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Comic books: The Phoenix of the Publishing Industry?

The superhero genre certainly seems to have a long run left it in yet, but what about the medium where it all began? What about comic books? Well, the prognosis couldn’t be better. As the rest of publishing industry flounders, comic books are flourishing. The article ‘The Comic Book Industry Is On Fire, And It's About More Than Just The Movies’ in the August 26, 2014 Business Insider, reported “Rising revenue can be attributed partly to growth in graphic novels and digital comics, as well as higher prices, but it's also clear that readership is expanding.”  [1]

From Alexandra Forever graphic novel (comic book)

 A key term here being readership. Unlike the industry high of the 1990s, the current spike in popularity isn’t driven by superheroes and the collector’s market.  A November 2, 2015 article in The Bulletin quoted one business insider as saying “It’s become more based on reading. People who are willing to drop a few bucks each week to read something rather than a die-hard who is attached to a specific character. That’s better for the stores, too.” [2] What is important to note here is that the something being purchased isn’t necessarily superhero related.  The fate of comic books is not tied to the genre. This has been traditionally a North American phenomenon.

The dramatically divergent trend within publishing is translating to the digital medium as well. “The entire concept of Netflix for e-books has been a resounding failure and most of the companies participating in this space are either out of business or have their backs to the wall.” [3] In contrast, as I blogged early this month, there continue to be entrants in the comic book niche, Comicblitz being the latest.

From the sci-fi super heroine adventure - Alexandra Forever graphic novel (comic book)

It’s clear that there is still a reading public, but it’s also very clear that their interests have changed. A convergence of many things, technological as well as sociological, brought us to what I believe is a paradigm shift. Below, I’ve listed the five reasons I consider to be the most important.

Evaporating Economies of Scale

New entrants into publishing, any form of publishing, aren’t facing the economies of scale hurdle that they once did. Technology has made production, worldwide distribution and global marketing feasible for even the micro publisher.

Crowd Funding

Help in overcoming the minimized hurdles which are left can be obtained through crowd funding. Access to outside funding has been greatly simplified through the availability of numerous sites such as Kickstarter. 

Increased Paced of Life

It’s no secret that the world is moving faster these days. I’ve talked about this before, but the importance to the elevation of comics shouldn’t be overlooked. Comic books offer a quick entertainment escape. The time commitment is much less when compared with a traditional novel. A picture is worth a thousand words, goes the adage.  Sounds like a time saver to me.

It’s a Visual World

Visual mediums do better. That’s the way things seem to be going. Vivid imagery is more accessible than well polished prose. We can even see some reflection of this in social networking platforms. The younger the generation, the more this appears to be true.

Self Defeating Elitism of Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing was the only medium, that I am aware of, that has historically held near distain for independently produced works. Independent comic book creators are not dealing with anything close to the same issues with the industry (inclusive of retailers) or with public perception.  It was also this elitism that resulted in traditional publishing being slow adaptors to new technologies. At least in part, it can be argued that they have nearly snubbed themselves to death.  

 

[1] Business Insider article [LINK]

[2] Bendbulletin.com article [LINK]

[3] GoodERead.com [LINK]


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