09 September 2009

No going back

Marv Wolfman, one of the most successful comics writers around, wrote today about the medium that he loves (and that I do, too):
When you look at the billion dollars plus that Dark Knight grossed, or the hundreds of millions grossed by Iron Man – a character few people outside of comics knew anything about – we see that people love what we do, but that love has not always been reflected in the sales of the comics themselves. Back in the 90s, when I was one of the two founding editors of Disney Adventures magazine – a magazine that sold over a million copies a month – I started calling regular comics a 32 page pamphlet. I meant that to be as derogatory as it sounds.

Comics were trapped in a ghetto; beloved and ignored at the same time. The days of the pamphlet are over. The tail of the dinosaur just hasn’t informed the brain. We need to look ahead to other formats, to other kinds of stories to tell and to other ways to distribute what we do. There is a generation now who gets all their entertainment over the net and that is not going to change. We are not going to go back to a 100% paper society. That is ridiculous both for distribution and for the environment. Computer book readers are going to get more popular and when they move to color, there will be no reason at all to have to print a magazine when you can download one to a perfect flat screen with no glare that looks exactly like paper anyway.

I feel much the same about textbooks in particular and other aspects of higher education in general. Why are we still doing things the same as 20, 30, 40 years ago or more? “The tail of the dinosaur just hasn’t informed the brain.”

Having said that, you know what? I still love comics on paper. I read a lot on the net, but comics are one of the things that I still like the physicality of. But I agree with Marv. The ebook experience seems to be pulling close to paper, and that’s the future.

(Pictured: Vigilante, a recent title by Marv.)

Additional: An interview with cartoonist Berkeley Breathed, who had major success with the newspaper comic strip Bloom County, includes this comment:

Newspapers have about five years left. Young readers of the newspaper comics simply don’t exist anymore in numbers that count. Those eyeballs are elsewhere and will not come back. Online comics are terrific. But they will never have 1% of the readership any major comic had 20 years ago, by the nature of the technology. They’re different beasts now. No, after having 70 million daily readers in 1985, getting 3000 a day online isn’t terribly energizing at this stage.

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