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[The following is a transcript of the speech given by Eric Stephenson, Publisher at Image Comics, on Friday, February 19th at 3:50 p.m. at the 10th Annual ComicsPRO Membership Meeting in Portland, Oregon to the comics retailer community.]

I’d like to talk about the future, but first, we’re going to do some time travel, back to a time when there was no Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram. A time when there were no comic book stores.

No one here was in this business in the 1950s, but by all accounts, it was a bleak time for comics. Our industry was barely two decades old, yet it was on the brink of collapse.

Political posturing had rendered one of comics’ most vital creative forces – EC Comics – all but mute. Crime and horror comics had been neutered by the Comics Code and for all intents and purposes were dead – shot by their own gun. Comics bowed to outside pressure and erected a self-regulating ratings system that all but outlawed any type of content that might appeal to older readers. Comics were for kids, after all, but even superheroes, so popular during the Second World War, were a faltering concern.

Martin Goodman’s comic book imprint, then known as Atlas, was making due selling monster comics, but by the early ’60s, things were looking grim. You have to look into the darkness to see the light, though, and it was in those dark times that comics found renewed hope.

Maybe something was in the air back then, because the same time that gave us The Beatles and Bob Dylan gave us what we now know as the Marvel Universe.

The Fantastic Four. Spider-Man. The Incredible Hulk. The Avengers.

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and all the amazing artists that worked alongside them inspired a generation of readers with their work and in doing so, turned Marvel Comics into a towering monolith amid a teetering industry. DC Comics, already well-known for Superman, Batman, and the Justice League was reinvigorated as well, and without much exaggeration, it can be said that superheroes saved comics.

But fast forward to the 1970s.

Comics boomed for a decade, but as the ‘60s receded into memory, so too did the excitement that had grown around comics. Jack Kirby left Marvel for DC. Superheroes began to struggle against the constraints of the Comics Code. Underground comics and black and white magazines like National Lampoon and Warren’s Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella highlighted the restlessness of a medium eager to grow.

But the newsstands that had long served as comics’ primary sales outlet began their long goodbye, with inexpensively priced comic books first to go as every and all attempt was made to increase profits whilst consolidating space.

Writers and artists entering the industry then were routinely assured the business was on its last legs. Comics were doomed.

All comics were returnable then, and returned they were, in droves. Often, comics didn’t even make it out of the warehouse, resulting in regional scarcity that heightened the value of comics on the growing collector’s market.

In the interest of time, I’m going to gloss over some facts here, but it was at that point Phil Seuling began laying the foundation for the Direct Market.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took years for small used bookstores and head shops to gradually evolve into bonafide comic book stores, but by the end of the ‘70s, there was a system in place and the market as we know it today was in its infancy.

Comics prospered as a result, and it wasn’t just the usual suspects like Marvel and DC.

The undergrounds matured into independent comics, and we got Cerebus and Elfquest.
We got Love & Rockets, American Flagg, and Nexus. First Comics. Pacific Comics. Eclipse. Kitchen Sink. That old master, Will Eisner, unleashed a steady stream of graphic novels that challenged the perception of what comics could and should be, and from the late ‘70s through the 1980s and beyond, comics exploded with creativity.

But fast forward again, this time to the mid-‘90s.

Comics had gained a bit of respect at this point.

Thanks to the talents of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, Garth Ennis, the Hernandez Brothers, and Neil Gaiman, the world was starting to pay attention. Comics weren’t just kids stuff.

But there were problems, too. Black and white indie comics boomed – then crashed – and in doing so, underscored a penchant for short-sighted greed that has ebbed and flowed in our marketplace for decades.

And it definitely flowed in the 1990s.

Just as it seemed that comics were bound for the kind of cultural legitimacy that eluded the art form when mature content was foolishly abandoned with the sudden death of EC Comics in the ‘50s, the market gave in to its most craven impulses. The unprecedented level of creativity that ushered in one of comics’ most prosperous periods gave way to gimmicks.

There were more comic book stores than ever, and there were more comics, too.

Too many comics, with too many covers.

Variant covers. Foil covers. Hologram covers. Embossed covers. Die-cut covers. Gatefold covers. Glow in the dark covers.

Comics were polybagged, comics were commoditized, and comics were hoarded as speculation ran rampant.

Comics were shipped late, and sometimes not at all, as publishers of all breeds galloped ever onward, with little regard for their readers and next to no respect for retailers.

Heroes died, and heroes were reborn. Titles were canceled, and titles were relaunched and renumbered.

The market expanded.

And then it collapsed.

Stores went out of business.

A textbook example of both short-term thinking and extreme hubris resulted in an almost lethal blow to the Direct Market’s distribution system, effectively leaving only Diamond Comics Distributors standing.

