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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

DC Heroes For Girls….WTF?

Statistics say that 45% of comic fans are women. And it’s a smart move for any business to target that audience with comic related products such as toys.But Mattel’s DC Heroes for Girls is a step in the WRONG direction towards making superheroes appealing to young girls.

On the surface, DC Heroes for Girls follows the same model that made Monster High successful. It takes place in a high school just like Monster High, there are no good guys or bad guys, and the school is run by headmistress Amanda Waller.

It’s cute fluffy and sugary enough to make any comic fan man or woman boy or girl sick to their stomach.

When you just take a closer look at the toys for the DC Heroes for Girls line it’s just one big insult to the intelligence of the audience of girls Mattel is targeting. Dumbed down heroes dressed in frilly feminine costumes that look absolutely ridiculous. Along with a premise that just treats girls like they’re stupid. Girl heroes are so DUMB they have to go to high school? WTF?

 Why can’t they go out and fight crime like the boys like Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash and Static do?

Why do I HATE the DC Heroes Girls?  The whole concept is just paternalistic. Listen to the title: DC Heroes for GIRLS. What? Superheroes aren’t for guys either?

And it presents the retarded notion that superheroes for girls have to be STUPID. Usually, superheroes for boys focus on crime fighting, problem solving, and taking down the bad guy. But according to Mattel and DC superheroes for girls are about high school, frilly costumes that look like clothes, “girl power” and making girls feel good about themselves. WTF?

So making superheroes for girls is about making a toy line where the female characters aren’t presented as equals to the guys. Even though superhero women like Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Supergirl in the comics make every effort to show themselves as equals to their male counterparts in terms of intelligence and skill.

Good Gravy. I thought this line of ridiculous reasoning went out in 1990 with Wonder Woman and the Star Riders.

You know what really would have been cool toy line for girls? Something focused around an awesome concept like Oh, DC’s Birds of Prey. Birds of Prey featured superheroines like Oracle Black Canary, and the Huntress going on adventures on their own. If Mattel wanted to make this accessible to tween and teen girls they could just Barbara Batgirl again if you want to sell Batgirl toys and have her with an interest in IT. Dinah could be into Martial arts and Helena could be into science. If Mattel and DC wanted to make it like a ladies’ version of Justice League they could toss Supergirl and Wonder Woman in the mix along with other heroes like Hawkgirl, Mera, Vixen and Katana. And on the bad guys side you could have Cheetah, Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, Catwoman, Star Sapphire, and Giganta. Let everyone wore their “real” costumes, take on the bad guys and make the series focus on girls fighting crime and problem solving.

Toss in a clock tower playset and I’d definitely spend a few dollars on this toy line.

Most comic readers male and female loved Birds of Prey loved Birds of Prey because that comic because it never insulted their intelligence. I’m sure they’d have the same enthusiasm for the toy line.

As a comic fan for over 38 years I know quite a few female comic fans. And you know what they want: They want to buy the “Real” versions of their favorite superheroines. They want to buy figures of the “real” Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl wearing the “real” or “classic” costumes they wear in the comics.

And they want to put them side by side with the guys in their “real” costumes. Why? Because they want the female characters to be the on the same level as the guys.

If Mattel and DC made “action dolls” of the “Real” or “Classic” Supergirl, Wonder Woman and Batgirl and DC’s heroines, in a toy line similar to Monster High with they’d probably be bought by boys and girls alike. Heck, they could even re-use that giant body that was released in Monster High this year for bigger characters like Giganta and Elasti Girl.

And if they created a simplified cartoon true to the spirit of the DC Universe, that’s just as fun as Monster High fans young and old would enjoy them.

As a guy who has written strong heroines in Young Adult fiction for the last 20 years I know that girls it’s possible to create and write female characters that aren’t dumbed down. And it’s possible to make a toy line where action figures appeal to all those female comic fans without insulting their intelligence.

