Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett talks about the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the comics art form that won't happen.
I've never been much of what you would call a joiner so I was as surprised as anyone to find myself all over social media. Facebook, Google+ and even I'm not entirely sure how, Linkedin. I've been on it for months but have managed to avoid posting anything until the other day when William "Doc" Grant, CEO and Publisher at Lime Media Hawaii, started a discussion with this question: "What should the comic industry do to celebrate its 80th anniversary, and how do we attract new readers to join us?"
I responded because it got me thinking. My first reaction was, has it really been eighty years? Using the Internet I took a quick look at the medium's ID and yep, the comic book format as we know it was introduced in 1933 with the publication of the first issue of Famous Funnies. So the Anniversary part checks out, but as to what the comic book industry can do to celebrate the event… well, at this point, essentially nothing.
Because everything I can imagine being done to give this truly American art form the sort of high profile celebration requires that you first go back in time at least two years. Because first you need the cooperation of the major comic book publishers, and after Marvel, DC, Archie, Dark Horse and Image are all on board you would need at least six months of promotion to build up to so some kind of actual event. One that's different from Free Comic Book Day where, maybe, each publisher would offer a low cost reprint of some of their historically significant comics along with a sampler of their upcoming projects. And of course there would also be loads of promotional material (a.k.a. swag) emblazoned with a "Celebrating 80 Years of American Comic Books!" logo. Something that ideally would also run across the cover of every comic book published that month.
Yeah, that could work, but frankly I think the publishers and direct sales market has done enough to promote comics by themselves. Right now I would very much like to see the parent companies of Marvel and DC to step up and do a little more of the heavy lifting. The big two synergistic youth entertainment conglomerates would have to temporarily set aside their corporate differences to do it but it would be nice for a change if they used their considerable marketing muscles to actually promote the comics they publish. As to what's in for them, comics are after all the wellspring from which comic book movies come so they actually do have a vested interest in promoting the medium. I don't mean by just doing a little product placement, like slipping comics into the hands of characters in their TV shows and movies, because that is, quite literally, the very least they could do. And it's more than a little embarrassing they aren't doing it more already.
No, they're very powerful organizations and they should be using their considerable clout to make sure the 80th Anniversary of comic books was treated like a major story on newspapers, magazines, television and the internet. They could talk to Washington about creating a History of Comic Books exhibit at The Smithsonian or help sponsor a PBS documentary series on the subject--I hear that Ken Burns fellow does a nice job..
That, in my opinion, is what they "should" have done, in a perfect world anyway, but since executing any of those plans would require time, money, energy and, you know, actual effort, none of them are likely to happen. However 2013 has just started and I can't believe that this sort of milestone will pass without some kind of mainstream attention; hopefully soon we'll be hearing about various projects in the works which celebrate the many ways comic books have contributed to American culture. Because what I really want is for comic books to be heralded, feted, acknowledged, admired and respected the way they should be.
In case you missed it, last Friday President Obama said he didn't have the power to "somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right" to avoid sequestration, a misspoken allusion that confused the Jedi mind trick with the Vulcan mind meld. It's been called "Nerd Fail," "Geek Gaffe," and "Sci-Fi Flub," but according to a piece by Jessica Chasmar that appeared in the 3/5/2013 online edition of The Washington Times titled "Lucasfilm rushed to Obama's defense after 'mind-meld flap'" the President has some powerful supporters. Lynne Hall, a spokesman for Lucasfilm, has gone on record as saying "In some of the Star Wars spin-off books there is a 'Force Meld'... "All of President Obama’s friends at Lucasfilm would love to believe that his expertise in Star Wars knowledge runs deep..."
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.