From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1699:
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
- Alan Kay, American computer scientist
When I wrote my “Comics Year in Review” column last month, I got as
far as DC and Marvel. Despite the many fine comic books produced
by other companies, despite the exceptional graphic novels coming
from other publishers, including mainstream non-comics publishers,
those two lumbering and often bad-tempered elephants still dominate
the comics industry room. This month, while discussing 2012 comic
events shorted by my long-winded comments on the elephants, I’ll
also be looking ahead at 2013.
DC and Marvel will take turns dominating the direct market sales
charts, depending on which place has the latest event or relaunch.
It’s a cynical and inorganic process, but it clearly works for DC
and Marvel and, surprisingly, for their readers.
Marvel will continue to hold the upper hand over DC when it comes
to movies and television. Disney, Marvel’s owner, is in a league
of its own. Time-Warner, DC’s owner, will be hard-pressed to get
a Justice League movie to the theaters this decade. But DC has the
edge when it comes to direct-to-video movies.
Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise will certainly hit
Dark Horse Comics pretty hard. I’m not sure if Marvel will do new
Star Wars comics or not, but it seems like a given to many people
in our business. Sometimes, and this is especially the case with
DC, I think the elephants acquire properties mostly to keep other
comics publishers from having them.
The end of DC’s Vertigo imprint is coming. I predicted that last
month and, with the announcement that Karen Berger is leaving DC,
I’m more convinced of this than ever. In the recent years, Vertigo
had become an increasingly poor fit with the adolescent male mind-
set of DC Comics. The DC super-hero comics are generally action-
driven and shallow. Vertigo comics were more thoughtful. It’s far
easier to gather comics-buying dollars out of young males and their
aging man-child counterparts than from more discerning and diverse
readers...and I say this in full awareness that I love a terrific
super-hero comic as much as anyone. I don’t usually go for wild
speculation, but seeing how much money political pundits can make
even when they are as wrong as one can possibly be wrong, I’m going
to make some “predictions” re: things Vertigo.
Berger is reportedly staying on until March to help DC select her
successor. I don’t know Berger, only her work, but, based on what
other people tell me, she’s very loyal to her associates. I think
it’s likely she’s going to look out for them as long as she’s able
to do so. If Vertigo exists after her departure, I suspect it’ll
be to keep Fables going as long as creator Bill Willingham wants to
keep it going and to ensure the continuing viability of Vertigo’s
trade paperback library.
After Berger’s departure? She has been quite correctly praised as
a game-changing editor in the comics industry. She has worked with
the best of the best and delivered success after success. Of all
the administrators and editors in comics, she’s the one who could
launch a successful new publishing venture even in this challenging
economy and marketplace. I think there would be literary and movie
people lining up to invest in such a venture.
That line of reasoning leads me to another speculation. Throughout
his tenure as DC President and Publisher, Paul Levitz had Berger’s
back. While I don’t know the details of whatever golden parachute
Levitz got on his way out of those positions, he’s got to land on
the ground someday. If it’s soon enough, well, few comics industry
folks have a business sense comparable to his. A new venture from
Berger and Levitz could be a serious game-changer. And, in my new
role as comics pundit, just as with the political pundits, I figure
I’m allowed to predict something I would really like to see happen.
Now where’s my check?
Our 2013 Free Comic Book Day will be Saturday, May 4. I love this
event, even though I’ve only participated personally once. On that
occasion, I was thrilled to see so many comics fans and civilians
eagerly awaiting the opening of their comic shop doors.
There are always mixed reviews of this event. Some retailers say
it doesn’t boost their business and others swear by it. I’m with
the latter. FCBD shines a light on what we love. Its success will
never be a overnight thing, but I do believe it builds on the good
will it imparts and the publicity it receives.
Dark Horse impressed me in 2012. It may or may not be losing Star
Wars, but it still has Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Conan and Hellboy,
all very solid licenses. Its monthly Dark Horse Presents anthology
shows a commitment to both quality and savvy business acumen. In
addition, the publishers pushes my own happy buttons with his fine
line of vintage comic-book reprints like Crime Does Not Pay, Silver
Streak, Tarzan, Creepy and Eerie.
Dark Horse has been the launching ground for several creations that
made it to the big screen: Sin City, the Mask, Hellboy, Timecop and
others. Looking at some current Dark Horse releases, I could see
Resident Alien and Usagi Yojimbo joining those.
I don’t have any particular horse (ahem) to ride with Dark Horse,
but the company strikes me as creator-friendly. Were I a creator
with a new project and looking for a partner to take that project
beyond the comics page, Dark Horse would be very high on my list of
In 2012, IDW continued to publish some of the best-known concepts
in entertainment: Popeye, Godzilla, G.I. Joe, Judge Dredd, Doctor
Who, Star Trek, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the
potentially game-changing My Little Pony. In 2013, that pony and
its friends could bring a lot more new readers into the comic-book
shops. Kudos to IDW on that acquisition.
IDW also has a good mix of creator-owned properties like Love and
Capes, Locke and Key and John Byrne and whatever catches his fancy
at the moment. Don’t take the last as any kind of a shot at Byrne.
He’s been doing some entertaining and interesting stuff at IDW and
I’d much rather see him do his own creations that jump back on the
DC or Marvel assembly lines.
Not that work-for-hire comics can’t be as entertaining as creator-
owned comics or, for comics writers and artists, as creative, fun
and profitable as creator-owned comics. There’s no one right way
to make a great comic book.
