Comics: A Christmas Carol

What the HELL is going on!!! Two weeks till Christmas and the comics world is apparently in an anxiety crisis of epic proportions. Retailers are staring down a deep, dark abyss of economic failure, struggling with the day and date price issues between print and digital. Artists are literally begging for help suggesting suicide as an option. No one has a dollar to wipe their ass with. The future can only suck more. We’re gonna BLOW!!!

What’s it gonna take to get bitch-slapped back to our senses?!

Fortunately, crisis seems to bring out the best in us. When we hit rock bottom, get ready to bounce. Impact seems imminent!

Remember, bouncing requires redirection

Ebenezer Scrooge could change his miserable, miserly ways and divert himself from a path of loathed self destruction.  He, of course, had the help of the three Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

What would they have to show us about the comics industry?

I think the Spirit of Christmas Past would take us back to images of a vibrant industry where comics sold millions of copies each month. It would show how the industry banded together to save itself from elimination by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings in 1954. Then it would point to the Silver Age, then the rise of the Direct Market and Independent publishers. The specter would point out that early Direct Market retailers were an innovative, entrepreneurial lot that started with little, working out of garages using shoe boxes in place of cash registers. The Spirit of the Past would also point out injustices to creators and the greed of corporate minded publishers.

Spirit of Christmas Present would paint an anxious picture of an industry at a cross road faced with the possibility of unlimited opportunity for creators and audiences. The Independent publishers, the internet, and digital comics are proliferating and offering the widest variety of comics ever. The creative direction of comics is no longer harnessed with blinders, focused on only spandex and capes. The joys of creative freedom however are marred by a financial crisis not seen since the Great Depression, ironically the era when comic books first rose from the muck. Creators struggle to create while making ends meet as corporate comic companies feast like gluttons on the spoils of creators that they had raped in the past. Nervous retailers struggling with revenue lost to digital wonder how long they can keep their doors open. The industry wonders what will become of the twenty page pamphlet format that gave us so much joy for decades. Like Tiny Tim’s crutch it leans, slumping on a shelf in a weakened state.

What will the future hold?

The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come points toward what, at first glance, appears to be a tombstone but, as it turns, exposes itself to be a shimmering tablet of hope. The spirit shows that anxious fears were warranted. The Industry did change. Those that could not adapt, were set in their ways and frozen by fear, perished, defeated by the medium they loved so much yet held to so tightly  that they crushed their own dreams of its future.

The tablet that the Spirit now holds is a miraculous window of information that not only shows the potential for comics as digital content via apps or the web but as print product as well. Comics reach more readers than ever before in more formats and genres than ever imagined in the last seventy years. Publishers big and small reach audiences of all types with targeted approaches that broaden the love for the medium. Retailers who adapt capitalize as their stores become the beneficiaries of the broadened appeal and awareness of comics. The local comic shop becomes the social gathering spot for a new wave of comics enthusiast who is no longer limited by the narrow scope of the superhero genre. Creators gain new respect and are in greater control over their own destiny and their own creations than ever before.  Through it all the pamphlet lives as just one of a multitude of formats, loved for what it always was intended to be, a casual reading experience full of wonder and excitement accessible to anyone.

So, while we are all holding our breath, waiting to exhale, throw open some shutters and let the light in. Take a deep breath of some crisp, morning air and put your chin up. The future is only as dark or as bright as you are willing to let it be. If you love comics, I’m sure you are a dreamer of the impossible. It is time we in comics stop dreaming to live and start living our dreams of an impossibly bright future.

Hit it, Tiny Tim.

“God bless us, every one!”

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

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