More stores went under, with the number of Direct Market retail accounts plummeting to a small fraction of a total that once topped 10,000 – losses that, to date, are far from being recovered.

Marvel filed for bankruptcy.

That was less than 20 years ago, but let’s fast forward again, to the earliest part of this century.

Thanks to Joe Quesada, and Bill Jemas, Marvel Comics was on its feet again. Thanks to the careful oversight of Paul Levitz and Bob Wayne, DC tied together past and present successes alike to build an impressive and sustainable backlist program that in many ways remains the industry standard.

And thanks to the creative vision of as varied a bunch as Craig Thompson, Marjane Satrapi, Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis, Grant Morrison, Brian Azzarello, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, and once again, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Frank Miller, as well as a growing influx of Manga titles too numerous to list, the comics industry found its spine.

For the first time since the days of the newsstands, it embraced a broad, general audience in a true sense, and comics flourished again.

Things didn’t get better immediately, but the market stabilized, and then the market began to grow. Better still, it began to grow in new and different ways.

New voices sounded the call for new audiences:

Jeff Smith. Brian K. Vaughan. Gail Simone. Jill Thompson. Bryan Lee O’Malley. Alison Bechdel. Robert Kirkman. Jeff Kinney.

As the types of content comics offered expanded, the entire appearance of the market changed.

And here we are today.

Where once comics were summarily dismissed as light entertainment for adolescent boys, there are now comics for everyone by everyone.

In many ways, there has never been a better time to read comics, but as the story goes, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

A colleague of mine recently said, “I’ve literally never liked working in comics less.”

He is not alone.

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Over the past few months, and increasingly since the beginning of this year, I have heard similar comments from all corners of this industry. Writers. Artists. Retailers. People are worried about the future.

Again.

Not because we’re floundering creatively.

You can’t lament the creative health of a marketplace filled with talent like Jillian & Mariko Tamaki, Raina Telgemeier, Jeff Lemire, Nate Powell, Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Jason Aaron, Marjorie Liu, Julia Wertz, Ron Wimberly, Matt Fraction, Ed Piskor, Fiona Staples, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Scott Snyder, Rick Remender, Erika Moen, Ming Doyle, and the many, many, many other creators who have made modern comics the vibrant experience it is today.

No, people are worried because we are once again falling victim to our worst instincts. We are letting short-term thinking dictate our future plans. We are letting greed guide our way.

Here’s another dog-eared quote:

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

We’ve outlived the Comics Code, we’ve outlived the newsstands, we’ve grown up – but for all the lessons we’ve learned along the way, we somehow still can’t bring ourselves to think responsibly about the future.

We worry too much about what we don’t have instead of focusing on what we’ve got, and we keep marketing the fear of missing out as excitement.

So we’ve gone back to gimmicks, to variant covers and relaunches and reboots and more of the same old stunts disguised as events, when really all our readers want are good stories.

We’re giving them great jumping on points over and over again, but it’s becoming so commonplace our audience instead sees them as opportunities to cut and run. We are misinterpreting sales spikes for long-term success, and worst of all, we are spending so much time looking at how to keep going that we’ve lost sight of where we were heading in the first place.

And when I say “we,” I speak not just of publishers, or of retailers, but creators as well.

We are, sadly, all at fault.

But happily, we are all in this together.

So here’s the good news:

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We come to ComicsPRO each year, and to Diamond’s Retailer Summits, to exchange ideas about how to make the market better. Publishers come here for feedback from their retailer partners, and retailers attend to learn from one another. More recently, creators have been welcomed to engage in the discussion, as well they should – they’re as much a part of our industry’s infrastructure as anyone else, arguably the most vital part.

We all want advice on how to make the comics industry the best it can possibly be, so I hope what I have to say next is taken in that spirit.

We need to stop.

If you – if any of us – are putting short-term needs ahead of long-term thinking: Stop.

Stop stunting your own growth by doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Stop being so beholden to the past – to past victories, past mistakes.

Stop revelling in nostalgia for a time long gone by. Creatively, the golden age of comics is now – let’s save our nostalgia for today.

If you are a retailer ordering more copies of a comic than you can sell simply to qualify for a variant incentive: Stop.

Variants don’t build a lasting readership on the books you’re trying to sell. At best, they pay short-term dividends; at worst, they deprive fans of something that is limited in nature. All comics should be for everyone. Not just collectors. Not just whoever has the most cash on hand.

By the same token, if you are a publisher trying to force your comics into the marketplace with exclusive variants retailers can only order by irresponsibly increasing their orders: Stop.

You’re getting a short-term sales boost at best, and you don’t benefit from stacks of unsold books cluttering up the stands or being shoved into dollar boxes.

