With the last few sands of 2014 about to drop through the hourglass, it’s time for one last look back at the year that was. Here are a few of the big stories that shaped the comics and geek culture world in the past year.
Amazon Buys comiXology: The rise of digital comics is the biggest publishing story of the decade, and it hit a big plot twist when Amazon swooped in to gobble up comiXology in March. The most obvious consequence for customers was the demise of iOS in-app purchasing, only recently replaced by Amazon’s "one-click" feature. But the impact of largely benevolent comiXology’s acquisition by the online world’s most rapacious predator will continue to play out in 2015.
Disney settles with the Kirby Estate. Would the Supreme Court have shaken the foundations of copyright law by redefining the work-for-hire relationship under which Disney claims Kirby worked when visualizing the Marvel universe? The world will never know, because the two sides reached a settlement this September, ending one of the most contentious and long-lived disputes in comics history. The King gets the credit he deserves, his family gets the financial security he worked for his entire life, and Disney has finally quieted the restless spirits that haunted its IP goldmine.
Image grabs double-digit market share. The first time Image rose to become a market force back in the 1990s, it did it by beating the mainstream superhero publishers at their own game. This time around, the company is solidifying its third-place position with edgy, exciting creator-driven work like Saga, East of West, Southern Bastards, Bitch Planet, Sex Criminals and Alex and Ada. And, oh yeah, that one about the zombies.
Superheroes own all your screens. "Keep callin’ me vermin, tough guy!" Rocket Raccoon’s indignant retort before laying waste to a roomful of bad guys in this summer’s unlikely blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much sums up the position of comics in the mass media these days. Though the unending stream of superhero-based entertainment is starting to try the patience of critics, the roadmap of releases through the early 2020s shows that the big studios have nothing but confidence in comics properties, even as they start wandering into the most obscure corners of continuity.
Data substantiates the emerging gender parity within geek culture. What are you going to believe--all the data or your lying eyes? Increasingly, when it comes to gender and geekdom, it no longer matters. Look around any convention or read the demographic trends that came into clearer focus than ever in 2014: the older, male-dominated fandom of years past is giving way to greater diversity that is more pronounced the younger the audience gets. Unfortunately, some corners of fandom and the industry aren’t dealing with that terribly well.
Comics are finding more ways into the market. After decades of being confined to the direct market box and weathering the ups and downs of trade book distribution, comics in 2014 are busting out all over. Publishers like Boom! Studios and IDW are broadening the market with all-ages titles like Adventure Time, Lumberjanes, Transformers and My Little Pony, distributed in toy stores, specialty shops and even -- gasp! -- newsstands! Archie is getting better at exploiting its household name brand with media-friendly storylines and A-list creators. Publishers are tapping into gift subscription services like Lootcrate to increase circulation by factors of ten or more. The early sales projections on Marvel’s new Star Wars title is raising the bar for licensed titles. And comiXology’s Submit platform, digital-first imprints like Monkeybrain and Thrillbent, and Madefire’s digital motion book storefront are becoming launching pads for titles that end up going to print through Image, Dark Horse, Titan and others.
Those are a few of the big trends that we’ll remember from 2014. What’s ahead next year? Forecasts and predictions next time!
--Rob Salkowitz (@robsalk) is author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture.
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.
Column by Rob Salkowitz
Posted by ICv2 on December 22, 2014 @ 11:35 am CT
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