'Comics are dying.'
It's a statement that every comic book fan has had to contend with. From recent retailer numbers that are trending down to a certain type of fan that belives comics are not just dying but being murdered, there are a range of gloomy predictions for the state of the industry. But how gloomy is its future, really?
Recently, a long-standing member of the industry took to substack to address that question, and though he didn't focus on only the positives, there was cause for hope in what he said. That was Tom Brevoort, the longtime editor at Marvel comics and soon to be captain of the X-Men relaunch, on his Substack, Man with a Hat.
The message, titled Comics: Dying Since 1935, takes a step back from the woes of comic sales today to look at the big picture. Conversations about the death of the comic book were happening in 1989, says Brevoort, who also supposes "they were going on before that, particularly in the 1970s and the 1950s, and so on and so on."
"Those folks who were predicting the demise of the field ten or twenty or thirty years ago," he says, "would no doubt be shocked to learn that it is still here."
However, Brevoort does admit that old systems of comic sales have died out. The days of candy store spinner racks are gone, he says, "mostly because that type of store no longer exists." But does that mean that the industry itself is doomed? Not at all, says the editor.
"The diversity of material new and old that is readily available today is astounding," Brevoort asserts, "and shows no genuine sign of abating. What is likely happening is that the market is changing."
A look at the wider state of comics proves Brevoort is right; some of comicdom's heaviest hitters come from new sources. For example, Webtoons have grown into such a giant that even Amazon wants a slice, and more sales for hits like Dave Pilkey's Dog Man come from traditional book retailers, rather than comic book stores.
It's up to us, acccording to Brevoort, to "adjust to those changes," whether that's broadening our definition of comics or reconsidering how people are buying them. And once we do, the editor says he feels "confident in saying that the medium will survive."
Of course, some critics may continue to sound comics' death knell. "[...]change is almost always scary," writes Brevoort, and there are those that won't overcome that fear. "People hoping that the comic book industry will somehow revert to being the way it was when they were kids," he goes on to say, "are definitely in for disappointment."
So I guess for some folks, it seems comics aren't just dying; they're already dead.
Recently, Popverse's Frederik Hautain reported on whether comic book price stunts actually work.