And really, what do any of us gain by spamming LootCrate customers with copies of a book that will be selling a fraction of its first issue total when #2 ships, other than market share? We’ve all played that game, and without a clear marketing plan for how to convert those blind box copies to real sales, to real readers, it gets us nowhere. Stop.

Likewise, if you are a publisher putting out too many comics: Stop.

It’s a crowded marketplace.

It’s getting more crowded by the week. We’ve all put out books we felt deserved a better response than they received, good books — great books, even — and they are getting lost. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. None of us are immune to this, so just stop.

And start giving more consideration to what the market really needs. Look at what’s out there, what niche is already being filled.

I’ve been turning down zombie pitches for years, but now, I’m turning down sci-fi pitches. I’m turning down horror pitches. Crime pitches. Anything we already have in abundance. Unless there’s something truly remarkable about those kinds of comics, the market is filled with them already. There are other seams to work. Now is the time to start digging deeper.

If you are a creator – a writer, an artist, both – the legends of yesteryear have done their work. For decades now, we’ve all been standing on the shoulders of giants. It’s time to stop. Let them have their rest. Now is the time to create new characters, to explore new worlds, to tell new stories. Our industry – our medium – has a long and magnificent history, but the past isn’t going anywhere. The future is an open road.

Look at the success of Jessica Jones and The Walking Dead. Look at Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’s Kingsmen. Or Phoebe Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl. All ideas from this century that inspire genuine excitement.

The whole reason the entertainment industry is currently so besotted with comics is because we have traditionally been a wellspring of new creativity. Stop acting like interchangeable brand managers and create.

And if you are a publisher trying to shore up your numbers by releasing more than one issue of a single title a month: Stop.

It’s makes it next to impossible for retailers to accurately track sales, it puts undue pressure on even your most loyal fans, and it deprives writers and artists of the ability to do their best work. In fact, it all but robs artists of the ability to establish the kind of multi-issue runs that define long and illustrious careers.

It’s up to you – the retailers – to be more vocal about how these practices affect them. Idle grumbling will change nothing – and there is no actual benefit to suffering in silence. Start saying when enough is enough.

It’s also time for retailers, no matter how new you are to running a store or how long you’ve been at this, to start taking a closer look at the wide variety of comics on the market today. It is unconscionable for any store owner to say they are too busy to read comics. We are all busy. Every day, all day. It’s part of the job.

When creators ask me what kind of comics we’re looking for, I tell them to do whatever they are burning to do, because if they’re passionate about their work, it will show. We are all part of the same eco-system, and the same applies to you. It’s sales 101. If you know your product, you’re going to have more success selling it.

Want proof? The Valkyries.

There’s a not a publisher in this room that hasn’t benefited from the hard-working support of The Valkyries, of women all over the country enthusiastically handselling comics and graphic novels they read and love.

Start reading comics. You’ll sell more of them.

The same goes for publishers. Read your own comics.

I read as many of our books as I can. Sometimes I don’t like what I read. Sometimes the pitch is better than the finished product. You can’t win ‘em all, but you learn something by reading what you publish, even if it’s what mistakes to avoid in the future.

We all make mistakes, but the biggest problem we have right now, something too many of us suffer from right now in 2016, is unbridled self-interest. For better or worse, though, we are all inexorably linked in a market that is almost completely unique – creators, publishers, retailers, distributors.

The Direct Market was a brilliant idea that saved comics from near extinction, but today it is virtually the last bastion of independent, owner-operated entertainment retailing. Over the years, the Direct Market has provided a birthing place for unprecedented creativity, creativity that today is making comics such a powerful force in the broader culture. We absolutely want to find new ways to reach readers – through bookstores, through digital distribution – but for all its quirks, the Direct Market should always be a safe haven that we can all depend on, not a strip mine. And if we want it to carry on into the future, then we should all stop taking it for granted.

A few parting thoughts for everyone here.

Firstly: You can have no greater ally than someone willing to tell you you’re doing something wrong, someone willing to say, “No,” when everyone else is saying “yes,” wisdom be damned. Honesty is the only true currency, and right now, it’s something this industry needs more than ever, because if we can’t be honest with each other — with ourselves — about where we are and where we’re going, the mistakes of the past will bear down on us with a tonnage so staggering we may never rise again.

Secondly: If what you’re getting from all this is a condemnation of what you are doing, if you somehow think that by offering advice on how to build a better, more sustainable industry means I want your company or your book or your store to fail, I promise you that is not the case.

It’s not easy to get up in front of people time and again to call attention to longstanding problems, but I do it because I care deeply. This is my 24th year in this business, and there’s one reason and one reason alone that I’ve stuck around this long: I love comics.

I would hope everyone here feels the same, and that whatever differences we may have, we share a mutual love for the work we create and a fervent desire for our industry to succeed. Regardless what you may think of me, in my heart of hearts, I am only saying what I truly believe needs to be said, and I guarantee you, it’s nothing I don’t say to my own reflection in the mirror.

