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Life Skills for Fanboys: The Dark Universe or the Darker Universe

written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2018

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

The Comics Industry

Just like in a superhero story, the odds are very much stacked against us in the comics industry.  We are beset on all sides, not just by enemies, but our own inadequacies, insecurities and infighting.  Things seem rather dim.  Things weren’t meant to continue forever and while print is certainly dying, the Comic Book Industry seems determined to jump off a cliff and impale itself on a poisoned dagger.  I only see two options at this point.  Here’s my two predictions.

The Dark Universe

Unless something changes soon (and perhaps its already too late for my Comic Book Peace Summit), I think it is likely that Marvel will just stop printing comics.  This probably won’t have much to do with comicsgate, it’s just something that’s been building for a long time.  I think prices are high, fans cannot maintain their collect of “cheap” entertainment and comic book stores, already hanging by a thread—  Cannot generate any interest unless the major publishers do something more long term.  (And it’s probably too late for that.)

The Captain Marvel movie looks like the beginning of the end of the Marvel franchise.  I think the trailer, unlike the previous amazing ones, doesn’t seem to have a compelling story, character or lead actress.  Now Disney has surprised me before.  I didn’t think Ant Man was going to be very good and I enjoyed it immensely, but I did like the trailer.  My prediction is, the movie won’t totally bomb, but it’ll take a lot of the sheen off the entire franchise.  It’ll be the movie critics point to as a plateauing of superhero movies.  Watchable, but that’s about it.  Then Infinity War 2 will happen, with Captain Marvel sort of stepping in to save the day, while several character retire or die.  Rumor is, Downey and Evans are done and I cannot see the franchise lasting long without them.  It’s far too soon for a reboot, so it’ll be time for Disney to wrap the franchise and try to push several of the outlier characters on us.

With the sheen finally gone from the Marvel Movies, Disney will look to restructure down the road.  Without the massive success of the movies, the corporate guys will look at the big picture including the comics division.  At some point, someone will be brought in to “shake things up”.  Movie ticket sales are down, comic book sales are down—  Wouldn’t you bring in some people?  It’s likely the corporate wonks won’t have much affinity for paper and Marvel history.  At best, they keep the Marvel Comics division but go full digital, at worst they decide licensing the characters is a win-win for them.  They get the licensing fees, a piece of the profits and they get to approve every page of comic.

Either move puts the last nail in the coffin for the direct market.  So many comic book stores clothes in the weeks that follow, they are essentially done as an entity.  Diamond is force to “rebrand” as a distributor and will probably take a hard turn into the game and card market.  Comics will still be distributed, but they’ll slowly be relegated to a smaller and smaller section of Previews.  DC will probably do what DC does best—  Try to follow Marvel down the rat hole, assuming they don’t go all digital first.  I don’t think they’ll go the licensing model, until the market gets so bad that they have no other choice.

Image will probably be caught flatfooted.  I don’t get the sense that they could make the leap to digital effectively.  Most of their sales were dependent on being in Previews, I think.  And I don’t think they have an effective Internet rallying cry for their fans.  I expect them to blunder into several different distributing and/or business models.  Fortunately, the big creators have money to burn, however the little guys are the ones that I think are screwed.  The rumors I hear is that they already don’t make enough money doing things the Image way and the collapse of comic book stores certainly wouldn’t help.

The indies with solid websites will probably be okay.  They’ll have to adjust doing most of their paper comic sales at cons and events.  Maybe a few of them actually innovate some subscription service.  But roaming the comic book wastelands like a juggernaut will still be comicsgate.  They weren’t dependent on the system to begin with and they’re already developing the fanbase outside of the system that’s about to collapse.  It’ll basically turn into comicsgate, Image and paper comics publishers like Alterna if they can still find printers cheap enough to make their product.  (Maybe a return to newsprint for everyone.)

The Comics Industry ceases to be anything but an obscure hobby for the dedicated few.  And maybe, who knows, that’s for the best.  The bloated excesses of the 90’s and the corporate guys would be gone.  And then, maybe in five years or so, it could grow back into something.  It wouldn’t be huge, but it might be stable.  Maybe between that and webcomics, the comic book industry could see a revitalization in creativity and genuine non-collector fanbase.  But it’s going to be very tough unless someone with money and vision comes along.

