There are thoughts here. They may very well ramble. Live
A while big 'comic activism' was quite the thing amongst
'left of centre' comic book fans, people who tended to hang
around the Warren
Ellis Forum, Savant
Mag or joined organisations with quite scary acronyms
and handed out comics on the street. It wasn't enough to buy
your favourite comic, you had to do everything in your power
to stop the book being cancelled by getting new readers, then
doing the same for the medium as a whole.
There were those that didn't buy into it. The smarmy, insincere,
elitist types, you could see them hanging around copies of
the Comics Journal smoking cheap cigars, wearing berets, reading
Eightball, you know, looking to all the world as if they were
French. Heaven forbid. Tom Spurgeon, editor of the Comics
Journal in those dark, dreary days recently wrote an article
berating what he called Team Comics.
Clearly, it was much more admirable to be an anarchist for
comics, using guerrilla warfare to push comic books into the
hands of unsuspecting passerbys with comics. And thus the
soldiers of comics marched, wearing their
Artbomb t-shirts, Spider Jerusalem glasses, Larry Young
cold hard stares and chain metal crotches. It was exciting,
it was passionate, it was a mission and bugger all happened
in the end. Artbomb's a good place to get cheap graphic novels
(and, let's face it, a pretty cool T-shirt), SavantMag lost
its original personnel and the server seems to work every
odd Tuesday. And still Finder struggles to sell anything even
approaching decent numbers. Decent in this situation, meaning
approaching sales of The Outsiders.
Or is it? This is the thing with Anglophone comics, they
used to sell millions, people are convinced they can again.
People are horrified at Vertigo titles selling four figures,
Marvel titles selling under 30,000, New X-Men only pipping
Okay, okay, at various times in comics' history, comics
have sold more. Either they had less to compete with, or they
became a collectable fad. But here's the thing. Bizarre exceptions
aside, comics outsell books. Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran's
Orbiter sold 10,000 in hardback. That's pretty decent for
the book market. New X-Men outsells most singles and albums.
Yes, TV films and games often outsell comics. But then,
so do bananas. Bananas make X-Men 2 look like a minnow. Yet,
is the argument that The Hulk movie would have done so much
better if he'd been yellow and edible?
Tortuous analogy? I'm full of them. But worlds change, cultures
change, and Nick Barrucci already wants to sell comics like
milk, so hey. Those who want to return to the days of the
speculator may have both their hearts and wallets in it, making
a tidy profit and lifting the sales of all comics simultaneously,
but it always comes at a price - disappointment, disillusionment
and some quite enormous amounts of money laundering. Ever
wonder how some back issues stayed so high, and how Wizard
maintained those high back issue prices? It was simply so
certain individuals could report sales of those back issues
at such exorbitant fees, ever when no one was buying a copy
on the shelf. And that situation could only sustain itself
so long, bringing down businesses, livelihoods and in some
cases, causing suicide.
And yes, comics sell in their squillions in Europe and Japan.
In the UK alone, Viz Comic outsells New-X-Men in America.
But no matter what happens, that all elusive super-best-selling
American comic book evades the industry. It's not as if the
quality isn't there, the superheroes have X-Men, Ultimates,
the mainstream have Y: The Last Man and Jimmy Corrigan, the