We all have our successes – we all make mistakes – but we can all do better.

There is a whole wide world outside these doors, and everything we create or sell can appeal to just as many people as we can reach. I want all of us to thrive and to succeed, not just today, but far into the future.

And finally, somebody sent me a wonderful David Bowie quote that I have personally found incredibly inspirational over the past few weeks:

“If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in; go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

We can all learn from that, not just because they’re wise words, but because exciting is in our DNA.

We’ve overcome hardship before, and we’ve been through numerous changes and come out stronger on the other side. My greatest hope is that instead of gritting our teeth and looking at the year ahead as a painful period of transition, we greet the challenges before us, not as obstacles, but as a new opportunity.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. This is a thoughtful take on what’s going on in the industry. I really think the mid-majors will survive all this comics-movie madness hanging over the industry but I cannot say the same for Marvel and DC; ship’s sailed. Once the well runs dry on TV and movie viability those characters will be vaulted and only used for marketing and toy sales.

  2. Eric Stephenson said: “So we’ve gone back to gimmicks, to variant covers and relaunches and reboots and more of the same old stunts disguised as events, when really all our readers want are good stories.”

    I wonder how much of this comes from corporate owners seeking profits for a certain quarter. Relaunching a line usually helps sales as fans rush to buy first issues. Then sales slump again. But maybe a good quarter is enough to satisfy the owners and shareholders. As he says: short-term thinking.

    CVS said: “Once the well runs dry on TV and movie viability those characters will be vaulted and only used for marketing and toy sales.”

    The joke used to be that if Ike Perlmutter had his way, Marvel would consist of one guy with a telephone, licensing the characters for movies, TV shows and toys. Maybe that day is actually coming.

  3. “I’ve been turning down zombie pitches for years, but now, I’m turning down sci-fi pitches. I’m turning down horror pitches. Crime pitches. Anything we already have in abundance. Unless there’s something truly remarkable about those kinds of comics, the market is filled with them already. There are other seams to work. Now is the time to start digging deeper.”

    err…but for my friends and people like me who are important who have cool X-men or Hunger Games like ideas, I’ve greenlighted my kind of folk who I can hang with or comforted because I know they’ve worked for Marvel or DC…,

    America’s Got Powers
    Story By: Jonathan Ross
    Art By: Bryan Hitch
    18 years ago, a strange crystal touched down in San Francisco and every pregnant woman in the area gave birth. These were no ordinary children, though, as each but one was gifted an extraordinary power. Used by society for entertainment, these special children live in a form of slavery with no rights, except the ability to compete in the Games. –

    THEY’RE NOT LIKE US
    Eric Stephenson
    Simon Gane
    Eisner-nominated NOWHERE MEN writer ERIC STEPHENSON teams up with red-hot artist SIMON GANE for an all-new ongoing series! We all have advantages over one another, but what if you were capable of things most of us can only imagine? What would you do – and who would you be? A doctor? An athlete? A soldier? A hero? Everyone has to make a choice about how to use the abilities they’re born with… but they’re not like us.

    REVENGE #1
    Story By: Jonathan Ross
    Art By: Ian Churchill
    Cover By: Ian Churchill
    Published: February 26, 2014
    Diamond ID: DEC130487

    Griffin Franks was a joke in Hollywood. A washed up action-hero. Over the hill. Past it. A has-been. A barely-was. But now he IS The Revenger. He’s a star. His movie’s a hit. His latest wife is hot. He finally has everything he wants. Just in time for someone to take it all away. Forever. Starting with his face.

    (speech continues….)
    For the rest of you chicks , latinos, people of color, keep trying till you send me something fresh if you want to ride with Image, but for now I’ve nixed more major comics categories so send me something like Manga Pop Golf Comic instead because we need to keep it fresh. And if its superheroes, unless you’re Liefeld, Larson, Kirkman or McFalrane, the best of the best there is (who hired or helped me) you guys are the worst , buzz off and don’t fill up my inbox.

    The light shines from me and only me.

  4. Does anyone think that variants build “lasting readership”? Publishers do them to boost sales. Feels like half of his speech misses the point, on purpose, in order to garner more support from people that dislike big two.

