Robert Kirkman Mission Statement: Fix Comic Industry

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Do you agree with Robert Kirkman?

  • Yes, I agree.

    Votes: 9 50.0%
  • No, I don't think he's right.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I am Undecided.

    Votes: 3 16.7%
  • While I may agree, his method isn't something I'd go with.

    Votes: 6 33.3%

  • Total voters
    18

Ice

Teh Sexy Monkey Queen
Video Editorial: Robert Kirkman

I came back from San Diego supercharged with excitement for comics and so I made this video. It's a little ramble filled in places and I want to thank the fine folks at CBR for cleaning it up as much as they did. Just for clarity's sake I'd like to simplify things a little.

I think there's a way to fix comics and make everyone happy doing it. I don't claim to be right, but I think there could be something to this.

-Robert Kirkman



Video and more on how he wants to fix it at the link.
 

Goodwill

Well-Known Member
I like where his head is at.

I've been wondering myself just where someone like me, who wants to do my own thing if I were to write/draw for the comic industry, would fit. It's impossible because of the market that controls the industry calls for more of the same thing, more of the same characters. I don't think icons should be done away with... But I think they should take a step back and let some new guys become iconic, too. That way, comics will remain timeless with each generation clinging to a new character that they can tell their kids about and so on.

I like it.
 

McCheese

Well-Known Member
I agree with Kirkman and I think it's really well said (even if there was massive editing where he probably went off on unrelated tangents). There are plenty of writers who I will follow to the independent books because they are who they are. BKV and Kirkman himself are the first two to pop into my head. Once you have that name recognition I think original works should be the priority.

Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man are always going to be there. Marvel and DC's staple characters are time tested and eternal. There's no reason why a writer who has had his/her chance to play around in the Big Two's respective sandboxes, made a name for themself, and written the characters they loved as a kid shouldn't then move on and create new characters that can inspire the next generation to tell new stories, expand horizons, and entertain a larger audience.

Comics can and should be about more than continuing the saga of Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne. That part of comics should and always will be there, but it can be more than just that. Comics are a place where new stories and new characters can grow and change and possibly even end. The US comic industry should strive to be more like the Japanese market. In Japan people of all ages from all walks of life are reading comics about every subject imaginable. You're interested in American Football? There's a comic about it. You like romances? There are a million series to choose from. You want action adventure? Pick up a weekly copy of Shonen Jump and your violence lust shall be satiated by the dozen or so action series printed within. The creators have the freedom to tell the story they want to tell and end the series when they want to end it, rather than have the character be handed off to a new writer to be continued on until it can no longer turn a profit.

As it is the industry is pigeonholing themselves into a niche market and tying their future to the aging current comic audience instead of trying to appeal to a newer, younger audience that could sustain the industry as they advance into the future.

Kirkman is right and he might just save comics.

Or not.
 
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ultimatedjf

Well-Known Member
I don't like how he said the Marvel Adventures books talk down to kids; I buy them for my 7-year-old sister, who loves them, and when I tried to get her into Amazing Spider-Man (Brand New Day), it was far too confusing for her. Similarly, the 3rd Ultimate Spider-Man trade paperback is pretty sophisticated for the under-ten crowd, too. I remember being completely and utterly confused after issue 16 (from the Doc Ock story) came out (I was ten then). I hated it when I couldn't understand my favorite comics.
 

E

Moderator
Excelsior Club
This is good. Even though he's not totally right.

He's an idealist and a dreamer though. The heads of Marvel & DC will never sit down and "fix" themselves. They never think they are doing anything wrong - they probably don't think there's anything to fix.

I don't think the answer is to draw the line, so to speak, with established characters. He mentioned being 30...I'm 30, and I still like reading Spider-Man and Avengers - when they are written well. I don't just read the books because they have Spider-Man or the Avengers in them.

This is one of the issues I have with the Ultimate line. Ultimates was doing an awesome job of providing a more adult storyline featuring characters that we've all loved for a long time. They didn't really start the UU that way, and it seems as though they've moved away from that lately.

I don't see any reason why they couldn't have a series of lines - title them appropriately so people know what they are - a line for smaller kids and a line for adults, and maybe something in between. Peter Parker is so down to Earth and the hero Spider-Man faces such mundane issues sometimes (compared to some of the cosmic type stories anyway). I would love to see a book in an adult type setting. Take the fundamentals that you KNOW work and apply them to something an adult would like. Take it a step further than the movies.

