Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Goon and superhero comics....

Sometimes my writing nearly stalls not so much because I don't have anything to write about, but because I have too much to write about.

It's intimidating, I tell you.

I want to give the subjects their due, put some real thought and effort into it, but it's hard to find the time and energy.

So I think I'll just throw the subjects out there, and make a few comments, and let the rest of you decide what's important and what's not.

Finally learning how to Link again should help me here, because others have already put a lot of time and energy into the discussions. I'll let them carry most of the weight.

The first subject is the eternal (at least in the 31 years I've been doing this) argument that superhero comics are strangling the industry; that they have stomped on the artistic aspirations of generations of creators.

This current incarnation of the controversy comes from a video by Eric Powell the creator of the comic Goon, and apparently included some funny satire of a a superhero, um, screwing, rogering, driving home the point?, an independent comic.

The idea is, it's superhero comics, along with their enablers, the direct market and DC and Marvel, which are holding us back. This assertion caused the usual backlash from the superhero readers.

My employee Matt, who's a comic writer himself, pointed the video out to me and tried to get me to watch, but I was too busy at the time. Now, because of the firestorm of criticism, the video has been taken down.

However, Matt has written a response to all this on his blog, On The Subject of Being Awesome. You can also find his comments on our Pegasus Books Facebook. But I thought I'd throw my 2 cents worth in.

So, with a big resigned sigh, here goes:

I'll say this much. In the first 10 years of my career, I totally expected comics to diversify further, to become part of the mainstream the way S.F. and Fantasy novels had, to become accepted as an art form.

In some ways, that happened.

But where it counted -- sales -- not so much.

For the second 10 years of my career, I still expected it to happen, but was aware that it was an uphill struggle. Landmarks would come and go, which I expected to create Tipping Points, the Spider-man movie, (followed by all the other movies), especially. But nothing really changed, except in individual cases.

For the last 10 years of my career, I've come to the conclusion it will never happen. The built-in bias and misunderstanding of what comics are is too vast and deep to ever go away.

It's all fine and dandy that the intellectual class has to some extent come around, that Hollywood and Silicon Valley have plundered the creative ideas of the comic world.

Comics are still a hard sell, and always will be.

I feel like in some ways, I have a unique perspective. Independent comic readers complain that most comic shops, especially small town shops, don't make any effort to support independent comics. Well, I made a full and sustained effort to carry a huge selection of independent graphic novels. The kind that they all told me I should; and in return?

It's pretty pathetic, frankly.

If it wasn't for the fact that downtown Bend gets tourists, the whole thing could have been a disaster. Sales are sporadic, to say the least.

I've had a few local independent comic buyers over the years, never more than a few at any one time, and they'd buy a little -- but never in the numbers that the indie supporters would like to believe. Right now, I'd have to say I have no one in particular who I bother to point out the new indie releases to.

Now that the indie section is in place, I'm proud of it, and I can sustain it -- barely. I do it more as a gesture of goodwill, as a statement that I'm a good comic shop, than because I think sales actually justify it.

But ultimately, if the comic world doesn't support and sustain independent comics without Marvel and DC, it's because, bottom line -- the non-superhero readers simply don't buy enough of them!

Sure, prove me wrong. Come in buy some of the thousands upon thousands of indie graphic novels (I'm not exaggerating) that are gathering dust in the back of my store...

I'd love to be wrong about this.

1 comment:

Duncan McGeary said...

It's another one of those chicken and egg arguments-- do young kids comics not sell because there are not enough young kid comics? Are there not enough young kid comics, because young kids don't read them?

Ultimately, I come down on the side of the marketplace -- they don't exist because they don't sell. Period.