Monday, August 07, 2017

What COULD Happen If Disney Stopped Publishing Marvel Comics?


There is an interesting article on (of all places) a site focused on Disney and Disney-related theme parks that asks the question Will Disney Stop Publishing Marvel Comic Books? We all know that one of the basic rules of journalism is that if your headline asks a yes/no question, the answer is typically no.

The thing is that this headline asks a pretty valid question that once would have been a resounding "no," but with the state of the comics market, and the fact that Marvel Comics has been bleeding readers for a while now, I don't know that it is that simple of a question any more. Neither Marvel Comics nor DC Comics are the powerhouses of the comics market that they were 30 or 40 years ago. In fact, the comics market itself has never really recovered from the market's speculator-lead bust of the 90s. Sales of DC Comics are up from what they were a few years ago (thanks mostly to the bump in sales that came about due to the Rebirth initiative that the company started about a year ago), but across the industry the sales numbers are no where near sustainable in the long term.

People have a number of reasons why they aren't buying comics like they used to. The quality isn't what it was. The stories are rehashes. Long-term readers don't recognize the characters in the comics anymore. There is a cycle of events that interrupt the various ongoing books, stalling out their stories. Buying comics on a monthly basis is expensive.

Some of these reasons are probably more valid than others, but regardless of the underlying reasons, people don't read comics like they used to read them. The direct comics market is also increasingly fragile for a number of reasons: many comics retailers aren't the best of business people (having gotten into the business because of their love of comics), declining sales means declining capital, and declining capital means that it is more difficult for retailers to diversify their product base or weather the storm of declining sales. Many comics stores are only just now recovering from the industry implosion of the 90s, and it wouldn't take a lot to cause them to teeter over the brink. Would they be able to bounce back again?

Regardless of the comic buying patterns of many of us comic fans, the comic market lives and dies by the selling power of the Big Two: Marvel Comics and DC Comics. If Disney were to decide that Marvel is a more profitable brand if it focuses on movies and merchandising, there would be an immense and sudden vacuum that would lead to another bust within the comics market. I don't think that another company would fill the vacuum left by Marvel. Image Comics, IDW Publishing and Boom! all publish some good books, but they don't scratch that super-hero itch that the Big Two does.

It is this lack of genre diversity that would be one of the factors that would lead to this bust. By putting so much of a market reliance onto just one genre of storytelling, the industry makes it more difficult to course correct by having other publishers step into the void left by a publisher leaving it. By relying heavily upon one genre, they create their own long term troubles. The collapse of the comics market would hurt the livelihood of a lot of people -- from creatives to distributors to retailers. It isn't an outcome that I would want to see.

If it came to pass that Disney decided to pull the plug on Marvel Comics publishing comics on a monthly basis it would decimate the industry. Even companies like DC Comics, with the deep pockets of Warner backing them, would have problems, because of the impact that it would have on the direct market. Too many eggs have been put into one basket of distribution and sales, just like they have been put into the one basket of genre. This isn't something that I would want to see happen, but I think that it is more becoming a possibility with each passing month.



Saturday, August 05, 2017

Face Front, True Believers!


As I am sure you all know, Gen Con is coming, and it will be the 50th anniversary of the convention. I'll be there, covering things for EN World and posting here at the blog, too. My appointment schedule has filled up, but there are still a couple of ways to find me at the convention. When I'm not in meetings, I'll be wandering the exhibitor's hall plus I am going to be on a couple of panels this year.

Thursday at 5pm local time I'll be part of a panel talking about being a tabletop freelancer. Kiel, the original panel moderator, had to cancel at the last minute, so I am stepping in with Beth Rimmels and Jacqueline Bryk to talk about getting a start as a freelancer in gaming. I'm pretty much just going to be there for the ride.

Friday at noon local time I'll be co-paneling with Beth Rimmels and we'll talk about marketing and publicity as a gaming professional. It will be fun. You'll laugh. You'll cry. Hopefully after wards you'll know more about marketing, because knowing is half the battle.

These are both ConTessa panels, and they're doing a whole bunch of awesome stuff at the con.

And finally, Sunday at 1pm local time there is going to be a panel talking about Battlefield Press, and what we've got that is new and upcoming. I'm sure you'll want to check that out.

Hopefully I will see you at Gen Con in a couple of weeks!