I'm not sure that the Marvel Adventures line really talks down to kids, but it's specific to a certain age (maybe 10 or so?) yet attempts to cater to probably anything from 5 or 6 to maybe 12-14. So in a sense I suppose he's right; it does talk down to some older kids. This is where a third, "in-between" line would be beneficial.

I like his thoughts and he definitely seems like he's on to something.
 

moonmaster

Without him, all of you would be lost souls roamin
Saving the comic book industry has been on a lot of people's minds, I think, especially considering the downward trend in sales for so long. I was thinking about this last night and putting my thoughts together.

First, in regards to what McCheese said, I don't think American comics should follow manga's lead. There was a weird thought for a while that you could boost sales just by putting books in manga format. This is an idea I hate. A week or two ago I was looking for a trade to buy at the comic shop and I thought I'd give Runaways a try. I decided against buying it because the first volume is only available in hardcover, which I couldn't afford at the moment, and a little manga digest. It just looked cheap, and the text was small enough that I had to squint to read it properly. That format works for manga but I think it's crap for American comics.

But that's not really the point. The point is that though the American comics industry needs to diversify itself, I really don't want to see it become like manga. Comic books are an incredible medium because they occupy a very special place in culture. They're not profitable enough to be focus-grouped to death like movies and they're not respected enough to be scrutinized by snobby intellectuals like literature. And so, comic books get to be as ****ing weird and brilliant and inventive as they want. When I look at manga, I see a medium that doesn't have the same position in it's culture so it functions a bit more like television or movies. Which isn't really a good thing. The girl in my senior class who wore a Naruto headband to school would sit around and read manga that appeared to be some kind of teen snowboarding drama. I can't imagine that this is a deep and insightful series. I'm not putting down manga, but I think that appealing to as wide of an audience as possible means that your industry is probably going to put out a lot of vapid crap. Comic books have always benefited from appealing to such a narrow audience of geeks, weirdos and smartasses that the kind of bizarre and complex stories that would never even see the light of day in any other medium are lauded and beloved. I don't want to see the comic book industry become an industry where The Invisibles or Promethea never even get published because they're just too 'out there' for any of the key demographics. (And I'm fully aware that there's tons of weird manga stuff, but Japan is Japan and America is America. Over here everyone throws a hissy fit over GTA and over there people gleefully buy tentacle rape video games.)

So what should the industry do? Don't try to appeal to kids, try to appeal to teenagers.

From first hand experience I can tell you that 3 out of 4 teenage guys will become instantly hooked on Y: The Last Man in a few pages. When I would lend my trades of it out to people, they would tell me that they had no idea that there were comics like that. Vertigo and Wildstorm publish so many books that the average teenager would eat up if they were just exposed to them properly. Popular belief is that teenagers have bad taste in everything. The truth is that teenagers can enjoy something with substance, but there needs to be a certain amount of flash to catch their eye. No one liked The Lord of the Flies when we read it in English but everyone went crazy for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Do you see the difference? Do you think The Dark Knight would be making so much money if it was a straight crime drama without costumes or gadgets? (Which it totally could've been.)

"The Vertigo Formula": The kind of realistic characters you might see in an indie book mixed with engaging stories and an eye-catchingly creative premise is exactly the kind of thing that could sell very well to people my age.

In practice, what could be done, at least on DC's end, is to absorb Wildstorm's non-universe books into Vertigo (since they all feel like Vertigo books anyway) and then just generally bolster the line. Bring in new talent and new ideas and try to beef up the line. It's a shame that Vertigo only puts out two or three books a week. They should be publishing a lot more than that. Vertigo should rival the DCU.

After that, start pushing the books in new places where teens and college kids will be exposed to them. Comics are ****ing cool, and it's the industry's responsibility to point this out to people.

I agree with what's been said about the superhero books, for the most part. Just less continuity, fewer events. Each title focuses on it's characters, there's plenty of interaction between titles, but everything isn't constantly building towards some earth-shattering event. That might do wonders.

