James Meeley, recently of Ron's Coin & Collectibles in Yakima, Washington, saw Ilan Strasser's response to his on content from the Big Two comic publishers (see 'Ilan Strasser of Fat Moose Comics on Big Two Content'), and took another kick at the cat:
I don't deny his claims that Marvel and DC might have the money to make producing wider varieties of content easier for them than it is for the many non-mainstream publishers out there. I also don't deny that for them to do so might be better for them in the long run. But they don't have to. Why is that?
First, Marvel and DC are home to icons. The Big Two don't have to worry about catering to every taste or genre, because they have bankable creations in their pockets. Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and the Hulk are just some of the character icons they are home to. As such, they don't need to produce new and innovative creations, because people, both readers and creators, want these characters. How many exclusives does Marvel and DC have within the creative community? How many of the 'best and brightest' did so, just to be able to work on the icons? How many readers never miss the latest edition of these icons (no matter how bad the work might be)? Sure, they might get a bug to try a little something new from time to time, but when's the last time something 'new' from them worked? How heavily did they promote it? And did its failure to sell cause any shift for these giants? They don't worry about new ideas, because they are already making the bucks from what they have--their icons.
Which brings me to the second reason why they don't bring in new and innovative works, they aren't making their money from comics. Sure the comics are making some money for them, or they wouldn't make them at all. But we all know that's not the focus for them anymore. Which do you think made more money for DC, Batman Begins the movie or and entire years worth of the Bat-titles? Think Marvel's worried about weak sales on the Spider-Man books, when the movies rake them in millions and millions of dollars? And this isn't even counting all the merchandising they get, from bubble bath to cereal and action figures to Underoos. While retailers (and readers) might find the comic works very important, it is fairly obvious that the Big Two do not have that on the top of their own lists.
All which brings us to the final reason: They know retailers and readers don't want change. Now, I know that sounds pretty harsh. I'm also sure that there are some who are exceptions to this, but they are the exceptions to the rule. Just look at the Diamond Top 100 for any given month. Marvel's and DC's superheroes dominate the top 50 consistently. Heck, unless you are a tested quantity, like Dark Horse's Conan and Star Wars works, you can pretty much write yourself off in getting into that region of the list. And who is responsible for this? No, not Marvel and DC. Not even Diamond. It's retailers and readers. Ilan even admits it in his reply to me when he says: 'Even a lousy selling Marvel comic can come out of the gates with initial orders of 5-15 copies per store. Many self-published or other small press comics might be lucky to get trial orders of 1-3 copies since most stores dread the idea of getting stuck with unknown, untested product.'
This is why I said that retailers and readers need to go beyond looking for diversity in 'the same old places.' Marvel and DC have their niche and are more than comfortable in it, especially since the comics isn't where their real money is coming from anyway. Retailers and readers have to be smarter than that, by looking into what's really out there.
Retailers and readers often feel like they have no power in these matters. Perhaps in being able to control how the Big Two 'do business' that is true, but they do have power, the power to bring about change through their purchasing power. If retailers and readers really want a change in the content, then let your wallets ring forth that call. Try some of the works from a non-mainstream publisher. Give a series like Blankets, Black Hole or Street Angel a chance. Only by changing our own habits, can we ever hope to change the industry. Sitting around telling the Big Two to change isn't going to do it, not the least of which is because we truly don't give them any reason to.
In the end, I agree with Ilan that the way Marvel and DC do things might not be 'right', but it's what works of them (at least right now) and we allow it to. Let all of us invite diversity in and maybe the Big Two will finally take note and join us.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.