An intelligent story with female characters!
 The best way to get girls into comics and superheorines is to show the ladies doing the same cool stuff the guys do in their stories and having the same kinds of adventures the guys have. In stories I write in the Isis series I’ve often made an effort in my stories to show Isis and E’steem having the same intelligence and skills as my male characters like John Haynes. And I’ve often showed them doing incredible feats like thunderclaps and epic fights to show how far they’re willing to go to stand for their ideals.

 To that end, I’ve always wondered why we’ve never seen Wonder Woman or Supergirl do something cool like a thunderclap or having a epic fight against an archenemy in their comics after all these years of reading comics. I believe if readers did see them doing things like that there’d be a lot more fans of superheroines than right now.

When it comes to superhero toys girls want figures that allow them to have the same kinds of adventure that the boys do. If Mattel were to make a toy line filled with DC characters focused around that premise they’d be bought by both boys and girls alike.

Monday, October 5, 2015

What’s Wrong at Marvel and DC Part 4-Everyone Wants to Be Alan Moore

 Alan Moore is one of the most influential comic witers of the 20th Century. From Superman to Swamp Thing to Miracleman to Watchmen to V for Vendetta to Supreme Alan Moore has made an impact on readers and creators in the comic book industry. In fact, he’s made so much of an impact I just wish everyone would stop trying to copy his style.

As Alan Moore himself has said Superheroes are a cultural catastrophe. Why? Because everyone at Marvel and DC  wants to be the next Alan Moore. And because everyone wants to be the next Alan Moore superhero comics at Marvel and DC SUCK.

Identity Crisis?  A pitiful attempt to get as complex as Miracleman but with none of the payoff or the emotion set up in the classic Kid Miracleman arc.  Civil War? Another pitiful attempt to copy Moore’s Watchmen and V for Vendetta and all the political and social commentary involved in it. All the blood and gore we see in comics today? An attempt to copy the carnage Moore’s Kid Mircaleman participated in when he destroyed London in Miracleman#15 with none of the emotion and heart of that classic series.

Heck, Captain Marvel in Kingdom Come is derived from Kid Miracleman’s descent into madness without the rape. 

Here’s a news flash to every comc book writer or anyone who aspires to be in the comic book business:  YOU ARE NOT ALAN MOORE. YOU WILL NEVER BE ALAN MOORE.

Alan Moore is Alan Moore. So stop trying to make your work like Alan Moore’s. and stop trying to grow a beard like his. Just be yourselves.

You know what? I don’t want to be Alan Moore. I want to be Shawn James. And I want to show my readers what’s special about a Shawn James story.

When I write stories like The Temptation of John Haynes and the Isis series I want them to see the unique mix of action adventure and humor I present in my tales. I want them to be able to read the dialogue and listen to the distinct “voice” and experience the way my characters speak to each other.  

Yeah, I get my influences and inspirations from people like Billy Wilder, Harold Ramis, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, John Byrne, George Perez, Tim Burton, and Salli Richardson Whitfield. But I don’t try to copy them. I don’t want to be them.

I want to be me. And I want every reader to know it’s my work from the first sentence.

Alan Moore left an indelible imprint on comics. But writers and artists have to start making their own distinct fingerprints on the medium if it’s going to reach readers of today. Everyone can’t be dark. Everyone can’t be grim and gritty. Everyone can’t be deep and cerebral. That approach to storytelling just doesn’t fit every character.

One of the big problems at DC is that every writer is trying to apply a dark and gritty style and tone to characters who are bright and optimistic like Superman and Wonder Woman. Trying to turn the Justice League into the Watchmen and Superman into Miracleman.

And over at Marvel, Every almost storyline is trying to follow Moore’s watchmen to the letter, trying to be a big huge epic story.

 You know what I miss? DC being DC. And Marvel Being Marvel. What makes their charcters distinct has been lost in everyone’s attempt to be more like Moore. I no longer see the spirit of Lee and Kirby at Marvel, or the fingerprint of Julius Schwartz and Jeanette Kahn on DC.

Instead I see a bunch of guys over at Marvel and DC trying to be Alan Moore and trying to have the same impact he did on comics.

