used-to-be-popular Indy title, put that in a prime spot so people can see that you have it. That assumes, of course, that you do still carry back-issues in some quantity.

Fans have to spread the word that Indy comics don't suck in comparison to The Big Two because word-of-mouth is still king in the advertising world. Got a friend who only reads Marvel and/or DC? Convert them, but be intelligent about it. Trash-talking their favorite X-Men or Batman books won't get you anywhere, they'll just think you're a jerk. Maybe they have a favorite writer or artist who used to or currently does work on an Indy title that they aren't aware of? Don't assume that anybody ever knows the same things you do.

It's not like I hate Marvel or DC, but I love comic books more than either of those two companies. When I used to have money to burn, I would get in my car & driving aimlessly for hours looking for a new comic shop to visit. For a number of years, my wife & I would drive for about 13 hours to go to the Chicago Comic-Con (aka Wizard World Chicago) ... starting late at night so we'ld arrive in Chicago just as the convention opened! Someday, I'll have money to burn again, and I want there to be awesome comic book conventions, cool comic shops and great titles all waiting for me whenever I get back into collecting. Right now, I look at the comic industry and all I see is a jumbled mess that everyone wants to complain about but nobody wants to fix. So, instead of wasting time waiting for something to happen or trying to get Marvel & DC to fix something they probably care very little about at this point, why not just forge ahead without them?
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