  5. Governments in Central, and South America are dependent on the USA -only consumer “anti-“culture like the USA can consume cocaine at a ‘government sustaining’ level. India loves us for the synthetic heroin we all love to import from them -Oxy, anyone? I love this article, but we are dealing with people here that will shock another person repeatedly, and for increasing amounts of time w/each shock just because someone in a lab coat says to, and you think foreign entities like Disney/Marvel, or Time/Warner are going change their profit making machine? Is this article a “the Millennials are coming!” type of warning that multinational corps will be branding towards? Can Generation 911-snitch be capable of caring about this article -you see documentaries about teens going from Oxy to cheaper heroin (that sill is making it over her from Afghanistan), and they all say there is nothing to do where they live. Avoiding acknowledging others while staring at iPhones, and living along asphalt, and strip malls, and traffic, and no journalism for accountability -insightful sequential that instigates awareness in this type of stuff would be nice, more sequential journalism as well, please… The current early 21Century ‘former-USA’ environment does not enable or perpetuate the sale of the type of sequential Eric Stephenson is promoting. What is going on today, please, that realistically would make us think things are going to ‘get better’?

    “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
    -Yet, is it not the purpose of an ‘American’, regardless of salary, education, or sense of cooperation, or work ethic, that the majority of adult life be grueling traffic, asphalt, outsourcing, the same regurgitated shows/advertisements, only news no journalism, someone’s corporate policy, more grueling traffic, and over priced flimsy pamphlets that rarely give sequential the respect it deserves, especially while said pamphlets are called “comic books”? If it is not broken for the multinationals foreign entities / corporations, then why would sequential ever not be referred to as “comic books”?

  6. Stephenson’s argument seems to assume a major factor that just isn’t true…that all of these publishers can be run in the same way because they have the same, or very similar business models. This is just not the fact. Image, while likely having the best creator owned model in the industry, also sets it self up with risk factor and overhead that is very very different from other publishers. So Stephenson here boils things down much more simply than the actual factors of publishing comics as any one company allow for. I think he has some great points and many different things, but they, in many cases, don;t cover for the intricacies that not only ignore the specifics of the big two like Marvel and DC, but don’t account for the specificity of companies like Book, Dark Horse, or Oni either.

  7. He’s wrong about one thing: Marvel didn’t go bankrupt because of foil covers, or indeed anything Marvel was doing at all. Marvel went bankrupt because of reckless and foolish investments by its corporate parent.

    That said, there are plenty of publishers that DID go bankrupt in the 1990’s because of foil covers. I totally agree with his overall point; it’s just that the Marvel bankruptcy doesn’t illustrate it in the way he thinks it does.

    I said, when the New 52 was first announced, that it would lead to a temporary boost in sales but that, in the long term, sales would drop. I’ll admit to being wrong about just how big that sales boost was and how long it took for it to slide, but it appears that it’s finally happened. And DC’s solution is…a bunch of fucking new #1’s.

    It’s not that DC hasn’t been willing to try new and different things, but it’s too ready to pull the plug when they’re not immediate successes. Marvel seems to be doing much better on that score, but is still beholden to the Big Event/New #1’s pattern.

    Image, meanwhile, is putting out the absolute best books in its history. I’d say the same for IDW, despite its overabundance of licensed titles. Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, Boom, and many others are doing mighty fine work too.

    Overall, I’d say things are looking pretty good; there are a hell of a lot of options out there for readers, and, anecdotally, my LCS is doing good business and a lot more specialty stores have opened up in the past couple of years, which is not what I was expecting after Atomic was shut down and the writing seemed to be on the wall.

    I sure wish DC and Marvel would get their shit together, though. They’re putting out some great books, but they can’t seem to settle on a strategy that’s sustainable in the long term. Oh hey, another bunch of new #1’s; THAT always works.

  8. Likewise, if you are a publisher putting out too many comics: Stop.
    ———————————————————————————–

    Check out the Image Comics section in any recent issue of Previews.

    Hey, Eric, ever heard the old saying, something about a pot calling a kettle black?

  9. What I’ve taken from this speech is that comics have got boring. When I was younger I used
    To read comics. At my age I can easily afford hardcover graphic novels.

    Why not market your wares more in bookstores.

    My final point is to learn French and see how much charm and fantasy there is in reading
    French or Belgian comics. Maybe some of that can be brought back into American comics.

  10. People always call for something new and different, and the readers will supposedly follow. I’ve issued that call, too. But what most readers want, it seems, is “iconic” or “legacy” superheroes who have been around since JFK was president *(or longer). Unless it’s Star Wars, and that hardly qualifies as new or different.

    “That said, there are plenty of publishers that DID go bankrupt in the 1990’s because of foil covers.”

    And thousands of comic shops went out of business because of those gimmicks. When the speculators went away in the mid-’90s, a lot of actual readers also gave up on the hobby. They had been burned too many times, and were tired of paying jacked-up prices for lousy stories.

  11. I swear, get away from the current medium format, and people will buy more ‘sequential’, a larger print format so that we can appreciate graphic stories that are smart, focused, hot that brings this kind of sexy Cajun essence:

    Marvel Diva Monica “Pulsar” Rambeau Tribute :
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYAYDSuxu44

    She is too hot to go on w/out her own story, she used to be a police officer, and then became a science fiction story -so how can that not be worth an on-going series. I see her, and Blade as a term-up on-going comic.

