Comics and their Cycles (in the US)

Time to take a stroll memory lane.

And what better way to deal with numbers than using a TABLE!!

YEAR                    EVENT                                COMICS STATE

1930’s                  Great Depression                People bough more comics (they went really cheap)

1940’s                 Beginning of WWII             People bough more comics (Sent them to the troops)

1950’s                 McArthur Red Scare           People Bought Less comics  (They were labeled EVIL)

1960’s                 Change in social mores       People bough more comics (Marvel appears and thrives)

Mid 1970’s        Change in mores (Oil Crisis)   People Bought Less comics  (Because of recession)

1980’s             Economy improves                    People bough more comics

Late 1980’s     Economy Staggers                      People Bought Less comics  (Because of recession)

1990’s              Economy improves                    People bough more comics

Mid 1990’s     Comic bubble implodes           People Bought Less comics  (Because market was over-saturated with crap)

Early 2000’s  Economy improves                    People bough more comics (After September 11th, companies try (and many succeed) to stay afloat)

2008                Housing Bubble                         People still buy comics, but more conservative. Quality of remaining offerings.

2012                Economy improves                    People bough more comics, tired of saving after recession.

So, lately I’ve noticed that the quality of the offerings is truly amazing.
We are truly living in another golden age for comics. And don’t bother comparing it to the “golden age” of the 90’s when only the Big Two made out like bandits.

This time, we have Dark Horse, Image, Dynamite, Zenoscope, Devil’s Due Publishing, Fantagraphics Books, Gemstone Publishing,  Last Gasp,  Off Shoot Comics, Oni Press, Topps Comics, Vertigo,  Zeta Comics

For Example, while I was looking for a Wonder Woman book for a young fan friend of mine, the other day I came across the series Superman/WonderWoman, issue #12.

The art is running on the part of  Jack Herbert, Walden Wong and Cliff Richards.

And for once I don’t mind having so many artists collaborate on a project because the art is GORGEOUS!! Diana comes across as sassy, strong, vibrant, REALLY STRONG, sexy, sweet and playfull, and totally KICKS ASS (Literally and figuratively).

I’ll throw some credit to the writer, Charles Soule, but the amazement entered  by the graphic part of the book, not the writing.


Notice in the two panels above how Diana is reflected as enjoying herself, and impish at the same time in the first panel.

Now notice in the second panel how a woman is portrayed enjoying the return of her loved one.

The choices are not only smart and astounding, and imbuing the fictional character with life…

They give her dimension, and I want to read more about her and her life, because she is releatable… and she became releatable in the way comics are supposed to make thing relatable… VISUALLY!!!

So, I gave my young friend who I purchased these comics for the whole series, and bought me an extra one for myself… because I want to keep it and look at it again, the way I do the work of Alan Davies, or Reed Crandall, or Wally Wood.

Is that good!

And that got me thinking about what a wonderful time we are living in comics.

I see lots of quality product coming out of the shop of the two Big Ones, but also see people developing  a large following for other publishers, DarkHorse, and Image coming to mind.

And artists may still have to find other venues to make ends meet (Marketing, advertisement, etc), but they want to live producing and making comics, and they return to them at every chance they get.

I’ve always loved the section “We didn’t know it was the golden age!” by Marc Swayze in TwoMorrows magazine Alter Ego.

I think it may apply today to the comic book market. Heck….when Neal Adams comes out of retirement (from Comics) and works a deal with DC to to a large volume of Batman… you know the market is good.
Although keep in mind that said market is good if you are good, and business savvy, and willing to put in the time and pay the piper.
We are not yet to the day that Stan Lee keeps longing for, when he would travel between East and West coast on the company dime, and rent luxury cars, and have closets full of back-logged originals  but at least the true fan has a plethora of independent articles to choose from, and the small publisher have ways of getting their work across.

Mind you, long gone are the days of working for one of the big two on salary, and keeping the same job for a few years.

But I also want more dynamism and power on the hands of the artists. Although I admit I deplored Batman Odyssey as an unreadable mess, I still enjoyed the pretty pictures. And I want artists to continue to have to power to make deals (ALAN DAVIES in Killraven, anyone?) that will last for an arch… or a series… and get away with making the deal and making  a profitable one.

And I do not know what the next comic book crisis will be… some augur it will be digital comics… others expect the next economic meltdown to be the cause…

Some are amazed that we survived the acquisition of Marvel by Disney, and all we got as backlash is more superheroes in our christmas ornament section at our big-box stores.



Who doesn’t want Wolverine jumping out to them from the christmas tree?



And maybe we should prepare for when the bad times get here by making sure we build a strong foundation, and sound business models during the good times.

In those lines, I think all publishers should strive to prepare a line of comics that will survive recessions.
They should also specialize a segment of their production in creating an audience for the “direct to graphic novel market” and maybe that will lead to a Direct to Graphic Album format and market.




2 Comments Add yours

  1. tuscck says:

    Pity you set your boundary to the US.

    Awareness of the existence of the high quality comics created outside of America, which there is, is in itself a competitor for the big 2. And has influence on the american comic cycles I believe.
    Theres the language barriere. As a European I wonder if the big 2 influence the influx of foreign language comics.
    In the sence of limiting the translation. After all they are competitors to be feared of. I imagine they have the power to regulate and/or restrict that.
    Furtile grounds for so called scanlators.

    I read that over a certain period eros comix was responsible for 40% of the sales as an imprint of Fantagraphics.

    Ill dare say that during depressions the erotic comics will sell well. 🙂

  2. ComicWatcher says:

    I am a huge fan and avid reader of European comics, and Manga. And find a huge gap in quality in the European market. Unfortunately, the US likes being isolated and insular, because the market becomes easier to manipulate and the distributors can exercise larger control of their monopoly.

    And bless Scanlators.

    And I am not surprised to read the news about Eros Comix. You don’t need an economic depression to bust erotic comic sales.
    Eroticism is a perfect venue for comics because of the graphic nature of the medium, where soft nuances are better represented, and fantasy is more malleable and easy to render onto paper.

    Thanks for the great comment.

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