Ron Richards sums up his List of the Worst Things in Comics in 2011 with all the annoying trends and catch phrases of the year — Marvel’s stumbles, the sexism quagmire, Twitter sniping — but saves for #1 a harsh reality that most of us would rather ignore:
As great as 2011 was for the comics industry in both quality and sales (with a big surge thanks to DC Comics The New 52 Relaunch), if you take an honest look at the trends and data, it’s hard to ignore the truth. And that truth is that the audience and market for comic books is getting smaller ever year. There are upticks and trends like the DC Comics surge, Image Comics and IDW doing well and things like that, but ultimately, in the big picture, the numbers are going down. It’s tougher than ever to own and operate a comic book store and while we all see Digital Comics as the great hope, it’s still way early in the game. I don’t see a point where comics aren’t present in this world, but we have to face facts that things are pretty rough. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a comic book publisher, much less an independent comic book publisher, these days. We tend to focus on positive things and promoting books that are good because we want to see all the publishers and all the comics stick around. We get upset when books we like get canceled because we like them. Every book that I no longer read due to a cancellation from low sales is one less book that I find enjoyment from on a monthly basis and that’s sad. The less times that happens, the better.
I don’t see the failing sales as an end of comics — there are more comics than ever, really, if you look at Webcomics — but it is a bit sobering to contemplate.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.