And instead of getting all the praise Moore got in the past all they get reviled and attacked by readers who buy less and less comics every year. Because everyone doesn’t want to buy a rip-off of Alan Moore comic. It’s not everyone’s taste. If people want to buy Alan Moore comics they go out and buy Alan Moore’s comics.

Y’know what we need in comics? More people who want to be themselves. People who want to express their own style. People who want to tell their own stories. People who want to put their own fingerprint on the medium. If those people got a chance to express themselves I think the big two could start reversing two decades of decline.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What’s Wrong at Marvel and DC Part 3-A Lack of Balance in Storytelling

Stories are made up of two elements: Structure and form. And the basis of a solid story is a structure that is made up of a fouindation that’s level that allows it to flow smoothly from beginning to middle to end.

Unfortunately at DC and Marvel most of their writers and editors don’t undestand how these two elements work in creating the platform for balanced storytelling these days. Oftentimes in today’s comics stories structure and form just don’t synergize. Because everything is so uneven when it comes to premises, plotting and pacing. And because these elements of structure are shoddy, the stories formed around them drag on and on.

At Marvel and DC It usually takes five issues to tell a story that used to take one issue to tell.  That kind of imbalance in story pacing keeps readers from being compelled to keep buying comics or following a character’s adventures. The rule in writing is to move the story as quickly as possible. The faster the reader gets to the ending the faster the more they anticipate the next month’s comics.

When a story is balanced the reader is compelled to keep reading. And they buy multiple issues because they like what they’re reading, not because they feel forced to due to a multi-issue event in a crossover that goes over a hundred issues.

In addition to the pacing issues are the story models. Most writers today at Marvel and DC are forgetting what the first word in the world Comic Book are: Comic. In this quest to make comics more “real” Most writers write stories with an overly serious tone where every hero is a hero almost all the time. These days readers rarely get a joke in a superhero story. Or even a moment where we see the heroes having some downtime where they enjoy their hobbies and interests. Heck, we don’t even see heroes going to the movies or having a barbecue.

Either readers get super serious overly “dark” comics like Batman or Wonder Woman or they get overly humorous comics like Deadpool.

Due to this imbalance in the story models comics often feature underdeveloped and one-dimensional characters. And part of developing multidimensional characters is showing that they have balanced lives so that the readers get to see all the aspects of the character.

As I see it being a superhero is only about 1/3 of what makes a superhero character three dimesional. The other two parts are comprised of their alter ego and their personality. And a writer has to give all three parts need development in order for a story to have balance. When one part is underdevelopled readers are left with one and two dimensional characters they have a hard time relating to or connecting with.

Balanced storytelling usually features a tight plot, fast pacing and well-developed characters.

Moreover, Balanced stories usually follow the rule of less is more. Why? Because A little story goes a long way. The less a writer tells a story and the more they show the more impact it has on the reader.

 Unfortunately, Most Marvel and DC Comics follow the rule of More, more, and more. More story, More plot, more chacters and more detail in costumes and comic panels. Sometimes there’s so much detail on a comic page it’s just overwhelming. Compound this with the long crossover events and it’s literally sensory overload when you pick up a Marvel or a DC Comic.

I was reading the synopsis for the Marvel Event Axis. And I got a headache trying to figure everything out. In between all the flipped characters the overcomplicated plot and the sheer volume of characters I just felt overwhelmed. There was absolutely no balance to the structure of the plot and so the form of the story was uneven and all over the place.

Contrast Axis to DC’s Legends in 1986. Legends had a very simple plot: Darkseid wants to turn the world against DC’s Heroes. While The story was part of an overreaching arc in all of DC’s Post-Crisis comics readers could easily follow the story in the Legends mini-series without buying extra comics to complete it. 

Because the story was balanced readers were able to buy and try comics they usually wouldn’t.

 Legends was one of the best events in DC’s Post-Crisis history. Why? Because It was balanced. It had a strong hook, was easy to read and defined what made DC heroes the icons they were while capturing the heart and soul of the DC Universe. Sure the story was Post Crisis, but new readers and old could pick up Legends and not feel lost at all. Every issue was an entry point.  

