Traditional comics on their way out?

Recently I had an interesting discussion in the notes section of

Michael from Helpdesk Magazine claimed that traditional comics are on a slow path to obscurity. At first I didn’t buy in to what he was saying, because I misunderstood him.
I thought his point was that comics in their traditional single issue per month form were on their way out, to eventually be replaced with graphic novels every six months or so.

Rather, his point was this:

“Traditional western comics, with the exception of daily comics like Garfield, are typically about superheros no matter how you slice it. Comic books can’t possibly hope to compete if they don’t start treating themselves as a medium rather than a genre.”

After reading that paragraph I understood his point and even agreed with him, however I’m a little torn on the issue after further consideration. I definitely agree that Marvel and DC should treat comics as a medium rather than a genre, however Marvel and DC basically are super hero genres. That’s the Universe that they’ve made. Some would argue that this was a mistake on their part, but I say otherwise. After all, like it or not, going this route has made them the dominant companies in the industry for years.

I went on to make this comment in reply to Michael:

“I could definitely see Image and Dark Horse taking over, and I think it would be a welcome change. While I really enjoy certain super hero titles, it is certainly an overdone subject and not all that creative.”

I stand by the last sentence in that paragraph, however the first part needs a little revamping. I think it would be a welcome change if comics were written as well and as diversely as comics released by Image (such as Walking Dead and Fear Agent), however I do not think they will ever dominate the industry. Marvel and DC will always find a way to keep their empire strong.

After all, while DC may have structured their universe around the super hero genre, they also have comics released under the Vertigo title which are less traditional and are creator owned.

What do you think? Will DC and Marvel ever lose their death-grip on the industry? Have they fallen behind the times?

5 responses to “Traditional comics on their way out?”

  1. What’s happenin’, Joe? This is a pretty solid topic. I’ve had the same conversation recently with some cats at my local shop. I think that superhero genre won’t fade, especially with Marvel and DC still in the mix. As far as both houses go, superhero stories are a staple, time tested, and I’m confident will continue to soldier on.

    I do anticipate a rise in houses similar to Darkhorse, Boom Studios, etc that publish Comics that have great character development, action, clever storytelling which will balance out the industry. We do see evidence of the big houses starting to branch out at times, “Rush City” from DC is a new joint that doesn’t deal heavily in the superhero line (although Black Canary makes an appearance in issue #2, but, I’m good with that) and will continue to do so. Marvel is coming out with Brubakers new, “Criminal” story which I think will be on point and also shows they consider plots outside their bread-n-butter genre to be viable.

    Continued success from the houses like Vertigo and Darkhorse especially will legitimize the efforts of others wanting to get down in the industry and put their Comics up for solicitation that have nothing to do with the superhero genre, and it will work.

    Keep up the good work. I’m digging the thought that goes into a lot of the posts on here.

  2. As long as they can continue selling to their insular, core audience of spandex fans, Marvel and DC won’t do anything to diversify their mainline titles at all. What they need to worry about is the fact that a large segment market segment they have is literally on its way to dying out. Kids raised on Manga, along with a twentysomethings who read graphic novels and consider Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns to be about the only superhero comics worth consideration are going to replace them.

    Yes, DC Imprint Vertigo has its “adult” comic hits, but it’s had many misses as well. For every Preacher, there’s at least two or three Outlaw Nations sitting in the “lasted a year” pile. Also, many of these non-superhero books that are “hot” are finite – they’re bookstore-bound, trade-format material. Readers can get a beginning, a middle, and an end. They may not necessarily want to see that sort of change happen, considering that monthly sales of Spider-Man and Superman to the fanboys still make up a large percentage of their business.

    I think Pride Of Baghdad and Can’t Get No shows that Vertigo is trying to match the bookstore model and hopefully they’ll succeed. (I’m sure Pride Of Baghdad is going to do well with the media push it’s getting.) I doubt if Marvel, under its current administration, can contemplate doing a creator-owned graphic novel with high production values.

  3. Hello Joe

    I think another issue for new comic dwellers is obscurity. If you don’t live next to a comic book store or hae comic book friends, the chances of you picking up a super specialized edition of Superman is pretty slim.

    Online web comics are much easier to find than traditional comics. Web comic rankings and online advertising make it relatively cheap for a content creator to “get noticed” vs. if they took their chances selling their product in a small obscure comic book stores.

    The recent online anime blogging community has done some work to spotlight good, quality anime series. Busy anime watchers can simply log onto the Internet to find what series the author finds appealing and focus their efforts that way.

    It’s a nice thing to have and it gives me time to enjoy the things that I love.

  4. I think it is agreeable that superheroes will never “go away”, but in respect to the traditional 22 page monthly… I think they may be. The graphic novel is much more satisfying to me. The monthly, though nostalgic, isn’t worth the trouble. I often wait for the trade, and then save myself money and the frustration of wondering what is happening for a month. Also, with the writers and artists in these things improving their craft daily. Books are often late. Give me a graphic novel that is done right over a rushed 22 pager any day.

  5. Yeah DC and Marvel will eventually lose out to Dark Horse because all those two companies do ever do is repeat the same old concepts.

    When fans think DC or Marvel, they would always have that stereotype about the
    DC Universe (not Vertigo or not Wildstorm)
    or the Marvel Universe (not non MU titles).

    Most people who do read comics know that
    Marvel and DC just revamp their titles
    every decade and that the last storylines
    from the last decade is just updated
    for the next decade and no real respect
    for that particular storyline.

    Let’s not forget that most people who read comic books in the West are mostly the older generation, not youngsters. If
    youngsters do read comics, it would be something like from a kids show, like Lego’s
    Bionicles series.

    Future of comics in the wets is bleak, thanks to video games and in the internet and so comics
    will continue to decline in sales but even those
    older generation who still read comics will get less interested nin Marvel and DC (since they are just forever being updated for every decade) and so, the balance will eventually shift to Dark Horse.

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