A few months ago Comic Book Bin’s Hervé St-Louis declared that copyrights were for wussies and part of an evil cabal called The Cult of The Creator, something he promised to expose more fully in the future.
Now, bear in mind, if there is a Cult of the Creator, then we have signed on for Guyana, bought new Nikes and got $5.75 in our pocket. Here at Stately Beat Manor, we feel Creators Are Very Important People, and giant corporations clearly recognize this fact because they are always finding ways to make sure creators create for them, while taking as much of the profits from it as they can. So we’re not very likely to be persuaded by his arguments, and the first part anyway, lives up to our expectations:
In response to my last articles on copyrights and comic book creators, where I explained the concept of the cult of the creator, a smart commenter responded to my article and saying, essentially, that because he owned his comic book, which I suppose is a Web comics, that it would not be stale but a fresh alternative to material owned by large corporations like DC and Marvel Comics. His comment is typical cult of the creator attitude where it’s assumed that ownership leads to better comic books. Of course, this writer thinks that this is bullshit.
To bolster his argument that creator owned=crap comics, St-Louis points to early Image Comics. Okay, so Todd McFarlane is no Art Spiegelman or Chris Ware or Will Eisner. We’d still call that stacking the deck. St-Louis will be back in part two to explain why Spiegelman, et al. owning the copyrights to their work still doesn’t make for better comics, so let’s just wait and see.
The phrase “Cult of the Creator” is obviously used to raise the ire of folks such as myself, but the argument that corporate ownership makes for better comics works only if you think Marvel and DC comics are the best there is. (We’re aware that up until the ’80s or so, most comics were corporate owned, including the work of Barks and Stanley — but, to choose just one example, in the Masters of American Comics exhibit, only one of the artists, Jack Kirby, worked mostly in work for hire. While that show was flawed, as a benchmark percentage of creator owned to WFH, it’s about right.)
§ Another oddball (to us) article is this Reuters piece exploring how comics could go mass market, now that Disney is going to send Marvel Comics all over the globe. Experts such as a Bob Layton and Scott Mitchell Rosenberg lay out the need for such outreach:
“A large number of comic shops in America are dingy, poorly managed venues, akin to porn shops,” Layton said. “The comic industry needs easily accessible venues where young people can casually find and purchase comics, either through subsidies or discount incentives.”
Comic book publishers such as Marvel and DC Comics, owned by Time Warner, cater to niche customers, usually teenage boys and older males, through specialty stores that only dedicated fans would visit.
“There is a core group of people that are comic book fans,” Arvind Bhatia, an analyst with Sterne, Agee & Leach, said. “But to expand that and make it more mass market probably is the biggest challenge.”
While distribution and awareness are surely part of the reason comics sell less (on aggregate) than they used to, we’re not entirely sure that Disney, which has been shutting down its magazines over the last few years, would be interested in getting back into newsstands in a serious way.
Also, is ANYONE really into the newsstand in a serious way? If putting things out on the newsstands guaranteed profits, then Condé Nast wouldn’t have folded four magazines today.
That said, obviously the Marvel/Disney juggernaut presents tremendous potential for getting comics out there in larger numbers and more significant ways, but this article seems to take a pretty simplistic look at the potential. Also, branding specialist Kelly O’Keefe’s suggestion that “The risk that a comic publisher runs in going mass market, O’Keefe said, is that some of the hard-core audience might drift away to look for alternative comics,” seems to suggest that Marvel Comics turning into Disney pablum might send readers flocking to COLD HEAT, a charming but unlikely proposition.