5 November 2009: Comics in crisis?

As I’ve noted previously, like the rest of the publishing industry, there has been
speculation that comic books are doomed as an artistic medium because of the rise in printing and distribution costs, the move of readers online, and the lack of original storylines.

At the same time, the recent popularity of manga, movie adaptations, and corporate
mergers such as Disney and Marvel seem to demonstrate that superheroes and other genre entertainment aren’t quite dead yet. Photos of my Halloween costume as Captain America got more comments on Facebook than most of my posts, and my
nephews and role-players still eagerly discuss costumed metahumans.

I’m still enjoying the monthly routine of visiting local shops and reading
installments of favorite titles, but I agree that comics, like tabletop role-playing games, will remain a niche market and that cost pressures will drive some changes. I’m not yet a fan of digital comics, but trade paperbacks for certain storylines, fewer variant covers and similar stunts for collectors, and the continuing aging of the reader base are all but inevitable. They’re not necessarily bad developments.

As with all art, my preferences for good writing and artwork are subjective. I’ve already noted that I’m a fan of DC’s iconic heroes such as Batman and Green Arrow, but Captain America has brought me back to some Marvel Comics, even as the “Dark Reign” crossover leads to the “Siege” storyline. I’m also pleased to see Filipino artists doing well and being recognized.

In nonsuperhero comics, the hermetic Planetary finally wrapped up, and Conan has
still been faithful to the spirit of Robert E. Howard’s barbarian stories. In adaptations, I’ve only recently become aware of a well-reviewed Superman animated series that came out shortly before the Timm/Dini renaissance, and I’m looking forward to the
direct-to-video Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths more than the next live-action Spider-Man flick.

Coming soon: Cartoons and other SFTV!