It is currently 8:12 AM and here I sit, longing to go outside and grab a cup of that sweet, sweet free trade coffee. The sun is beginning its ascent into the Columbus sky, promising to bring with it the warmest day of the year so far. Of course, knowing Ohio’s weather, this means it’ll snow this weekend.
So why am I sitting in my office, when a world full of coffee and sunshine is just a pair of pants and a couple of doors away? Because my webmaster has asked that I write a monthly column and start acting like the Editor in Chief of a fan-written comic book site. “Magazine editors do it,” he said. Well, magazines are also a dying art form, replaced by an information source in which editors don’t prattle on as if they possess some sort of new insight found nowhere else on the internet.
Of course, I’ve also been told that the monthly comic book is dying, too. Just the other week, a friend of mine told me that “DC would be around for five more years, top” due to their highly ridiculed editorial and marketing strategies. Not a week goes by in which I don’t hear some doom and gloom prediction about the comic book industry, usually made by some fan or quasi-professional (like myself) with a healthy dose of cynicism in their hearts.
It’s easy to dismiss the gimmick-driven record high sales when building a case towards the death of the industry as we know it. There’s the high-profile walkouts, the fact that comic book companies are relying on gatefold covers, trading cards, variant covers and holofoil to sell books, and of course the monthly reminder of the historically poor treatment of freelance creators, a crime which both major companies are still guilty of today. There’s the continued disconnect between the profitability of comic book movies and monthly comic sales, the industry’s laughable stance towards women and minorities and of course the sometimes toxic fanbase that enables and encourages these issues. I could list dozens of examples, flaws or gripes, all of which could counterbalance the strong sales figures released by Diamond every month.
But, like most sound-minded people, I believe the industry will endure. In the last month alone, we’ve seen two rays of sunshine pointing to a healthy future for the industry. First was Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s successful debut of The Private Eye. With a DRM free, pay as you’d like distribution model, The Private Eye was a bold first step in challenging the flawed (but better than nothing) Comixology model of selling and distributing digital comics.
Equally impressive was Thrillbent’s redesign, which allowed fans of Mark Waid’s webcomic site to embed individual comic strips onto other sites. Considering that many webcomics rely on advertising as a primary form of income, I’m curious to see whether making these webcomics easier to share will increase the site’s popularity or simply hasten the demise of Waid’s experiment. My money’s on the former, although I should probably start embedding those on our site to help them along.
There we go, much better.
Anyways, the industry, for all of its quirks and follies, isn’t dying. Sure, the industry might need to grow up a bit, but who doesn’t? Luckily for the industry, that’s why the Outhouse exists: to mercilessly shame the industry into improving itself through satire and snark while promoting the comics that aren’t an embarrassment to everyone who reads them. Of course, we wouldn’t relish our job so much if certain publishers hadn’t stopped returning our phone calls. But that’s a column for another time. I’m getting coffee.