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Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--The World That's Coming Is Coming For You

Column by Steve Bennett

Published: 09/30/2009, Last Updated: 10/01/2009 12:20am
Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett asks what we'll all do after comics are bits and bytes:

It occurred to me after posting my last column that I neglected to mention two Marvel Universe girls that would be perfect for my Disney/Marvel fully clothed All-Girl superhero squad; Ultra Girl (Barbara Kesel's underappreciated every-super-girl) and Squirrel Girl (anyone with offbeat good looks and weird powers who can take down Dr. Doom would make a great role model for all the girls who'll never be a cheerleader).  But until just now I confess I had completely forgotten about Thor Girl.

But then everyone should forget Thor Girl.

It doesn't seem to have made any headlines but in the Verbatim section of the September 28th edition of Time, 'hailing the prospect of devices like the Amazon Kindle displacing newspapers a process he estimates will take about 20 years' was this quote from Rupert Murdoch:

'We're going to have no paper, no printing plants, no unions.  It's going to be great.'

Of course he's happy about it: in business being able to eliminate the middleman is absolute heaven unless you happen to be the middleman.  He could be wrong (I mean, he's Rupert Murdoch, what are the odds he's right?) but if he's not what goes for newspapers goes for publishing in general and comic books in particular.

Oh, I can definitely see comic books being published in print form fifty years from now, in the same way pulp magazines are still being published, facsimile reprints and pastiches with print runs in the hundreds sold to a small but devoted fan base.  And frankly the prospect doesn't horrify me the way it probably should, maybe because it seems like somebody has been predicting the imminent demise of comic books since 1974.  As a comic book guy of a certain age I've had plenty of time to prepare.

Plus, I'm fifty; in twenty years I imagine I'll have bigger problems.

And before the angry emails rain down upon me it's not like I want this to happen; I still look forward to new comics on Wednesdays and get positively sentimental about the old ones.  I'll always feel a wonderful tingle of anticipation when allowed to handle comics of a certain age, like recently when someone brought into Super-Fly Comics a box of early 60's Simon & Kirby monster titles in Very Fine condition (sigh).  I really do love comic books; I just flatly refuse to fetishize them.

I love comics, the medium.  Comic books are just the current delivery system, one that's had a pretty good run considering the shelf life of its predecessors, the dime novel and penny dreadful.  And of course there's a bright side to the death of the comic book as we know it; it'll be an absolute boon to everyone selling back issues.  There's nothing like "they don't make those anymore" to make something more valuable.

So, if all of the above is a given, the obvious question is, whither the middleman, i.e. what about us?  I realize in business we're supposed to see problems like this as opportunities but this is a problem.  I have absolutely no idea what we're supposed to do, but then, how are we supposed to know what to do when we don't know what they're going to do?

Meanwhile all we can do are the things we can, communicate more with each other and keep trying to find different revenue streams so we won't be entirely at the mercy of one product line and one distributor.  I won't pretend it's a chocolate covered treat but we have just been given the gift of a wake-up call; mark your calendars: we have twenty years.

We better make them count.

Of course I could be wrong.  The September 11th issue of Entertainment Weekly ran a fairly standard piece on the Disney/Marvel merger but it did have a fairly original line that suggested Disney would provide "marketing muscle to promote comics to kids."  It's an intoxicating notion to be sure, and though I have doubts that marketing can make kids read comics again but if it can make them play with tops (Beyblades) and marbles (Bakugan), I suppose anything is possible.

But I find it kind of unlikely considering that Disney has never really gone out of its way to promote their own comics in Disney stores and theme parks, but it sure would be nice if somebody seriously attempted to grow the market this way.  I'm no fan of product placement but wouldn't object if, you know casually, the kids on The Wizards of Waverly Place, Zeke and Luther and (heaven help us) The Suite Life On Deck started reading comics.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
 
 
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