Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The End Of The Comics World Is Nigh

New York Post writer Reed Tucker is on a mission to explain what’s wrong with the comics industry.

Did you miss the good news? According to ComiChron, comic book sales in 2012 were at their highest level in two decades. It was a good year, with funnybook publishing raking in some $715 million. Add that to the other mainstream media stories popping up (regrettably with a headline containing the word “Biff!”) about the rebounding market and the superhero’s growing presence in mainstream culture, and geeks should be popping the bubbly.

So why doesn’t it feel like a time to celebrate? Why does it feel like it’s one of the worst eras to be a reader since the days of The Clone Saga — at least when it comes to the big-two titles? Inflated prices, desperate reboots, an even greater flood of tie-ins, crossovers and other publishing gimmicks have become the order of the day.

Overall sales may be getting better (though when you take into account inflation, that’s debatable), but in the end, it hardly matters. Comic books long ago became a niche hobby reaching few outside the circle of hardcore Wednesday crowd. The frustrating thing is, DC and Marvel seem to have thrown in the towel on this point, and most everything they publish has become in service of that ever-narrowing crowd.

In Business 101, you learn that there are really only two ways to make more money as a company: You can sell to new customers, or you can squeeze more money from your existing customers. Increasing ARPU, they call it: average revenue per user.

The publishers (Marvel more-so than DC) seem to have decided that broadening the audience just ain’t gonna happen, so they’ve opted for the latter, raising prices and gambling that their current customers will shell out more money each month for an ever-expanding line of branded books or for big events that promise to break the Internet in half.

Do you like Batman? Well, you’re gonna love him in 13 other monthly books. Or, were you moved when that one character actually died back in the 1980s? Well, we’ve got a boatload of shocking new deaths for characters that will definitely not be resurrected in six months with some plot fudge involving a time gun.

So far the strategy seems to have worked, in that it has helped the publishing market rebound slightly and allowed the big-two publishers to pump up their bottom lines. But these are most likely only short-term gains. This is not the way to build an audience for the long-term, and this is certainly not the way to ensure that comic books exist as anything other than a niche hobby.

Sales are supposedly up, but anecdotally, it sure seems like a lot of long-time readers are fleeing the pastime. “I love me some comics, but I finally had to quit this addiction,” wrote one commenter recently on Ain’t It Cool News, whose opinion was quickly echoed by others.

Now is the time to fix it, lest it goes the way or the dodo or the pet rock. A few decades from now, a kid will find a dusty copy of The Weird #3 in grandpa’s attic and wonder what the hell it is.

If someone were to put me in charge of DC or Marvel for one day – Anyone? Anyone? – here’s what I’d do.

Continue reading: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/05/06/the-end-of-the-comics-world-is-nigh/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook