Jason Shayer is an expert in the field of Marvel and DC Comics. He has half a dozen short story credits and is a regular contributor to Back Issue! magazine. You an find him nostalgically revisiting the 1980s in his Blogs - Marvel 1980s and DC 1980s
In the previous article about Comics Evolution, several highs of the comic book industry have been highlighted along with a few lows but none lower than what hit in the early 1990s. The 1990s were a decade of surplus and greed as all sorts of promotions, like die-cut covers and hordes of family related titles (like the X-Men, Batman, and Superman titles), flooded the comic book market and led to its significant downturn as the speculator boom imploded on itself.
The explosion of the X-Men titles was led by Jim Lee and Chris Claremont as they launched another monthly X-Men book, simply entitled The X-Men, with variant covers. This event proved to be Marvel’s most popular as the sales figures were reported to be over 8.1 million copies. DC Comics responded a few years later with their Death of Superman story-line which culminated with Superman #75 which sold 2-3 million copies. While it was a commercial success, what proved to be entertaining and rewarding for fans was that the follow up story-line, which introduces four different characters, all with their own approaches to carrying on the legacy of Superman.
The comic industry limped into the 2000s and saw a resurgence of creativity with the likes of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson’s Astro City, or Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead, or Warren Ellis’ The Authority/Stormwatch, and Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man.
DC Comics has recently rebooted their entire Universe in a bold event called The New DC 52. While there was been a few road bumps, specifically in terms of creator conflicts, the move has been a financial success for DC Comics which had lagged behind its more successful rival, Marvel Comics, for years.
The mode of comic book distribution jas changed significantly as we have entered the Digital Age of Comic Books. Back in the 1970s, if you picked up your comics at the local convenience store or drug store, you could never be sure you’d get the same titles month after month. The comic book store with its pull list concept and back issue bins, finally gave fans the resources to track down their favourite stories. In the early 1980s, the comic industry shifted towards the direct market, offering select comic books exclusively to the comic book stores, giving them exclusives to entice customers.
Now, with the age of digital comics upon us, one again this has changed the comic book collecting landscape. You no longer need a comic book store and you no longer need to go to conventions to hunt down your back issue list. It’s all there on your digital device with the click of a button.
However, what’s missing in this new digital landscape is that camaraderie that was formed out of the comic book store. It was a geek hub where you would get to know the owners and other customers who shared the same interests and hobbies. There’s nothing like that now. You might argue that there are Facebook groups or message boards of fans that still talk about and debate comics, but it doesn't get close to that Wednesday run into the comic book store.
One of the more challenging aspects of the digital age, is going to be the death of the comic book store. The number of fans who want a physical comic book is dwindling. The industry itself knows now that either the print or the digital realm is an insignificant amount of money compared to the potential movie income. And with the Disney Corporation at the helm of the biggest comic book company, it’s not too difficult to see where they will be investing their money.
The biggest challenge the comic industry has is how to carefully balance its movie enterprises with its comic book enterprises. Both are incredibly symbiotic as you will have new readers drawn into the comic book world after having seen a movie and you’ll have a base audience of loyal readers eager to take in (and to criticize) the latest movie.