Friday, July 21, 2017

The Real Comic Book Revolution Of The Past Decade!!

There have been a lot of changes to the comics world since I started my blog. But for my money, the most significant change is this: soon, every comic book ever may be available to us.

Consider the days of my youth. You could find the current month's comics at virtually any newsstand, book store or supermarket. But if you were looking for older stuff? Or if somehow your preferred stop didn't get Amazing Detective #1527 that month? Good luck finding it!

Finding older stories was a scavenger hunt at best--flea markets, garage sales, clearance bins at K-Mart, whatever. No matter how much house ads you saw in the back issues taunted you with fantastic looking comics that you had to read because OMG those covers, well, your chances of finding those particular issues were virtually nil. If you were lucky, the local library had copies of Superman: From The Thirties To The Seventies and Batman: From The Thirties To The Seventies, so you could constantly check them out and read the hell out them. And there were the reprint titles Marvel published, and the reprints DC would run as back-ups in some of their titles.

The advent of the local comics shops helped, of course. But it was still haphazard--your access to all of the legendary old stories was constrained but what collections they had bought, and how big your wallet was because Quarter Bin aside, these old comics cost actual money!!

The real revolution started around the time I started this blog, when Marvel licensed GIT Corp to produce CD-ROMS (and then DVD-ROMS) of their older comics. Talk about manna from heaven--suddenly you could own every issue of of Amazing Spider-Man *ever*--for only $50!! Sure, it wasn't necessarily the same as owning the physical comics, but come on--500+ comics, right there on my hard drive, a click away? So, yeah, I snarfed those suckers up.

And the internet soon proved to be the aficionado's greatest friend. Sites sprung up with scans of thousands of public domain comics that you could read or download--for free! Marvel ended their deal with GIT Corp (boo!), but created their own internet buffet, letting you read as many comics as they put online for one yearly fee. Comixology came online, and yes, you had to pay for individual issues, but lots of stuff that had never been available before except as pricey collectors' items were suddenly available for a couple of bucks. That hot new series you missed out on that everyone is talking about now? You can get caught up pretty damned easily.

And now, the companies cannot seem to pump out physical collections fast enough, to feed the voracious appetites of libraries and bookstores (and their corporate bottom lines)--Omnibus and Absolute and Epic and Masterwork and whatever other labels they want to slap on these collections. Whatever the name, these suckers collect lots of classic comics at a damn reasonable price (usually). And the beauty part is, they can't stop publishing them, or their books department will show a decline in sales versus last year, and man, you can't do that at a big mega-corporation--so find more stuff to publish!!

Look, I know all is not perfect. There are many issues/stories that have been lost to the ravages of time. There are issues of creator rights and compensation that must be dealt with, and issues of licensed characters that have gone to other companies mean that there are some stories we just may never see (then again, we got Master Of Kung Fu reprints, and I thought that would never happen...). A lot of stuff, even some relatively recent, is lost in the byzantine bankruptcies of various companies that are no longer with us. Releases can be haphazard, and too often focused on popular or hot characters, while some of the fringier books/character get ignored (I'm especially looking at you, DC!). And few seem interested in doing complete, cleaned up versions of many of the brilliant but orphaned public domain stuff out there, and the lost classic horror comics, and romance comics, and western comics, and war comics, and...

But look at what we do have. The next volumes of Golden Age Omnibus for Superman and Batman take us into 1946!! Soon enough, every single Batman and Superman story from the Golden Age will be in print, and available! Every single one!! And it's not completely insane to think that, by my 20th blogiversary, every single Superman and Batman story will be collected, in print and online. Take that, Superman: From The Thirties To The Seventies!!!

I've always joked that I wanted to read every single comic book ever. But now, thanks to industry trends, there's just the slimmest chance that that might actually be possible before I shuffle off this mortal coil. And that is revolutionary.


Aussiesmurf said...

And this creates a massive issue for new content. You aren't just competing with the other comics that came out that month.

You are competing for the consumer dollar with Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, Maus, New Frontier etc etc

snell said...

True enough, but the beauty part is that you don't have to buy everything at once. They'll be around forever now (especially digitally). I can buy my new comics now, and wait until I have some extra bread to buy the Bronze Age JLA Omnibus next month.

SF said...

I think Aussiesmurf has a good point. I've had Comixology Unlimited for two months now, and I'm seriously thinking I'm going to cut way back on buying new books in favor of reading stuff there.

I mean, in May I read something like 1500 pages of Usagi Yojimbo on Unlimited. Not only is it (even in the fairly early issues) better than almost anything modern I have been reading, but binge reading completed stories is much nicer than getting stories 22 pages a month.

And I keep on finding more interesting things to read on Unlimited. It feels like it's a hugely better bargain than buying a bunch of current titles, and I'm likely to cut back buying new to my absolute favorites, particularly small press stuff that needs every dollar it can get ASAP.

Brian said...

I already just use Marvel Unlimited for my reading, not minding waiting a few months to just be able to read very book at a single price Netflix-style — as well as about 20000 back issues (in recent years, I've had personal projects of reading the whole run of Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Spider-man from issue 1 up through their mid-90s cancellations).

One of the things I love about this blog, actually, is finding classic Marvel books that I've missed and then opening them up on MU to read!