If you’re a Marvel/DC fan, you’re probably thinking: “Marvel and DC don’t need your help, they’re doing pretty well!”
If you’re an indie that’s out to create something new and better, you’re probably thinking: “Don’t help Marvel and DC. They’re the competition!”
And if you’re Marvel and DC, you’re probably thinking, “Who’s this pipsqueak?”
But here’s the truth: Marvel and DC are not the indies’ competition. The $3 spent on my comic book is not $3 that would have been spent on Spider-Man or Batman, and vice versa.
We’re not actually competing with each other. Actually, we all have the same purpose: Creating something great!
But: If you’re thinking The Big Two are doing pretty well, you’re looking at it backwards.
Let’s look at the numbers: According to Diamond Distribution numbers, most bestsellers sell around 100,000 copies a month and another 100,000 over the next year. We’re used to thinking those are great numbers.
However, over the last forty years, there have been millions and millions of fans that have bought Spider-Man (as an example) religiously for a few years and stopped.
Imagine if they hadn’t stopped.
Imagine if all the Spider-Man fans who wanted to read his adventures and probably still do would buy the next issue. There would probably 7 to 10 millions sales that month, wouldn’t there?
Now that 100,000 seems pretty low, doesn’t it?
The question is: Where did all these readers go? Why are they no longer buying Spider-Man? (I use Spider-Man only as an example of an ever-popular and fan-loved character – there are more, of course.)
First we’ll talk about what went wrong. Then we’ll talk about how it can be fixed.
What Went Wrong?
Here’s the thing. The Big Two aim their wares at teenagers.
And that’s great! Teenagers are the age to get into comic books.
The problem is: The more the teenagers grow up, the less the comic books they fell in love with talk to them.
As the fans get older, they slowly drift away from the title that they loved so much, the titles that they had to run to the comic book store to get.
It’s not that the fans grow out of comics, it’s that the comics stop talking to them.
Sure, you’ll still find forty-year-olds and fifty-year-olds buying Spider-Man. But most won’t. It’s not aimed at them anymore. It’s as if The Big Two are begging their fans to not continue reading.
How to Fix It
Imagine a comics world that works differently.
Imagine yourself falling in love with a character (Spider-Man, Batman or whatever) and then, as you grow up, the character grows up with you.
Now, I don’t mean that the character has to age. I don’t mean that at age thirty-something (on average) the character should have a kid, just so that most people that age could identify with her/him.
What I mean is:
- The complexity of the story needs to become more complex as the years go by.
- The dilemmas and conflicts that the character goes through age with the readers.
- The character needs to grow up emotionally. I don’t mean that the character should just learn a lesson here and there: But to truly grow up and to truly change.
Imagine if Marvel or DC would have done that to Spider-Man or Superman (for example). Most of the 100,000-200,000 new readers that they accrued each year twenty years ago would still be reading them today – which means that millions would buy each issue!
And while Marvel and DC become even richer – so would we. Emotionally, at least, as the quality of stories would no doubt improve.
Think about it. Think what that would look like.
This Is Advice for Indies, Too
I don’t think The Big Two are going to take my advice – it’s too big a change, and therefore scary. I don’t even think they read this pipsqueak’s blog.
But I do think that we indies can behave the way they can’t.
What they don’t do because they are such huge momentum machines, we indies can do without a problem.
Let’s change the landscape! Let’s involve all our readers! Let’s talk to them like they’re adults! Let’s create new types of stories that have the depth of emotional growth, of learning, of change!
And, yes, this pipsqueak is definitely putting his money where his mouth is. Sure, with our flagship title, Wynter, and the upcoming Time Warriors. But even more than that: We’re going to completely change the landscape with the upcoming Lost in Dreams.
But this article isn’t about that – and news about Lost is Dreams is to come. So if you want to keep updated with how I plan to change the comics landscape, sign up for the weekly newsletter at the top right of this page!
In the meantime, think about this the next time you pick up a comic from The Big Two. Think how you should be treated like an adult.
And then start acting like it – and demand stories that are suited for you!
And join our revolution! Sign up for the newsletter! Help us change the world!