    Lets all be at fault in this together, please…

  12. So, please reply with suggestions, as I was thinking, why not Neil deGrasse Tyson, and a black female writer to pair up on some Power, Sex, Sugar, Rambeau. Think about it: the woman can turn into light -there as aspects that Neil deGrasse Tyson can contribute, which can become a “Rambeau” story’ like “Dr Strange” may be associated with psychedelics, and dimensions, and magic, yet a “Rambeau” story can be associated with physics, and science, and fill a vacuum that desperately needs to be filled in any type of on-going sequential publications, -no? But pair Bill Nye, or Neil deGrasse Tyson up w/which writer(s)?

  13. If you youtube “Michigan State University’s Comic Book Collection”, at 2:20 Santa Claus apparently is the superintendent for MSU’s Library’s Special Collections room (the appearance of Mrs Claus is proof of this, at 6:40) which houses the largest library of comic books (outside of Chuck Rozanski, probably), and , yet I need to know, Eric, if the Clauses were not immortal,how do we make sure to have a regular revolving class of students on hand in case the Clauses are not there to catalog and make sure the library is safe -I think contingency plans should be in place, don’t you? Please help -who can help us all? Maybe an investment from TIme/Warner and Disney/Marvel would ‘help’???

    Also, at 3:40 you see the last women who has read a comic on MSU’s campus leave the Collections room, so should there maybe be a commemorative comic made for that -? There could be alternative covers of that woman drawn as if she was various superheros -maybe have her be Thor, like a female version of Thor then would sell that variant commemorative comic, something unique you know to attract new readers w/out doing anything outside of a 20th century marketing mold,… ?

    And do you think Santa Claus should be the ‘face’ of comics in this video when it comes to this library -something from an old white man know for mass branding campaigns, and Mrs Claus’ fattening cooking isnt that far off right?

    And do you like this video, could it, and every other vid on collections, shop talk, and b.s. “stealth buys” be any more bland, boring, and filled w/no one that fits your demographic for the stories you want to promote… Do you think ‘comics’ will stay square in the USA, and pass ‘Americans’ by leaving us in branding bland land? If not, why is Santa the only person that has ever worked at MSU’s comic book library?

  14. “…if you are a publisher putting out too many comics: Stop. It’s a crowded marketplace. It’s getting more crowded by the week… And if you are a publisher trying to shore up your numbers by releasing more than one issue of a single title a month: Stop.”

    Amen, brother. Why DC ever thought it was a good idea to cling like grim death to 52 individual titles is a complete mystery, particularly when only about four of them were ever interesting at any one time. How can it be good for any publisher to consistently pump out so much uninspired stuff that doesn’t sell? And I say this as a DC guy from birth — a DC guy who currently buys only three DC titles, two Marvel titles, but more and more Image stuff all the time, not least because Image is doing the canny thing and holding the line at $2.99 — a price point at which it’s still possible to take a chance on a new title when you feel like it rather than having to think it over. If DC’s Rebirth gets nothing else right, dropping their prices is the one thing that might save them, even if they only did it because they want to publish their biggest sellers twice a month.

  15. There are a lot of comments on comic sites where the commenter says that they read more Image than anything from Marvel or DC. I think that’s a proper progression. I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s. My older brother bought comic books like Archie, Richie Rich, etc…as he got older he bought Marvel and DC. In his teen years, super hero comics were for kids, so he bought comics like Conan and magazines like Heavy Metal and Epic not to mention some of the black and white comic magazines. It wasn’t uncommon to quit reading superhero comics as a teenager, especially when you played sports and developed new interests, but there were options if you still like comic art. My reading history included the “kid” comics and when I discovered Marvel and DC, not only were there superheroes but they had toy properties as well. The difference for me was that when I hit high school, Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen came out. I could still read superhero comics because they really weren’t producing them for kids anymore. Guys on my football team wanted to talk to me about Batman and Wolverine, there was no teasing about still reading superhero comics. As a result I have continued to buy DC and Marvel over the years.

    Fast forward to today, there is no true gateway into comics for a kid. The superhero comics have mature storylines are at times 5 bucks a piece and the publishers and editors don’t think that kids read comics anyway. Image is there for those who have read Marvel and DC and are sick of their stories or don’t want to follow a superhero universe. The ignored group are kids who will grow up reading comics.

  16. And then Eric gave all the retailers and exclusive variant for Nowhere men.

    Every month I pick up Previews and am disappointed. I get nothing from Marvel, and no superhero stuff from DC. Even Image has gotten borinly derivative over the last year.

