Monday, January 04, 2010

Ron Marz Looks At 2010

The end of the year and start of a new one is often a time to look back at the previous 12 months, but as we head into 2010, Newsarama is also looking forward.

In a series we're calling "Outlook 2010," we're talking to the professionals who make and sell comics about the greatest challenges and opportunities coming as we head into the next decade of comic books. First, we spoke with retailers, who identified some concerns and hopes for the future of the industry. Then we spoke with the industry's publishers and their editors.

Today, we turn to a sampling of the people who create comic books to find out what they see as the biggest challenges and concerns for the coming year.


Reaching a New Audience

Many creators said the biggest challenge facing the comic book industry is the same one it’s been facing for awhile now: attracting a new audience.

"We can't just keep preaching only to the ever-shrinking fanbase that shows up at their local comic shops," said Ron Marz, who writes Witchblade and Angelus for Top Cow. "Those loyal readers are great, they're the backbone that keeps the direct market running. But they're not enough to grow the business. We have to reach out and find new readers, and I think in order to do that, the industry has to present a much wider range of material."

Digital Comics

A lot of the creators were cautiously optimistic about the future of comics through digital distribution, with a hope that it will get the medium into the hands of more readers.

"Comics have become a product that the audience has to seek out. They're not everywhere you go, like when there used to be a spinner rack in every grocery store and drug store," Marz said. "But with digital distribution of content, the audience is going to be able to find it with the click of button. And obviously I'm talking about legal distribution here, not the thieving, self-justifying a**holes downloading illegal bit torrents.

"The single-issue comic is pricing itself out of usefulness, at least to the mass market. I think there will always be a collector audience that shows up at the store every Wednesday for a stack of pamphlets, but that audience is shrinking. We're just in the infancy of online comics, we're still figuring it out, in terms of both content and business model," Marz said. "But that's where the future lies – initial digital releases, followed by collected editions you can put on your shelf. I like the tactile experience of having a book in my hands, though I mostly read trades now. But I think it's pretty obvious that in the coming decade, more and more people will get their content delivered digitally. That's the future. You can either run with it, or get run over by it."


Creators were hopeful that comics will continue to offer a wide variety of genres and titles and opportunities in the coming year.

"If we want new readers, we have to offer those new readers something they're interested in, rather than trying to force decades-old superhero franchises on them," Marz said. "Superheroes are great, but they should be part of what we as an industry offer, not the lion's share of it. We should be offering superheroes, just like we should be offering a lot more titles featuring mystery, crime, romance, horror, science-fiction and every other genre you find in a book store."


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