Michael Breakfield of Lone Star Comics in Arlington, Texas comments on the recent August sales report indicating comic book sales were significantly down (see "Ouch! Comics Down Over 20% in Comic Stores in August").

Comic Sales are down again, huh?  Maybe it's because the product is substandard?  Today it's all bark and no bite.  It's all fireworks and hooray!  And, no substance.  These days it's about events and relaunches and Look-at-me!  Look-at-me!  Look-at-me!  Where as in the old days (you know, all the way back to the early 90s and 80s) it was all about the story, both written and depicted.

Here's an example.  In Wizard Magazine (you know, where we would all get our comic news before the rise of the internet), there would be an article about a new story arc coming up in the Green Lantern comic book about how Hal Jordan loses his mind and a brand new Green Lantern named Kyle Rayner would be introduced.  That's an epic tale to tell and it was a story arc within the Green Lantern comic itself.  What a novel idea.  Today, that story would be a 10 issue crossover event with tie-ins to ten other titles, late-shipping issues, and variant covers as far as the eye can see for everything!  So now, the comic company has way overprinted all these issues (variants and tie-ins that barely add anything to the main story, or that make the story more confusing) all with cover prices that readers could buy a paperback novel for, and then wonder why sales are down when very few fans can afford all that extra stuff, meanwhile gambling on whether or not the story will be worth reading in the first place.

Every Big story does not have to be a companywide crossover event with ten variant covers and 15 tie-in issues each also with several variant covers.  The Dark Phoenix Saga, Batman: Year One, The Judas Contract, Born Again, The Death of Gwen Stacy – these are all iconic, classic, and fantastic stories in comic book history and they were all self-contained within their respective series and they were quality in both writing and artwork and, probably most important of all, they were affordable!

Is there a place for crossover events?  Absolutely, but the entire fate of the industry’s success should not hinge on them.  Crossover events should be narratives that bring a major plot to climax while at the same time setting up the next stories to come, not just set up the next big crossover event.  Good examples of Big Events done right – Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars (1984), The Mutant Massacre (1986), and Legends (1987).  Modern creators should be using these as a “How to…” when it comes to constructing a crossover event.  I also want to say that the concept of variant covers isn’t all bad, but I think everyone can agree that the submarket of variant covers has gotten way out of hand.

Major problems with comics today is pricing (cover prices are too high), too much showy fluff (endless events and variants) and not enough substance, and the material (i.e. the stories) just aren't that good.

NOTE:  I don’t pretend to have all the answers and I know there many people within the industry working really hard on trying to solve this problem.  I am a lifelong comic fan and worker in the industry and I, of course, realize that there is some good stuff being produced.  It’s just that piece of the pie is much, much smaller than it used to be.  Perhaps the answer to why comic sales are down can be found there?

The opinions expressed in this Talk Back are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.