  17. His commentary was a bit long winded, since I don’t think everyone needs a lesson in comic history. But I do agree with his point that publishers and creators are thinking short term. But again, let’s point the finger back at ourselves, or at least the fans who think of comics as investments, rather than a place to enjoy great imaginations at work… whatever we buy NOW will be what we get more of in the future.

  18. ” I really think the mid-majors will survive all this comics-movie madness hanging over the industry but I cannot say the same for Marvel and DC”

    Let’s not kid ourselves. If Marvel or DC, let alone both, stopped selling comics or even drastically cut back on their line of titles, a lot of comic shows would go out of business, likely setting off a vicious circle that consumed even more shops that might have been able to survive on their own.

    Mike

  19. Axel Alonso even says light heatedly in interviews, “If Marvel knew how much I read comics, they would fire me.” -the EIC of Marvel does not even read his own ‘comics’. Alonso is too busy enforcing affirmative action on major character-based assets, instead of having writers create quality sequential -you can’t have a series like Alias/Jessica Jones go down, and then tell me you do not know how to create new super heroes that are not white men.

    Alonso is a minority in ‘the USA’, and like most white men in this fake country, he enables, and perpetuates obsessing on how people are different, and then how to separate themselves from others different, and just be a plain bigot. It is bigoted to market Captain America based on his skin color, celebrating how minorities in America ‘now have Captain America’ -how are minorities not just as bigoted as whites in this fake country, considering that in order for ‘minorities’ to be interested in a sequential character-based asset like Captain America they need to have that character-based asset be of the same ethnicity as themselves? The Valkyries used in the example of Stephenson’s speech would say that you should not have ‘women comics’, but just women in comics. Instead, Alonso goes and says things like how people w/red hair are considered homosexual, and that is one of the reasons why Rawhide Kid was made ‘gay’ (Alonso says this posted on YouTube during a radio broadcast promoting his hip hop covers) -Yet he would never make a Spider-Man, or any other male character-based asset have red hair, red hair is considered ‘weird’ and ‘gross’ if red hair is on a man in the USA, and only used for Marvel to have red haired women be part of their ‘brand’ of female superheroes. Furthermore, since the largest consumer markets for anything are going to be India and China, why would they want to buy something that has a white male on the cover, especially one that has red hair -even in bigot land USA red hair is called ‘the red headed step child’, and like typical ‘Americans’ no one knows how to cooperate w/anyone different, as “red hair” translates to “target for abuse” in ‘American culture’, so Alonso should get away with his bigotry, since he is a ‘minority’, and only ‘minorities’ know hardship, and therefore should practice bigotry… ??? Help me out here, why does it make sense for minorities to only be interested in comics when a character is *turned* black, not that there are more black characters, but Marvel is all about “turning” characters, instead of turning a real long term profit, and turning on real fan love. Maybe Marvel should change is name to Myopic Pretentious Passive-Aggressive Smug Minority Bigot Comics -? You want to be real, then have Jane Foster die, because it is not profitable to cure cancer -that is a fact, that is real, that is what will depict real ‘American culture’ -then let’s see how Thor thinks of people from Midgard!

    -AND Axel Alonso had has to give his bigot version of Thor cancer, since cancer is such a cash cow for pharmaceutical companies there is no way to have a ‘super hero’ do anything about it, like cure cancer, or even hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for turning the Hippocratic Oath into a mantra for drug pushers. Having Jane Foster be addicted to Oxycotin would be had been a more realistic ‘disease’ for her to have, instead of trying to make fighting cancer be part of a female Thor brand -that is disgusting. As an ‘American’ I know that we are considered consumers first, and human beings last, so for Marvel Comics to choose to try to integrate ‘having cancer’ as part of their push to brand Thor, instead of creating great Jane Foster stories is pathetic, terrible, insulting, and just plain stupid. Giving a character cancer, is the effort of corporations to acclimate ‘Americans’ to the concept of having cancer be just a part of life, like it’s something to accept having cancer treated, instead of cured. Marvel Comics is *u(k!^g disgusting. Boycott Marvel cancer Comics.

    Please boycott Marvel cancer Comics, and any super hero comics from the USA in general -I cant wait for ‘Americans’ to wake up..: that will never happen -‘Americans’ would rather sit in traffic, and be Marvel Zombies, than do anything to improve livability where they live, let alone do anything to improve sequential. According to Alonso and Marvel cancer Comics readers, if I told you that this comment was written by an African American then that make you accept my comments, right, but if they were written by someone that was not a ‘minority’ then that would make you reject my comments -please convince me that the USA still exists, consumers.-because any way you look at at, cancer is a matter of when, not ‘if’, as an American, regardless of your ethnicity, or other ‘minority’ status you want to use to sell sequential.

  20. “The ignored group are kids who will grow up reading comics.”

