Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We Warned You: The Death Knell of the Pamphlet

There is a Seismic Change happening around us in the American Comic Book Industry and, oddly, many of the comic blogs and comic news sites are strangely silent on the topic. The comics Journal is reporting it, and that small niche publications that no one pays any attention to, Publisher's Weekly, is running an article. The rest? Scattered reports here and there. but we should be paying attention to it. I've been talking about this for years, and blogging about it for months now.

Trades have taken over. The triumph of a long time, supportable and marketable form over that slim and rather tatty pamphlet. And the numbers will continue to grow for quite a while, since, as the numbers being reported by Milton Griepp show that we are educating a graphically literate audience who will likely be reading comics, in a square bound format, for the rest of their lives.

We should be paying attention, as this is the sound of plate tectonics happening under our feet. And while the pain of changing the economic model will be felt for a while, we are seeing a long term future for comics that didn't exist 15 years ago, let alone 30 years ago.

Journalista sums the oddity of major comic sites on the web ignoring this change:
Industry analyst Milton Griepp’s assertion that the graphic-novel market was now larger than the comics-pamphlet market, news that met with silence from news-sites far more obsessed with writer Steven King’s tenuous connection to a licensed comic book than an epoch-changing event almost certain to determine what the comics industry will look like ten years from now.
How long has this been coming, and how many years have the publishers been avoiding it? I've posted more than once on the format wars, and how it effects both preception of the work as well as the marketing and warehousing and displaying of the books.

I have gotten into discussion with plenty of long time comic fans over the demise of the pamphlet, and for many people it boils down to needing that weekly/monthly fix for the books, for the cliffhanger, but that doesn't acknowledge the economics inherent in creating a long lasting work, both for the publisher and for the artist.

I cracked open Jane Austen the other night, and ask yourself, should I bother reading Sense and Sensibility if I have to track down the 6 issues to find out what Mr. Darcy is really up to? No, its a contained work with a beginning, middle and end. Is there any reason that I shouldn't be reading it because the author is dead? No, the book is a good read, and will always be new to the person that picks it up tomorrow. So will Maus, so will Dark Knight, so will Watchmen. Can you imagine trying to get an adult to read Watchmen if they kept trying to hunt down all 12 issues of a 20 year old mini-series? The publisher should be able to keep good works in print as long as there is demand, which benefits their back catalog and makes a good artist/author something to potentially live on more than the next paycheck for the next 22 page story.

Welcome to the world of adult publishing, comic companies. It may make you less reliant on gimmicks and endless cliffhangers, but you're creating a long term future for the business and for the readers who care about the medium.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yo, I think that wants to say "death knell."

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

D'oh!

Brex W. Foldingham said...

I was curious about what you think of self-contained pamphlets? I think there is certainly still a place for titles like Fell where each issue is "one and done."

Until I read the DC Showcase comics, I never knew that you used to be able to get 3 complete stories in one issue.

Shamus said...

I don't buy 'pamphlets' I buy comic books. Can't stand that term. Where does it originate from and how can we eradicate it's usage?

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

I don't buy 'pamphlets' I buy comic books. Can't stand that term. Where does it originate from and how can we eradicate it's usage?

I admit fully that I use it as derogatory term because of my disenchantment with the current format that a medium I love is being delivered in. In truth, my Alan Moore Swamp Things are pamphlets, but some of the best pamphlets ever in my eyes.

I buy and draw comic, whether they are stapled or square bound in format. But whereas I don't make the distinction between Alan Moore's work in format, the general public does, and thus my desire to bring in new readers by offering them great work in a format that seems to have gelled with them. It may seem stupid, but it works. Its necessary. In order to disseminate the comics to whole new generations we have to make them want to pick up the work and read.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

I was curious about what you think of self-contained pamphlets? I think there is certainly still a place for titles like Fell where each issue is "one and done."

Good question. perhaps the best analogy is to be found in the book world, since that is clearly where the money is and, thus, where the graphic novels are going.

We usually choose to buy a book of short stories, as opposed to buying a short story by itself. For that, I pick up the New Yorker. Perhaps we'll have to have the artists and writers go in that direction for publishing a 22 page short.

Good question, and I'm not sure I have a good answer.

Billscomics said...

Not to "d'oh" you again, but wasn't Mr. Darcy a character in Pride and Prejudice?