Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Creators Front for Diversity in Comics!

Eric Powell slapped a video for his new Creators Front For Diversity In Comics on Youtube Friday, and it's now a talking point, so I'll talk about it.  It's Powell's outlandish and creative attempt to draw attention away from superheroes and toward other comics.  Particularly creator owned original comics. 

And while that's certainly not a novel position, (Steve Niles put out something similar this week) implying sodomy while demonstrating one's point is a fresh take, and a Chronic approved take.  I thought it was funny.  A little misguided, but a lot funny.

In case you missed it, I said my piece on this subject when the year kicked off.  The "Superhero Problem" is one of the most prevalent and poorly reasoned myths we have floating about the kingdom.  Comics don't have a superhero problem.  Comics have an audience problem, by which I mean there aren't many of us left.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not stupid.  I do recognize that there is an absolutely inordinate amount of superhero representation in comics, both in units and dollars.  It's absurd.  But the only thing more absurd than that is the idea that Marvel and DC have an agenda regarding the genre, or that they might be holding other genres or creator owned work down.   It's just silly.

Here's the easily verifiable and demonstrable truth:  Marvel and DC will put out whatever sells.  End of story.  Marvel in particular does not give a shit about the category of content it is putting out there, provided that there are people willing to buy it.  Marvel and DC are continuously in the process of experimenting with new styles of material to see if they can't catch lightning in a bottle.  And if they do, you'll see more of it.  Lots more of it.  Like eight Deadpool titles a month more of it.

Anybody who claims that DC has a pro-superhero platform has apparently never met Vertigo.  Case closed.  Leaving Marvel.  Marvel produces kids books, (what used to be known as Marvel Adventures) and Thor: Mighty Avenger books.  They do French comics about virgins slaying dragons, and they do Orson Scott Card/Stephen King adaptations, Strange Tales comics specifically spotlighting indie creators and their books.  They make horror titles, lately they've put out a slew of usually crappy "girlie" books and romance atrocities, they have Brubaker doing straight crime fiction, and need I go on?

It's not like the material isn't available.  And no, not every comic shop orders Criminal or Jonah Hex, much less Duncan the Wonder Dog.  But at the same time, how do the Creators For Diversity In Comics rationalize the existence of New York Five hitting the stands this week?  I'm sure Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly are doing a bang-up job on the book.  But it's not like New York Four set any sales records when it launched in the summer of 2008.  And there's DC, smashing it's face against the brick wall again publishing a comic about female students living life in New York.  How do they explain that?

Thankfully, Powell avoided the worst of the conspiratorial garbage that accompanies most anti-superhero rhetoric.  In fact, I don't think I would classify that youtube video as "anti-superhero" at all.  But their logo does contain a chain around an artist's wrists, and that does imply an external restrictive force.

Sorry, but that's a fantasy.  There is no conspiracy.  I think there's a small but extraordinarily vocal segment of the comics constituency that really believes our problems are grounded in a lack of diversity.  I think that segment truly believes that everybody is waiting for an alternative to scratch the itch of these mythical waiting millions.

Listen.  Go pick up a copy of McKeever's Meta 4 and tell me there's an itch left to be scratched.  It's all out there.  If that's what people wanted, they would buy that, and then those horrible dictators at Marvel and DC would trip over themselves giving you what you want.  That's a promise.  They are dying to sell anything at this point!

You want to promote creator owned original books?  I'm right there with you, brothers and sisters!  Try and find something better than Morning Glories - I dare you.  You can't do it.  I'm totally in love with Hack Slash, and I like Sixth Gun over at Oni Press and Penny For Your Soul over at Big Dog Ink.  Viva la indy comics!
But there's no chain around anybody's wrist and there isn't a problem with superheros in comics.  And once you've removed the corporate conspiracy, what's the message, really?  People should like stuff they don't like?  It's absurd.

The real problem is that we're down to our last 70,000 inbred customers, and nobody seems willing or able to reach outside of that cult.  You want diversity in comics?  We're going to have to find some more people willing to vote for that material with real dollars.

- Ryan


Drew said...

I have read your previous post on this subject, as well, and, quite frankly, I feel you give people too much credit. I truly believe there are 70-80% of the people who buy comics who simply walk into the comic book store and take what is given to them. People tend to buy what is sold to them. Most retailers buy mostly Marvel and DC because A) they tend to get a better discount through diamond on Marvel and DC books and B) they are much easier to sell to the casual comic book fan. Unfortunately, selling to the casual comic book fan is like beating a dead horse.

Chronic Insomnia said...

I almost want to believe your take, because then the problem would be fixable. The crappy retailers would simply die off, and the good ones would push the right product to the right people and it would take off, right? I don't know. At this point, I just don't know. January's Diamond numbers tell a much different story then I was expecting, and it's a bit depressing, frankly. I was expecting a slight uptick from DC on volume and a significant downtick on dollars, and we got a massive plunge on both.

The thing of it is, Archie comics sell 250,000 copies a month. There's nothing wrong with comics. Put them in front of people and they buy them, because they're awesome. But something is seriously broken with the direct market. Seriously, seriously broken.