Column by Steve Bennett
Posted by Steve Bennett on August 7, 2019 @ 4:31 pm CT
I won't try to suggest that when I saw that the end of Mad Magazine as we knew it was coming that it wasn't all that big of a surprise (see "'Mad Magazine' Ending Most New Material "). According to Tony Silber of Forbes, the decline of the newsstand is "epic." And while Mad Magazine hadn’t exactly been the cultural touchstone it had once been in decades past, it was officially stamped "No Longer Relevant" back in May. That's when the President of the United States tried to use the magazine's mascot to insult someone, and Pete Buttigieg had to Google it. My honest, initial reaction was “Ooooh, this can’t possibly be good for the brand.”
And, I won't pretend I was ever all that big a fan of Mad. I think I read three issues of it back in junior high, then roughly the same number when it was re-launched in 2018. And of course, I know and appreciate Tales Calculated To Drive You Mad, the original comic book incarnation edited by Harvey Kurtzman. I understood how much of an impact the magazine had on world culture, and yeah, I didn't much care for the fact that something in my world, which had always been there. suddenly wasn't there anymore. But mostly, it made me think about how this couldn't possibly be good for the long-term viability of periodicals, DC Comics, and monthly mainstream comics in general.
Rob Salkowitz. It opens with the fact this year at Comic-Con the DC Comics' booth "which had been a massive standalone pavilion in the center of the publishers’ area in the center of the hall, was gone." Salkowitz understandably saw this as a sign that AT&T, the new parent company of WarnerMedia, wasn't all that interested in trumpeting the fact it was in the comic book business. Of course, other than "as a source of owned IP for other media channels and as a lifestyle brand to serve as an ambassador to geek culture."
One of the things that I found very interesting was a quote from DC co-publisher Dan Didio which appeared in an interview. In it, Didio acknowledges the obvious, that one of the reasons for slumping comic book sales is the comics themselves. He said; “We should be focused on moving things forward, always pushing the boundaries and finding new stories to tell. That’s how we’ll survive and grow this industry.” And I certainly would like to see DC tell new stories, stories that might appeal more to people who aren’t already comic book fans. Ones which are more grounded in a human perspective and have more genuine feeling as opposed to an over-reliance on nearly impenetrable esoteric ideas. But the content is only part of the problem.
Didio shares more of his opinions of the state of the Comic Book Industry in the interview he did with ICv2 (see "ICv2 Interview: DC Publishers Jim Lee and Dan Didio at SDCC 2019, Part 1").
June 2019 NPD BookScan - Top 20 Superhero, Manga, Author Graphic Novels"). The piece ends by informing us that while DC didn't have a booth at Comic-Con, "DC had a booth at the recent Book Expo trade show for the first time in more than a decade, touting its new line of teen and young adult material." As you're most likely aware, relatively recently decided to consolidate all their youth-oriented imprints (DC Ink, DC Zoom) under its own brand.
Because I come from a time when comics rarely got any positive mass media attention, I tend to automatically click on any story which has "graphic novel" in its headline. Which is how I happened to read in People that Tyra Banks is casting "real people" for a graphic novel. Apparently, TV star and businesswoman Tyra Banks, from America’s Next Top Model, is also going to be a graphic novel creator. Modelland will be based on the 2010 young adult novel of the same name and according to Banks is “not your average graphic novel. This is high-fashion, meets comic illustration.” It's actually more a mix of comics and photo comics which Banks has dubbed "Comic Couture". However, she’s not sure “the future Modelland family of fans are comic book readers so I said let’s flip it on its head and use real people who will be used in the graphic novel, through a combination of photographs and drawings.” It seems that some market research would have helped her find that out before committing to such a project. But as we've learned from both DC and Marvel, it seems like it's just cheaper to find out the hard way.
Celebrities doing graphic novels is commonplace enough, and I have to confess, while I knew who Tyra Banks was, I had to look up the name of the show she was theoretically famous for online. And yes, the whole project seems pretty ludicrous to me too. It certainly didn't help that it also has "reality" component, and Modelland is also a proposed new modeling-themed attraction in Santa Monica, California. Usually, when a celebrity does a graphic novel the press for it is quick to assure us the celebrity is or had been a fan of comics, or that they had been a "nerd" growing up. That isn't the case here and while I don't want to unfairly characterize someone by appearances, I'm pretty confident Miss Banks was never a comic book reader. The project isn't intended for traditional comic book readers and not the sort of thing that would do well in direct sales shops. And I'm dubious about the effectiveness of mixing media this way to tell a story.
I'm still interested in seeing Modelland though. After all, I'm the one who is always going on about how he wants to see something he's never seen before, and this certainly qualifies. It's also because it is by someone outside the Industry and intended for people who don't traditionally read comic books. Because that’s exactly what we need more of if the industry is going to survive. Frankly, I don't think it's going to work. But, wouldn't it be interesting if it did?
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.
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