IDW also produces fine classic comic-book and comic-strip reprint
volumes. It definitely offers considerable variety to its readers.
For creators who want complete control of their creations, Image is
the place to go. Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead holds its own
with the elephants and I suspect Kirkman has profited far more from
that and his other creator-owned projects than from anything he did
at Marvel Comics. Not every creator is going to enjoy the kind of
success Kirkman has, but, if they have some business smarts, Image
could be the best fit for them.
Image offers a great deal of variety within its basic adherence to
pulp-fiction genres. I don’t buy many standard-size comic books,
but I usually try out two or three new Image titles a month. I’d
love to see more coverage of these largely unknown series in Comics
Buyer’s Guide and elsewhere.
In a world where “geeks” rule, you can find a decent-sized comic-
book or fantasy convention every weekend of the year. San Diego’s
Comic-Con has become part of our international language. Smaller
events benefit from that familiarity. Every year, I hope to attend
a bunch of conventions. This year, I’m already booked for at least
three of them. Follow my blog and Facebook page for announcements.
2012 saw some silly controversy about cosplaying at conventions.
While it may be true not every cosplayers is an avid comics fan or
physically designed for their costume of choice, my position is a
simple one: so what?
If it makes you happy, if it expresses your joy in something that
you love, then wear that costume like no one’s watching, my sisters
and brothers. We live in a world where powerful forces constantly
seek to divide us. Online trolls and pro jerks aside, I think we
in comicdom can and should be better than that.
The same holds true for complaints that non-comics interests dilute
the purity of our comics conventions. It smacks of the “take our
country back” nonsense of political campaigns. I love comics and,
if someone loves what they love as much as I love comics, I’m good
with that. There’s room for all of us.
2012 brought the release of wonderful material, old and new, from
publishers as diverse as Archie and Bongo to Fantagraphics and Oni.
If I use the word “variety” overmuch in my comics-related writings,
it’s because it represents what keeps my interest in the comic art
form so strong. I love that, no matter what mood I’m in at a given
time, I can find some comic book or graphic novel to fit the mood.
The super-heroes may get most of the attention, but it’s all that
other stuff that represents staying power for the art form we love.
While 2013 probably won’t bring any new players to the traditional
comic-book format, we’re already seeing more non-comics publishers
listing graphic novels among their offerings. Indeed, books like
Dotter of her Father’s Eyes by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot are
making it on the “best of the year” lists with hardly any surprise
that they are graphic novels.
Another prediction for 2013: Never bet against manga and/or anime.
The traditional comics community, like, ahem, this very magazine,
doesn’t pay much attention to these imports, but they remain very
popular with a large readership that doesn’t connect to Spider-Man
or Superman. In my own Medina, a small-ish city, the local library
holds a regular anime/manga convention for under-18 fans. There’s
a manga club at the local high school.
Personally, I read as much manga as I do any other kind of comics.
I’m currently reading series about basketball players, government-
sponsored murder, and young manga creators, just to name three of
my favorite series. Okay, I didn’t really name them there - Slam
Dunk, Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, and Bakuman - but they represent
the comics variety I love.
Anime runs frequently on cable networks. Given the past success of
such series as Sailor Moon, Pokemon and Dragonball, it’s certainly
likely that we’ll see another such hit in the near future.
Diamond’s monthly comics catalog is filled with smaller publishers
and doesn’t include many other smaller publishers. There are good
things coming from these oft-overlooked sources and, as in 2012, I
think a mastery of online promotion will be the best success route
for these publishers. My advice is to establish and maintain the
strongest outline presence they can.
Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story was definitely the most
talked-about comics history of 2012. Some of its revelations are
unsettling, but it’s gathering considerable praise. I won’t be at
all surprised to see more books of this nature in 2013 and beyond,
though I hope there will also be plenty of room in the marketplace
for less sensationalistic histories.
In the category of “things I wish I knew more about,” Kickstarter
is becoming a valuable ally for creators trying to bring projects
to fruition. I supported about a dozen projects in 2012. Finances
permitting, I plan to support one project a month in 2013 as well.
You can’t swing a keyboard cat on the Internet without running into
a webcomic. While I suspect most of them to not turn a reasonable
profit, or any profit whatsoever, it’s a venue with which creators
should be familiar. My web-surfing time is limited, but I think I
can manage an hour a week to see what’s out there. It may turn out
to be something I want to try myself.
Comics fans and professionals continued to prove themselves among
the most generous of people in 2012. They donated to a number of
relief charities and to our own organizations, the Comic-Book Legal
Defense Fund and the Hero Initiative. In times of special need in
our community, they donate to help out artists and writers in dire
straits. Their charity warms my heart.
Of the two industry charities, though I’m a proud member of both,
my heart lies more with the Hero Initiative. The CBLDF fights for
more cerebral concepts and doesn’t always focus on issues directly
concerned with comic books. The Hero Initiative is all about being
there for people, for the comics creators and freelancers who have
brought us so much entertainment during their careers and who now
need us to come through for them. Both are worthy organizations,
but I’ll always see Hero as the more worthy.
What does 2013 hold for your beloved Tipster? As in years past, I
have made several resolutions for the New Year. Unlike years past,
I’m not going to write about them until mid-2013. That way, I’ll
be writing about my accomplishments instead of my plans. At least,
that’s how I hope it shakes out.
Happy New Year, my friends. Get out there and shine.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella