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Thread: Comics Are For People #8 (Seb Culture)

  1. MattGrant Guest

    Comics Are For People #8 (Seb Culture)

    So! You got me! I took advantage of the fact that the last two Thursdays were holidays and took a two week vacation from writing CAFP. I couldn't have accidentally planned it better! And after that Forby response column, I had just about wrung out my brains anyway, so... y'know. It works out well for everyone.

    I've got a couple good columns planned here, and I'm also working on getting into some other areas other than just pure theme columns... buuuuut..... Seb brought up some interesting concerns last time about what I had to say about comics moving away from the pamphlet model and into other modes of distribution.

    To summarize the last column, I had proposed that over the next ten years if trends themselves didn't move comics away from the pamphlet, that the pure price of the pamphlet alone (based on a trend of pamphlet prices doubling every ten years) would drive readers to demand other methods of distribution. The primary methods I had suggested were a shift toward the book market, and/or some form a digital distribution.

    These assertions seemed to have stuck a chord with Mr. Seb, who brought up some great points of his own. To break it down:

    A - Comics are a traditionally serial format.


    B - What about collectors?

    While I did address this somewhat in a Monster fueled mini-manifesto, let's take a look at these quickly(ish) here.

    First off, it needs to be known. I am a collector. And until my shop closed and I had to drive 30 miles to get my books, I was a Wednesday guy. And also, despite being a webcomicker, I do prefer to read my comics in print form. That's me. That's who I am, but I can't let that prevent me from looking at the younger generation and wonder what they want, and how they will spend their money. So that's where I'm coming from here. So, Seb, know in spirit, I am totally with you, brother.

    So Seb's concern about comics traditionally being a serial format, certainly addresses one of the biggest problems that the "mainstream" comics face in the transition to a book format. Currently the majority of "Graphic Novels" are really trade paperback collections of previously serialized comics. If the market moves toward trade/graphic novels only, the well of material that the trades draw from will have dried up, and the production of OGNs will move comics into a non-serialized format.

    Okay, yes. And, maybe. Just because its not being produced in the same manner, does not mean that the serial vibe will be lost all together. I mean, look at the trade paperback situation right now - it doesn't exactly lend itself to the serial format of comics. Yes they collect serials, but typically, they're an arc plucked out here and an arc plucked out there that the publishers feel that they can market as a book. Perhaps if we move toward a trade only market, the trades will become more complete?

    Stepping aside a little, and playing to the idea that the pamphlet will survive. OR just a fantasy about the way I wish things would currently work. Here's something I would like to see. I think that if monthlies continue as they are, that they should ditch the six issue story arc mandate (or its practically a mandate) and make the monthlies more like TV shows... more like with "seasons." Sure arcs could exist but less rigidly. And then, of course, at the end of the year the "season" could be collected into one 12 issue trade. No missed issues. Period. Then you could HAVE a complete series, or catch up where you needed to, rather than try figure stuff out from some hard to find arcs. But that's all sort of a tangent.

    But, the bottom line is, I'm afraid to say, that serialization is not a defining element of what comics are. Comics can exist without serialization, so if they have to, they will.

    A prime area where I see comics possibly surviving in a very serialized form is with webcomics. Heck, even with other digital formats, though webcomics are seeming to be the most viable for original material right now. But the speed and ease of any form of digital distribution could be a great outlet for the serialized stories that might not have a home if the pamphlet were to die.

    But that brings us to the issue of Seb's second concern: what happens to collectability?!?!? Come back next week and find out!

    In the mean time, give someone a comic! I know I put a couple under the tree!


    Matt Grant is a graphic designer and self-publishing comics and webcomics creator. His comic MastorisM can be read at and updates Tuesdays and Thursdays. A long time comics fanatic and advocate for the medium, Matt eats, sleeps, and breathes comics. (a comic book snorkle... I knew you were wondering.

    Matt would love nothing more than to hear from fans, retailers, creators, and publishers that have anything relevant to contribute to his column. He believes that, only by working together, we can bring the comics medium to a wider deserving audience. Please feel free to email him at, private message him here, or harass him on the street! Matt does not claim to be an industry expert in any way shape or form, but rather an opinionated pundit on the sidelines.

  2. StevenForbes Guest

    See what I did? I gave you enough material for a couple of months! And yes, I planned it that way.

    I've also started a small discussion here in your column. Yes, I planned that, too. If my mustache was a bit longer, I'd be twirling it.

    I'm a collector, too. I have to put that out there, for anyone who wants to know or doubt it. I said it before, but I'm just saying it again for clarity's sake. So, I'm a collector.

    I don't think that comics will go the way of the dodo in print form, but I DO think they're going to go away with the distribution model and price point if things don't change. People ask me about comics all the time (I'm the local comics guru), and I tell them honestly that I cannot in good conscience tell them to start collecting comics, or give comics to their kids. They're just too damned expensive. I mean, I have, easily, a sixty dollar a week habit, and that's mostly Marvel with a few DC sprinkled in there. Sixty dollars. When a kid can only take five bucks and come out with one comic because they don't have enough for two, there's a problem.

    So, things are going to change, and everyone is going to resist it. There's a comipacalypse coming, and no one's really going to be prepared for it.

    Comic shops are going to close, comics are going to up the page count from the arbitrary 22 pages to a more serious 44 pages of story, and there are going to be multiple stories in there. It's going to look more like a tpb, but for new comics.

    And Marvel is going to lead the way. Everyone follows Marvel's tune.

    Because shops now cannot move as many different units in order to stay in business, they're going to close. This moves comics into bookstores. With the expanded, "collected" books, the payment schemes have to change, as well. Creators will truly get paid against royalties, and royalties will be within reach. Back issue sales will be on ebay and at conventions, and their prices will go up for a while.

    There will also be a helluva lot more digital content. Marvel will be the leader here, as well. They will allow for downloadable content, and collectors will go out and buy storage media to contain it. There will be a digital reader that will be an industry standard. This new content will be akin to cartoons in that there will be some "movement" and full cast recordings. Think Invincible over at And yes, we're going to pay for that privilege.

    Some doom and gloom, but these will be the changes to come. Remember how long it took technology to catch up to our imaginations in order to get a live-action Spider-Man on the big screen in a believable manner? The same thing is going to happen to comics.

    We have to innovate now, in order to catch the wave as a small swell before the tsunami crashes over us all.

  3. MattGrant Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    We have to innovate now, in order to catch the wave as a small swell before the tsunami crashes over us all.
    And I think that is the most important take home point of the whole thing, right there.

    It seems that comic folk, creators and readers alike, are a nostalgic lot, that want to cling to "the way things have always been" and hope that they will stay that way forever. Like you said, you or I as an adult can go and spend money on comics, and frankly its a bit of an indulgence. But for a kid, spending what comics cost NOW is, frankly, not much value in return for what they spend. I mean... 3-4 dollars... even if they DID have comics in a convenience store, or supermarket, you think thats going to compete with the amount of candy and soda they can buy for that money?

    I'll delve more into this in next weeks column.

    But getting back to the point...

    I agree, I think we need to stop trying to keep comics what we want them to be, and try and be a part of where they're going. There's a big change in the way entertainment is delivered and consumed, and its foolish to think that comics will somehow fall outside of this. And even more foolish to act upon that notion. Even more important, I think we, as creators and being part of the media that surrounds and supports comics, need to make sure that comics do get developed with an eye to the future-- so that they are not left behind in the dust.

    "With great power comes great responsibility."

    I was watching "Billy's Balloon" on YouTube the other night. It got me to thinking. I remember it would be a huge deal when Spike and Mike would come to town with either of their animation festivals, because that was the only opportunity to see indie and alternative animations of that nature. I mean thats it, and good luck finding them on VHS somewhere, right? Now, I can just go to YouTube, or plenty of other places on the internet (including Spike and Mike's own website) to watch em at my own convenience. Its a total turn around. And I don't think YouTube or even hi-def streaming video will really take the place of going to a theater and laughing with 100 other folks, but I am certainly less apt to seek out a Spike and Mike festival when that itch gets satisfied sitting right here in front of my computer.