And Contrast Axis this to the event Acts of Vengance in 1989. Acts of Vengance had a simple plot: Villians fight someone other than their arch enemies. And while the event was Avengers themed, and was part of a company wide arc, it was incredibly easy to follow and just fun. Sure we knew the mastermind was Loki back in 1989, but who cared? Just seeing the matchups of our favorite heroes taking on villains they usually didn’t fight was the event.

Out of all the events Marvel ever produced, Acts of Vengance was one of the best story wise. Why? Because it was balanced. It had a strong hook, was easy to read and was just good old fun that captured the spirit of what a Marvel comic is about. A reader could follow it easily by just picking up a single issue of any comic. No special issues, no special covers. Every issue was an entry point.

Moreover, a reader didn’t feel obligated to buy a hundred issues just to complete the entire story. They could pick and choose what titles they wanted to read.  And because each individual battle between hero and villian was single and self-contained in individual character books it gave readers a compulsion to pick up titles they usually wouldn’t.

Thanks to the balanced story model featured in Acts of Vengance Marvel was able to successfully launch new titles like New Warriors, revamp stale characters like Psylocke and make them into icons and bring forgotten characters like Richard Rider’s Nova back as a regular hero in the Marvel Universe.

When a story has balance readers can easily follow a story from beginning to middle to end. Everything usually fits a three-act paradigm and compels the reader to keep reading to the end. Thanks to all the gimmicks at Marvel and DC most readers haven’t read a story with a functional three-act paradigm in years and because they haven’t seen a good story model they don’t know what a balanced story looks like. If comics followed more balanced models for storytelling readers would be excited to buy Marvel and DC Comics on the regular instead of feeling obligated to buy them just to complete a crossover.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What’s Wrong at Marvel and DC? Part 2- YOUR COMICS ARE TOO DAMN COMPLICATED

30 Years ago comics at Marvel and DC were simple. Good guys vs. Bad guys. Black and white. And that’s what made them easy for anyone to follow. Readers saw what was on the cover and that was what they got for 75 cents.

Today, comics at Marvel and DC are almost impossible for Joe or Jane average to access by just looking at the cover. Without something like Wikipedia to prep them or family members with an extensive background knowledge of the charcters a casual reader or kid will wind up absolutely lost.

Plain and simple comics at Marvel and DC are just too complicated. In between the events, the gimmicks, the new costumes and even the new people in the new costumes the average person just can’t get into comics at the big two. Just as readers are getting to know the characters and their supporting casts….BOOM! everything is changed in an event, a gimmick a retcon, or a reboot.

And things aren’t just changed, they’re changed in the worst ways. Most of the changes at Marvel and DC today are done in long drawn out multi-issue crossover events that go on for a year to two years. Crossovers that take over a hundred issues to collect all the parts to. A nightmare for the casual new reader or even the veteran comic fan to digest.

30 years ago the paradigm for comics were pretty easy to follow. Each character had their adventures, their own supporting casts, and their own villains. And stories were 2-3 issue story arcs a reader could easily access.

Nowadays thanks to the crossovers, retcons and reboots Joe and Jane average can’t figure out what’s going on with their characters. And even kids can’t figure out what’s going on. Yeah, the storylines are supposed show characters growing and changing, but things change so much in the Marvel and DC Universe it’s even impossible for even toy companies to keep up these days with the insanity. By the time a Marvel Legends or DC Collectibles action figure is on store shelves, that look for the character is already passé in the publications at the Big Two.

One Sunday at Sunday dinner I tried to explain what happened in the Marvel universe to my family regarding recent events. And the reaction I got were rolled eyes and sighs.

That’s not the reaction a business wants when casuals want from word of mouth. Why? Word of Mouth is what sells books in the publishing business and how new readers find new books.

Seriously how does this sound: That’s not the Superman in the comics today. That’s the Silver Age Superman. The real Superman is the Post Crisis-Post Death of Superman Post Reign of the Supermen Post-Zero Hour-Post Identity Crisis-Post Identity Crisis-Post Infinite Crisis Post Final Crisis Post Flashpoint Post New 52 Post Convergence Superman.

