The State of Comics


I guess you could say that I’m concerned about the future of comic books. Over the last few days, I’ve had two conversations with two different people (Chris and my cousin) about Marvel comics mostly. Neither conversation was completely out of context, but they were both initiated by me. I’m not usually one to fall into the trap of nostalgia, but there are a few things from my childhood that trigger it. As I have recently learned, comics are definitely in that category.

The Good

I mentioned that both conversations revolved around Marvel. I also wrote that I’m concerned about where comics are going. So, you can probably deduce that there might not be much in this section about Marvel. As you’re right, I will start there in an attempt to build some positive capital so that it doesn’t look like I’m piling on later.

First, other than the slightly (but understandable) disappointing ending, Secret Empire was a good story. Nick Spencer took what could have been a disaster and made it work. Then, while I didn’t like all of the titles that have come out of Legacy, I did like the idea of tying the past to the present and attempting to build a bridge to the future.

You can see from the cover that they had a slightly darker ending initially. However, apparently due to fan pressure, they succumbed to the obvious. More on that soon.

So, decent stories and characters, what’s the problem? Patience. I will get to the bad and ugly (in spite of my promise of possibly doing away with this format) in the net sections. For now, that is the good of Marvel. In contrast, DC not only has good stories (better than Marvel some would say), but their cover prices are so much less. I know that sounds odd when the difference is only one dollar, but a dollar per books adds up. At the standard prices of 2.99 v. 3.99, you get an extra DC book per $12 spent. If you were on a $50 a week habit like me, that’s four books a week.

As a result, even if the books are of equal quality, the DC books will have more value. That point, in fact, came up in my conversation with Chris. He said how he wasn’t buying Marvel anymore unless they were on clearance. He then went on to mention that he thought the DC books were of better quality. I initially agreed and probably still do.

However, the more that i thought about it, the more that I realized that might be a false narrative. At the least, it is an exaggeration. Sure, Batman is the best book currently and might be one of the best ever. Scott Snyder has blown it out of the stratosphere with Metal. After those and maybe Tom King’s other book, Mr. Miracle, there is a definite drop off in quality. I sense a turn for the negative here, so let’s trot out that by line.

The Bad

In contrast to the last section, I am going to start out with DC here to keep the thought going and then switch to Marvel, because as it stands, the only ugly is going to be Marvel, so that thread will continue from this section into that one. I’ve already said that most, if not all, of the DC books have good characters and stories. Their Rebirth has been a reboot that has worked on so many levels. However, it hasn’t all been completely positive. Other than the books mentioned in the last section, there isn’t much that is worth the cover price. Wonder Woman without Greg Rucka has been quite the drop off. No other book makes me want to shell out 2.99 for 32 pages worth of entertainment.

I get that creators need to do what they enjoy and I actually like Black Magick very much, but I selfishly want him back on WW.

Well, if there’s nothing in DC that I’m willing to pay 3 dollars for, then there’s certainly nothing that Marvel is putting out right now that I’d pay 4 dollars for. I liked Secret Empire and was willing to give Legacy a chance. I liked that, too, and especially liked that it wasn’t a reboot. However, all of this was secretly while hoping that they might come to their senses and drop their cover prices. They never did, so I’m officially out again from comic collecting. I just cannot justify the price for what I’m getting.

The Ugly

So, perhaps I’m part of the problem. The other major revelation came during the conversation with my cousin. It actually started while I was talking to Chris, but when combined with the subject matter of the conversation with my cousin, it crystallized into a more solid form.

My cousin and I were talking about the new Star Wars movie (impressions coming in a couple of days), and I said something about Star Wars fans being the worst, but Marvel comic fans giving them a run for their money. While talking to Chris, I made the point that comic fans have disproportionate power right now. Star Wars can tell each individual fan to go fly a kite because they’re still going to make a billion dollars on every movie.

The profit margin is so low for comics and the audience is so small that every fan they lose is a huge blow to the bottom line. I thought that Disney might allow the comics division to be a loss leader because the movies have proven to be a money printing machine. Perhaps that was true for a while, but there seems to be a turning tide and that they are putting pressure on the comic guys to deliver the goods.

This is how I imagine all the Broflakes who get mad about the changes to the Marvel universe.

The main driver for this train of thought is that they are killing the Guardians of the Galaxy (or that was the chatter a couple of weeks ago) book in January even though it is one of their better movies. Chris mentioned that Marvel just doesn’t have the talent that DC does and I reiterated my point that they could drop the price, try out some “new” talent, and take a chance. However, that doesn’t seem to be an option anymore and now they’re stuck with this mess of a situation and no good plan as how to proceed because their fans have dictated so much of their recent plans.

The Verdict

Things don’t look good for comics. Like I said to my cousin, because he’s not a comics fan, just a fan of the movies, “Who cares, right?” Well, I care. Comic books were an outlet for an awkward teenage me and they have been a steady force in my life ever since. Whenever things start to get a bit too chaotic in the real world, I can pull myself into the pretend world of Gotham or Wakanda and forget about it for an hour or so. Video games also became that for me, but it’s been harder and harder to sit down to play a video game now that I’m older.

I honestly like what comics are doing now. I don’t mind the new characters, enjoy most of the events that have happened in my time back in the books. What I don’t like is the cover price and it isn’t just because it’s prohibitive for me. I can find ways around that. It’s also prohibitive to new fans that they are courting with these new characters. Who is going to take a chance on something that is so obviously and grossly overpriced? I will be the first to admit that I don’t have answers, but I’m hoping that someone out there with the power to do something will figure it out.

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