I concur. It's a long, dense article-- I confess to breezing through many portions at this point-- but man, it's incredibly well-researched and thought through.
Boy, if Chuck Rozanski has such a clear, fatalistic view about the future of the comics industry, where does that leave the rest of us?? Although, he was amazingly upbeat about the prospect of this coming year in his weekly newsletter today, at least. . .
You know, in these days I'm opening boxes in the garage and pulling out my old collection of Mickey Mouse comics to finally put allf ot them - over 1000 issues - in a new bookcase. I couldn't help noticing that in the early 1990s they were printing in excess of 700.000 copies per issue and it was the best selling comic book in Italy. Now it's down to 70-115.000 copies and is struggling to stay afloat. Whatever has hit the market, seems pretty global.
What I found fascinating is the fact that I never knew one thing about the comic industry's financial problems, with the exception of Marvel almost going bankrupt in the early 90's, but I could trace certain things I saw as a kid through this article. Namely--I would bug my parents to go the pharmacies that carried comic rotating displays, so I could get the new Avengers books. These "spinner racks" were pretty much gone from the time I was in 6th grade, but now I know why.
OK, I finally read it. A very interesting and well done article. I agree with most of his conclusions, but I totally disagree with his assertion that quality at Marvel dropped afgter 1968. I think that it actually improved a bit then. Maybe because Stan wasn't doing everything himself anymore and handed off some of the reins to very capable folks such as Roy Thomas. Many of the conclusions in this article seem almost obvious, and I stink at business. If I can see how short term greed hurts a company in the long run, why can't the Powers That Be at Marvel and DC?
And I agree with you that the quality of Marvel Comics didn't go downhill in the late 60's. I think it went up! Comics always have peaks and valleys (if you stick around long enough), but when I think of the Avengers drawn by John B and Tom P in the late 60's--let's just say it set up in me a life-long love affair with comics that still exists today. I know a lot of fans were mad that Kirby and Lee left Marvel, and felt the quality declined--but I think maybe those fans had an emotional investment in those guys, and that's fair. I just don't have that attachment.
Post by Crimson Cowl on May 13, 2012 6:19:59 GMT -5
A superb article and more generally a site that I'd recommend to any Marvel fan. As for the drop in quality post '68 it's worth bearing in mind that he's clearly a huge admirer of Shooter's time in charge (as am I). I think what he's on about there is more a result of his obsession with Marvel Time as the root of all evil.
I don't actually agree with him about that. Whilst after a point real time was of course going to be impossible to maintain, I don't think that suspension of disbelief is difficult in this regard (although he makes some amusing observations about Cap having become Buck Rogers and Magneto's advancing age - mind you I was looking at the online Marvel Universe which states that the Black Widow is even older than him having apparently been born in 1928! Still turning cartwheels in her mid-eighties apparently... . I still remember with horror the Boy Wonder becoming Nightwing in the Teen Titans on the basis that in his sixties he's too old to still be a sidekick. No kidding!). Earth's Mightiest Heroes is an example of one way in which older stories can be updated without needing a reboot.
The problem is editorial control. As he says, once Stan wasn't writing everything things were likely to spin out of control and face the kinds of problems that the poor relations at DC had done for many years (I was a Marvel Zombie in case you can't tell). Yet that didn't immediately happen and with Shooter tight editorial control ensured that the Marvel Universe cleaned up its act and continued, as that site contends, for over a decade more.
Indeed the publication Marvel Universe is really the cream that was collected from that process (one that obviously annoyed some of the bigger creative egos mind you). It was impossible to achieve for the Distinguished Competition and for Marvel these days. I remember looking at DC's attempt at doing MU back in the day and it would just list 'superhuman strength' or whatever. It completely lacked the specificity that growing boys need. The same can be said for the little power graphs you get with the online MU these days. What a cop out (incidentally I also noticed that apparently Agent Zero/Maverick is listed as having better fighting skills than the Black Widow which raised a few hackles).
Once Shooter was gone the disintegration of order as any sense of 'rules' governing the MU disappeared and pumping sales with endless cycles of sensationalistic deaths and resurrections, not to mention ever increasingly exploitative and sleazy attitudes towards sex, marched ever onwards.
Anyway, I think that some excellent points were made on the commercial front too, the inflated price of comics and lack of product on news stands look suspiciously like the industry's death knell.