Or telling a recent viewer of Avengers: Age of Ultron that the Iron Man they saw in the movie isn’t the Iron Man in the comics. The Iron Man in the comics is the Post Heroes Reborn Post Heroes Return Post New Avengers Post Axis Post Secret Wars Iron man.

Good Gravy I got a headache typing all that. But imagine what a new customer would feel like at the bookstore if someone had to explain all that to them. Or a kid at a toy store.

All they want is a Superman and an Iron Man to play with and comics to read. But thanks to all the overcomplication of their respective universes, that simple feat becomes an exercise in frustration. They just want to own the “real” version of Superman and Iron Man.

Explaining all the changes in these events at the big two is just too complicated for even a veteran comic fan like myself with 38 years in the game. Imagine the headaches a new reader or a person who is kind of interested in comics gets when they go on Google. And with all the reboots over the last 25 years it becomes even more complicated.

30 years ago when things were simpler, a reader could just pick up any issue of a character’s book and get started. And if they were really interested in the character they go to the back issues and get caught up on the adventures of a character. Every story was an entry point. But today with the numerous volumes and different series featuring different costumes it becomes a nightmare to follow the adventures of a character from first issue to last.

Comics at Marvel and DC are just too complicated for new readers to figure out. With multiple versions of characters and even multiple universes for thousands of different characters the average customer just winds up LOST trying to get into comics at the Big two.

In business people can easily identify a product by distinct visual cues. But when it comes to comics and superheroes at Marvel and DC it’s almost impossible to do that. Characters have gone through so many costume changes in the last five years alone most casual people can’t just point to a character and say it’s Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America Wonder Woman.

All those changes make things way too complicated for casual and new customers. And when customers find things too complicated they become frustrated and stop buying the product.

Which is why comic sales are at the lowest point in almost 25 years at the Big two and DC has lost 10 percent of its market share to the Indies.

Both Marvel and DC need to follow a rule us professional writers use when we tell stories in our novels: LESS IS MORE. The less detail you put into a story the more impact it’ll have on the reader. One of the big problems I find in these big mega crossover events is that they try to do too much of everything. Not every story has to be a to be an epic on the scale of Crisis of Infinite Earths or Watchmen to have an impact on a reader.

 Sometimes a small simple story like the ones in the 2-3 issue arcs from the 1970s and 1980s can get a new reader hooked on comics. Marvel and DC need to focus on developing those kinds of stories with the simplified art from that era. They’re the kind of comics that show readers what’s great about their characters and what makes being a part of their respective universes distinct.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What’s Wrong at Marvel and DC?

Comics used to be fun at Marvel and DC. Readers used to be able to get 32 pages featuring a fantastic adventure where a hero saved the day and stopped the bad guy.

Then something happened to take the fun out of them. And Editors are still trying to figure out where they went wrong.

Was it was all the gimmicks? Or was it all the events?  Or was it just comics becoming popular in the mainstream?

Personally, I think the editiors and creators take comics at the big two WAY too seriously. And everyone who works at the Big Two just needs to dial it back a couple of notches.

Yes, comics have fantastic adventures. Yes, they feature larger than life heroes in brightly colored outfits. But the stories have lost that sense of awe and wonder that they had thirty and forty years ago.

And because they’ve lost that sense of awe and wonder at Marvel and DC they no longer have that unique energy that makes them feel special. They’re not an escape to readers anymore. Instead that distinct energy has been replaced with a seriousness that makes a comic feel like doom and gloom all the time. Instead of us aspiring to live a superhero’s life, they’re living our lives.

And no one wants to pay money to see their lives depicted in a fantasy.  Business 101.

The way I see it many who work in comics are just trying too hard. I don’t know if they’re feeling pressure from the competition like video games, pro wrestling and big budget movies, but there’s a sense of desperation in the comics published by the big two. As a fellow creator I just see it on the page. Writers and artists trying way too hard do anything to make that one moment that’ll get people’s attention. And because they try too hard what gets published are dull uninspired comics with no heart and no soul.