    In Sean Howe’s book about Marvel, a recent Marvel exec is quoted as saying, “I think the 8-year-old reader is a myth. I don’t think the 8-year-old reader ever existed.”

    There certainly were 8-year-old readers in the late ’60s. I was one of them. Sad that the companies seem satisfied with a few hundred thousand adult readers instead of the millions of kids they used to have.

  21. @George: The “ignored group” is the reader, regardless of age. We are to be socially engineered as consumers that pretend the USA still exists, which is why things like tolerance, cooperation, and training with /learning from others different are taboo concepts in the former-USA.

    Did you all sit in enough traffic yet today?

    Did everyone obsess on who around them is ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’, from the ‘country’ or ‘city’, and then make an effort to be a bigot today?

    Make sure to follow someone’s corporate policy, and keep working that corporate you-know-what inside your you-know-what, and as long we all just tell ourselves to “Think Positive!” w/out any real action in life, then we will all be just fine, right? America! Consumerism! Advertisements!

  22. @Chris -what did I say that makes you think I would be happy about living in a fake country that make sure bigotry, and brand identity are priorities in life?

    Dont forget to hate on me, since I want to not live in a commercialized sh!t hole -c’mon everyone: do not admit that sequential has been turned into commercialized, advertisement ridden crap -just have to make comments that call me names: This is America, that is what life is supposed to be about right? Chris, do not ask for my email address, or contact info, or post any question by any means by which we can have a discussion, just cut me down, right? You love to keep track of brands over improving livability, you have to cut me down..

    C;mon Chris, please convince me that the USA still exists, bigot. Be mean, and cut me down -that is who you are, do it.

  23. @Chris -what did I say that makes you think I would be happy about living in a fake country that make sure bigotry, and brand identity are priorities in life?

    Dont forget to hate on me, since I want to not live in a commercialized sh!t hole -c’mon everyone: do not admit that sequential has been turned into commercialized, advertisement ridden crap -just have to make comments that call me names: This is America, that is what life is supposed to be about right? Chris, do not ask for my email address, or contact info, or post any question by any means by which we can have a discussion, just cut me down, right? You love to keep track of brands over improving livability, you have to cut me down..

    C;mon Chris, please convince me that the USA still exists, bigot. Be mean, and cut me down -that is who you are, do it.

  24. @Chris -what do you think about William Wray’s paintings? Don’t you think Eric Stephenson would find them fitting of ‘American’ culture? I do. I love them -Sentinel of Liberty- is such a dope painting, don’t you think?

  25. So, am I the only one that is waiting for the comic book version of this speech? I mean, c’mon! Stephenson works for a sequential company -everyone talks their version of the line of sequential history Stephenson is describing… You got the new Geoff Johns, and Kevin Smith TV show one=of promotion episode “Dawn of the Justice League”, and then you also got that “Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop! “promotional episode which is an awesome story -why have their promotions not also been released as ‘comics’? -because at the end of the day, quality sequential does not matter.

    So, we need a sequential book that can show us how ‘modern’ ‘comics’ stories from ‘America’ are basically based on an amalgamation of three things:
    1. christian/conservative-extremist censoring tactics disguised as Red Scare tactics bringing us the CCA, and censoring beyond,
    2. Speculator bubbles, instead of investments based on quality content and
    3. Homo-erotic power fantasy fulfillment.

    I love the interview Millar, and Hitch were in that accompanied the animated movie for DVD, Ultimate Avengers 2, as they were talking about modernizing the Avengers, yet too bad no one was really listening. Seriously though, we love sequential, but we all know that ‘American’ ‘comics’ are not going to go beyond the three points I just made. So, can any one recommend any sequential journalists, please? -I can name one right now, Joe Sacco, but can anyone tell me who else can we have to put in sequential form how ‘American’ ‘comics’ are really a bunch of crap? Why would ‘Americans’ care about ‘journalism’ though, when they can easily get commercialized ‘news’ and keep perpetuating the typical American thinking telling each other things like “im sorry that you feel that way”, and “well then that’s just their choice, isnt it -survival of the fittest…” instead of being informed about how to be involved in getting things done? How about more comic books about what it is like selling your soul to Time/Warner and Disney? Since MIcrosoft’s CEO became Indian, as that is the next largest market for fake operating systems that are designed to lock up and bread down, will Marvel then start to hire more Indians thinking that if we make another effort in this country to un-employ more ‘Americans’ by hiring out-sourced labor then that will allow Disney/Marvel to “gain more Asian market share”…??? Since it is not marketable to have a red-haired major character-based asset, will Daredevil become Indian you think (his hair, like the TV, and movie Flash, has already been changed from gross disgusting red, to a marketable darker color), since red hair is considered negative and makes people reject spending on said ‘product’, and the largest consumer market is becoming India?

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