The Darker Universe

The worst case scenario is that Disney just does the licensing.  Not only do they get out of publishing comics, after squeezing all the money they can out of the characters, they decide that it’s time to shelve them for a few years.  Some new trend takes hold of the studios and comic book movies become yesterday’s news.  In fact, despite a full slate of movies in the future, Disney just announces that they’re not going to happen anymore.

DC does the same thing and doesn’t even go digital.  They try it for a few years, but without enough advertising and promotion, the entire business model doesn’t work.  They do exactly what Marvel does, licensing and moving on to other things.

Image, caught completely flatfooted, spends a few months trying to keep the direct market afloat.  It fails miserably as almost all the comic book shops close.  Diamond drops comic books altogether, citing their unprofitability.  Out of nowhere, McFarlane Productions and Top Cow (and probably Kirkman) form their own distribution company, but like Image—  It’s always late and they’re only mostly concerned with Image comics.  Image ends up dropping most of it’s smaller creators and then, finally, the distribution company.  It folds and takes out the last the comic book stores with it.  Image tries to distribute direct through their website.

Comicsgate does okay for a while.  Emerging from the ashes of the comics industry, their network of fans doesn’t need the support.  Unfortunately, Your Boy Zach has nothing to review anymore. Diversity & Comics channel slips in viewership because most of the SJW’s he was making fun of are out of work.  The comics don’t come out like they did, only in spurts from places like IDW and Dynamite, and those companies see declining returns despite the major trademarks.  And while the enemies of comicsgate disappear, scattered to the four winds trying to find work in shrinking print media or elsewhere, the momentum that drove them slows and stops.  After a couple of bad fundraisers, maybe Meyer parlays the comicsgate label into his own small publishing company or maybe he’s forced to go back to doing it as a hobby.

At this point, the only thing left are the comic book conventions, but with the closing of all the stores and the major publishers—  They too become shadows of their former selves.  Spreading into wrestling, autographs, cars, gaming— Anything to keep the con relevant, pushes comics further and further towards the back with the webcomic creators.

And you’d know I’d like to paint a rosy picture of where webcomics are going, but unfortunately, my prediction is that it’s nowhere.  Creators will no longer be able to host their own sites.  The algorithms are now so rigged, you have to be on one of the major platforms like Instagram— churning out work for free for months—  Just to get recognition.  People still put out books, but they’re cartoon books—  Not comics.

Comic books shrink to the size of the old Pulp Fiction conventions.  The websites that once boasted of dozens of cons every month, now only have one or two a year dedicated to comics.  The comics industry becomes one of the many niches in the Sci-Fi Fantasy cons, only much less popular.  The bitterly divided fandom created a political litmus test for stores, cons and fans online, but most of those political zealots leave comics in a huff.  It’s only the hardcore fans that eventually return the comic book temple they burned down and by that time, there’s almost nothing left.

Ray of Hope
That’s a lot of doom and gloom.  But the good news is, this is all just speculation on my part.  Also, it might be good to burn away a lot of deadwood in the comics industry.  Lord knows there’s a lot of it.  Maybe with the fall of Marvel and DC, comics wouldn’t be as popular, but they might be good again.  And from that would grow a really solid fanbase that would, for a time, learn from the mistakes of the past.

I have hope.  Either that or I’m hopelessly addicting to making comics.

Previous Columns

Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Con Economics
Comics, Sexism and Trolling
Searching for the Words
How to Fix Comics?  Stop Reading Them
Shopping at the Con
The Hollywood Double Edged Sword
Beware the Geek Scams
Success Kills
In Response to Chuck Dixon, Paul Rivoche and Janelle Asselin
Fanboy Reporters
Dealing with Critics and Haters in the Internet Age
Who Are the Creepers?
The Cosplayer Treaty of 2014: A Proposal
Female Thor
Comics’ Non-News
Geek Feminists and DC’s T-Shirts
Cosplay Blowback
Charlie Hebdo and the Other Stuff You Should Know
Customer Service
The Intolerant Internet
Superhero Movie Moral Compass
Why Hillary Lost
Creators and Politics

Political Nerd Rage

Gender Wars

The Hardwick Situation

In Defense of Comicsgate

Comicsgate Continues