This is why we get heroes that fight each other instead of taking on bad guys. This is why stories go on and on for years instead of wrapping in three issues. This is why reading a comic feels like a chore instead of a joy, and why readers count down the days towards a comic being cancelled instead of anticipating buying the next issue.

Clearly most creators and editors at Marvel and DC’s publishing divisons are frustrated. Feeling the pressure from the movies, wrestling and video gams they’re throwing crap at a wall in the hopes of reviving interest in the medium. Only to make a mess in the process.

In this third decade of an industry wide-slump many are trying to find that one story that will change things. That one issue ssue that will get readers to notice comics again. And because they aren’t having fun, readers can’t enjoy themselves when they read comics.

So that’s why readers see all the deaths, gory mutilations and characters acting like complete sociopaths. Many who work at the Big two are angry about the state of affairs at their companies and it’s showing right on the page.

Unfortunately, because all their anger and frustration shows on the page all that does is alienate longtime readers and turn away potential new ones. It’s hard to get passionate about a comic when the creators clearly aren’t allowed to showing readers any passion.

Many at the big two in editorial are so focused on making that one big hit comic that they’ve lost perspective. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. And because the editors at the Big Two are trying to sprint to the finish line of a long distance race, they wind up with a short burst of sales on the first issue after an event is announced and then everything starts declining by the third. Because most creators rush, they wind up burnt out on comics in a few years.  

So nothing that lasts long-term. This is why o series can stay in print for any longer than a few months at worst or three to five years at best.

With Publishing being a marathon, an editor has to know that there are going to be boom periods and slow periods. And how to use the backlist (reprints of previously published work) from the boom periods to keep the company afloat during the slow periods. There are going to be books that are blockbuster successes, books that fail from the start to find an audience, and books on the bubble that with a little nurturing and support can turn into hits when readers discover them.

It takes a good editor to manage the catalog so that those titles which are blockbusters can maintain their audience and the ones on the bubble can find one. And it takes a good editor to know when to pull the plug on a project or to kill it before it even starts.

Neither Marvel Nor DC has had that professional to work in their publishing divisions in two going on three decades. And it shows in the products they produce. These days the products coming out of both companies have no structure, no organization, and no direction. Again, it’s desperate people throwing crap at a wall and hoping something sticks with readers. 

Both DC and Marvel need a seasoned publishing professional to lead the rebuilding of their brands. And they need someone who will bring back a sense of awe and wonder back to the offices to inspire the creative teams. Someone who will support creators and help them focus on crafting the best stories possible. Someone who will radiate the passion, enthusasm and heart to disperse all this negative energy from the last 20 years and make comics as accessible, fun and family friendly as YA and children’s fiction.

I believe that superhero comics can make a comeback. It’s clear audience like superheores since superhero movies make billions of dollars at the box office and sell billions more in merchandise. But the publications that led to these characters becoming popular in the first place can’t sell 20,000 copies in a month during one of the biggest baby booms in the last 40 years.

Kids should be buying comics like crazy. But because editors and creators are stuck in the past the readers of the future can’t discover the characters and what’s great about them.

Creators at Marvel and DC need a leader with the vision to dissipate all the negative energy around the brands and just create and publish great comics. Right now there’s too much negative energy at the top at both publishers and that negative energy is sucking the life out of the publications and at DC even the merchandising and licensed products.

Seriously, there isn’t going to be some magic comic that revives interest in superhero comics at Marvel and DC. No it’s not going to be some new costume, or some new story direction that gets readers excited about comics at the big two again. There won’t be a Fantastic Four #1 or an Amazing Fantasy 15 or even a Giant Sized X-Men #1 that brings the readers back. There isn’t going to be some event like New 52 or Marvel NOW that gets readers to rush back to see what’s so great about their favorite heroes. Audiences for comics get built over time and it may take years for readers to rediscover comics again like they did from the 1960s  and the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But the only thing keeping readers from rediscovering the characters in the big two are editors and creators stuck in the past when it comes to story models and even art styles. The days of the annual events and the constant gimmicks are over. It’s time to get back to basics when it comes to character design and storytelling so customers can easily remember their favorite heroes.  If I were running either Marvel or DC, there would be one universe, no gimmicks or events and there’d be a heavy focus on just telling great stories in 2-3 issue story arcs that are PG or PG-13 in terms of content.