    The music industry is a fantastic example of how things change. Especially with record companies (at least at first) grabbing at straws as to how to keep their business relevant when the mp3 revolution hit.


    IT will be interesting in 10 years to look back at these discussions and see how things really turn out.

  4. Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    See what I did? I gave you enough material for a couple of months! And yes, I planned it that way.
    Just like an editor. You have a good run in your column, it's all HIS idea, if it didn't work, he could safely critique you and wash his hands of it.

    Now, as to some actual points,

    1st, I'm honored to be a part of your topic! Go me!

    I'm not thinking of comics as what I want them to be. God knows they haven't been that for years...yeah, Mr. Quesada, I'm lookin' at you!

    Think of what a complete switch to trades would mean to Marvel and DC. There would be no such thing as a series anymore. The whole idea of AMAZING SPIDERMAN 700 would be lost.

    Also, think of all the fans that write/whine/flame over how much they hate having a creative team for one arc, then another for the next, another for the next. You couldn't have one creative team writing and illustrating trades the way the do series. you'd end up with two installmetns of Spiderman per year. You'd have to have multiple teams creating multiple trades at the same time. This blows any semblence of continuity out the window and makes the work of Editors that much harder. you wuld have to plan any and all storylines years in advance just to keep from having conflicting storylines.

    I think for smaller press and indies, yeah, maybe going to trade is a good idea, economically. Marvel and Dc, however could keep the serial issues going, because people WILL buy monthlies of THOSE characters.

    Also, even for indies, serials still have that new reader advantage. I'd rather blow $3.99 -5.99 on a single issue of a new comic only to find I don't like it than I would to blow $12.99 -$24.99 on a trade only to discover the same thing.

    Plus think of retailers. Would Trades be returnable? or nonreturnable like Diamond has it now? Any new book becomes a big risk. Even now, one arc of Sipdey or Superman may not sell as well as the next. If you end up with 10 extra copies at 50% of $2.99 you out $15.00. If you do the same thing with a $12.99 trade you're out $65.00. That's a big difference.
    Even if they ARE returnable, that's still money you are out until the return goes through.

    Even if the market goes the more sensible medium that forby suggests, with 44 page mini trades, how often do those come out? The big two are still gonna push for their monthly slice. Heck, DC has done a weekly series for the past three years, i don't see them letting go of that kind of cash each month. And THEY can afford to put out a 44 page tade sized monthly, so in the end, we'd STILL have a serial industry, it would now just be more expensive. So I don't see that as the answer, either.

    Trade sales are defintely way up and are most certainly doing their share to keep the market afloat, but we are a long way from them being the last bastion of comic-dom.
    Last edited by SebastianPiccione; Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 04:40 AM.
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5

  5. Cary Guest

    i honestly believe that as comic companies phase out serials, comic stores will either morph into something else or close. it's the serial that keeps the regular customers coming. but the thing is, most stores these days have expanded to the point that comics is only part of what they sell. you hardly see the hard core straight comic only store anymore.

    but for indy books, it really is the way to go. (and i say that as i get ready to start serials on a limited series) you might end up making 50 cents a book if you're damn lucky and don't go color. (uh...yeah my book is color too) on the serials i mean. but on a trade, your profit margin is SO much higher because you can charge more for the format and content. people EXPECT to pay 15-20 bucks for a good sized trade. so yeah, can't wait to get to that point!

  6. StevenForbes Guest

    Matt, Diamond has changed it's ordering threshold from $1500 to $2500.

    Will this be part of a future CAFP? You know it's going to send shockwaves throughout the industry.

  7. MattGrant Guest

    Hrm... interesting. I probably will touch on this in the future.

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