Monday, May 08, 2006

When I'm 64

I can see a wave of white anti-matter on the horizon, so don't be surprised if this blog either goes into early retirement or becomes a 404 message one day. I'm not saying I'm definitely giving it up, but certain matters and my spectacular lack of motivation to post here seem to point to Earth B being retconned again.

Before I fade out, I'd like to share with you a few thoughts about the comics industry as a whole. There's been a lot of discussion lately about the "old days" vs. current comics. Now, I buy mostly old stuff these days, but it wasn't always this way. When I returned to the hobby in 1990, I was all aboard on buying new books. I did my duty for years as a faithful reader. But as time went by, I found myself enjoying new comics less and less. There's a sense of "been there, done that" about the whole thing and I couldn't justify shelling out the dough for books that didn't do it for me anymore. If I'm going to continue as part of this hobby, it's going to be based largely on nostalgia because that's the only aspect of it that really resonates for me nowadays.

Of course, as I look back at books from 30 years ago and realize they are the only ones that truly mean anything to me now, I start to wonder what this hobby will be like in 30 more years. The answer, I suspect, would not be to the liking of many people that comprise current comics fandom.

Comics fandom is still a baby boomer driven fandom. I fall outside of that demographic, but I'm no kid anymore myself. Say, where are the kids in comics? Oh, most likely in the bookstore reading manga. But manga isn't "real" comics, you say? It is to them, sparky.

No, I'm not pulling a "Think of the children!" gambit regarding content. I'm saying "Think of the future!" instead. Not the short term future, mind you. Actually, I suspect that will be fine. In fact, I would not be at all surprised if there is at least one more "boom" in the comics industry as we know it.

But if there is such a boom and it goes bust, I think it will be the biggest single collapse in the relatively short history of the American comics industry. I would venture to say that such a collapse would rearrange every single thing about the industry. That is, if it doesn't destroy the one we know entirely.

I think the comics industry is playing in dangerous territory by skewing their main product older and older. There are still "kids" comics, but they might be even more ghettoized than ever. Comic books as we know them cost too much for what they deliver and no longer appeal to most kids from a storytelling standpoint. While there is clearly money to be made in the here and now with this approach, where will we be in 30 years?

In 30 years, the kids of today will be the middle-aged fanboys and fangirls. They'll be the ones with all the money. We're going to be the old folks - those of us who manage to make it that far. Can the comic book industry sustain itself on the goodwill and cash flow of senior citizens who likely will have more pressing concerns than what happens to Batman or Spider-Man next month?

Somehow, I doubt it. The American comic book as it exists now may be driving itself towards extinction in a short-term bid to stay alive. Without building a viable future fanbase, the superheroes are inching ever closer to becoming relics of a bygone age. There will always be comics, and there will probably always be superheroes. I'm just not sure the way things are now is the way they will always be. It's tougher and tougher for all periodicals with each passing year, and comic books are nothing more than disposable culture designed to appeal to a greying and ever-shrinking hardcore fan group.

People have been predicting the death of the comic book longer than I have been alive. I won't say they are doomed. And hey, I could turn out to be completely off-base and everything skips merrily along as if nothing ever happened. It's possible things will be as they've always been.

I just wouldn't call it likely.

If you enjoy current comics, I am happy for you. Also grateful, because you are doing more to keep the industry alive than I am. And if you're making comics, more power to you! I hope you find success. Just always be mindful that we are living in a house of cards and one gets taken away with each passing year. Unless we do something drastic, it's going to fall down around us.

I'm not sure there's a point to all of this. It's just the kind of thing I think about when I'm not pondering whether I should fill out my run of Strange Sports Stories sooner or later.

I'll still be lurking on the fringes of the comics blogosphere, probably commenting at Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin from time to time. Oh, and if you found you enjoyed this little exercise, I can always be found at the LiveJournal on the sidebar over there.

With that, I bid farewell to anyone who happened to be reading. Thanks, and see you around.

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