From what I’ve seeen people still love Marvel and DC Superheroes and they’re just waiting for creators to bring back the awe, wonder and fun that made reading those comics a pastime for millions them twenty plus years ago. All their bullpens need are the right leaders to take the catalogs of heroes in a new direction for this new millennium.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Five Dollar Comic books-WTF?

I was reading an article online that said many at the big two are pushing to drive the price of comics to $5. WTF?

Let me get this straight…Publishers like Marvel and DC want readers to pay $5 for a 32-page comic book? $5 for 32 pages?

Yeah, this is a great way to drive people right out of the hobby.

I believe the $5 comic will be the nail in the coffin that finally kills the comic book industry.

Has anyone told these geniuses at Marvel and DC that Comic books aren’t selling at $4? Heck, they weren’t selling at $2.99.

When a new issue costs as much as an old back issue from the 1970s something is wrong with the business model at the big two.

When the price of Comics went to 50 cents 30 years ago in the early 1980s there began a decline in comic sales. Sure things picked back up in the late 80’s and early 90’s with the speculator boom but since the mid 1990’s the entire industry has been in decline sales wise. And this price increase could mean lead to the demise of the 32-page comic book.

In the business of publishing it costs money to print comics. Lots of it. And a publisher needs to print a certain mininmum to meet a certain price point. And there comes a point when the printing costs just become too expensive for the beloved 32-page comic book.

If comics are costing $5 the number of comics printed must be under 25,000 or 30,000 units. That’s the only mathematical reason for them to be at that price point. This means that fewer people are reading comic books than in any point in the industry’s history.

And why should they read comics? Most of them are absolutely awful. Most are filled with violence so graphic it would make a 1950s EC comic look family friendly. And many of the heroes we’re supposed to look up to as icons are hostile angry, violent sociopaths with no regard for the communities they’re supposed to protect. Everything is all about them.

Even worse, most people including diehard fans just can’t figure out what’s going on anyomore. At DC we’ve got a multiverse of titles in 52 different universes.. At Marvel there’s a new earth featuring characters from a hodgepodge of alternate universes.  There’s no entry point and no incentive for a new reader to try anything. There’s no way for a title to build word of mouth with readers.

And no reason for readers to commit to a title because in 24-36 months editors will just blow everything up and start all over with a new series of #1 issues where everything starts all over again.

From a business standpoint the Marvel and DC are hemorrhaging money. With all these reboots and relaunches millions of dollars are being spent developing, creating and launching comics that barely go 12 issues before they’re cancelled. Editorial at the big two is throwing sh*t at a wall and hoping something sticks. Hoping, wishing and praying for that Fantastic Four #1 or Giant Sized X-Men #1 or Detective Comics #27 that will usher in a new era where comics will be popular again.

Doing the exact same things with the exact same characters and expecting a different result. The rest of the world calls this insanity but it’s business as usual at Marvel and DC. This plan hasn’t worked in 22 years and now publishers are clearly getting desperate in their efforts to get new readers.

Paperback now costs as much as Two comics!
Asking customers to pay $5 for comic books shows how no one at the big two has a vision for the future of the medium. In a world where people can get whole novels like the ones I publish in eBook form for 99¢ and read a whole library of books for just $9.99 a month with Amazon’s KindleUnlimited program who in their right mind is going to pay $5 for a 32-page comic book?

Instead of raising prices, the big two need to be raising their quality. Comics need to get back to being cheap easy to read fun entertainment. When 32-page comics cost more than an eBook or an app the comic book industry is in trouble.

In Monday’s blog I’ll be asking the question what’s wrong with the comic book industry.