When I think about the career I want in comics I think about someone like Warren Ellis. I'd love to get a chance to write the icons, but the thought of being like Bendis or Loeb, where you're practically writing the whole damn universe, makes me cringe. (Notice that writers who engross themselves in a universe like that don't necessarily benefit, creatively. (To put it mildly.)) Ellis writes a share of superhero books and a good deal of just about everything else. He seems to have made a great mainstream comics career writing whatever the **** he wants instead of just being the guy who's doing X-Men right now. He sells comics based on his own talent rather than people's interest in certain characters.

Overall, I feel like comic books are not lacking in great, diverse work, there's just not nearly enough of it. Nothing needs to be messed with, they just need to push the quality work they already have.

Crap, I just wrote a lot. Is there anyone still reading?

I realized while I was watching that video that with my new beard, I look kind of like Kirkman's long lost little brother.

I'm going to pretend that I am and claim the gigantic comic book fortune that I'm sure he has when he dies.
 
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Ice

Teh Sexy Monkey Queen
I read the whole thing, Moonie. You definitely put up a valid argument, I tell you that.
 

ProjectX2

Don't expect me to take you with me when I go to s
I pretty much agree with everything moonmaster just wrote.

Ultxon and I have talked about what we'd do with the comic industry for hours... it would take forever to replicate it here.
 

Ice

Teh Sexy Monkey Queen
I pretty much agree with everything moonmaster just wrote.

Ultxon and I have talked about what we'd do with the comic industry for hours... it would take forever to replicate it here.
Same here. Ultxon and I did the same last night, that talkitive whore. :lol:



But it's really interesting seeing what others can think of.
 

Zombipanda

My Boom-Boom's mostly gay
Moonie's right. The target demographic should be teenagers and the college-aged. Comics' strength lay in that happy medium between the junk food saturation of movies and the "high art" we convince ourselves is the only valid form of expression later in life. There's an audience there for whom the colorful is still appealing, who is at the same time looking for new forms of expression to broaden their horizons. Comics are great because they can incorporate big, vivid ideas that are otherwise "too silly" or "too genre" for "legitimate" publication. Besides, this is the target you need to hit to develop long term readers. If they read something as a kid, most fans will decide a little later in life that they've grown out of it, and as an adult they'll probably be too jaded and embarrassed to actually pick a comic book up. The space in between is that magic window.
 

AnTwan

Well-Known Member
My biggest issue with Kirikman's proposal is this. According to this new plan you have to have a story or stories to tell with someone else's characters before you get to do your own. He's saying bring in the new guys to write for Marvel and DC and when they break away and become famous enough to carry a title they get to do creator-owned work. Let's say I have several creator-owned series I think would fly (which I do, but that's a discussion for another time.) but I simply have no stories that I could tell with the Fantastic Four. What is my place in all of this? How do I get the ability to do those works I really want to do. Kirkman himself was so far off from the plan he is proposing by just becoming his own publisher that he doesn't even really have a success story to point at and say "If I can do it, so can you". Without that, I'm not certain he can really say this is the direction he ought to take.
While I may think this is the right direction as a whole, it makes me personally a little scared about an industry I was hoping to one day try my hat in as I think it sets up more barriers to entry while dropping others (just not the ones I want it to drop :p)
 

SSJmole

Face-Punching As Foreign Policy
I voted While I may agree, his method isn't something I'd go with. As there are some things I disagreed with.
 

McCheese

Well-Known Member
Saving the comic book industry has been on a lot of people's minds, I think, especially considering the downward trend in sales for so long. I was thinking about this last night and putting my thoughts together.

First, in regards to what McCheese said, I don't think American comics should follow manga's lead. There was a weird thought for a while that you could boost sales just by putting books in manga format. This is an idea I hate. A week or two ago I was looking for a trade to buy at the comic shop and I thought I'd give Runaways a try. I decided against buying it because the first volume is only available in hardcover, which I couldn't afford at the moment, and a little manga digest. It just looked cheap, and the text was small enough that I had to squint to read it properly. That format works for manga but I think it's crap for American comics.
I never said format. I said market. The two are completely separate and I never once said, hinted, or implied that Amercan comics should be smaller.
But that's not really the point.
Exactly.
The point is that though the American comics industry needs to diversify itself, I really don't want to see it become like manga. Comic books are an incredible medium because they occupy a very special place in culture. They're not profitable enough to be focus-grouped to death like movies and they're not respected enough to be scrutinized by snobby intellectuals like literature. And so, comic books get to be as ****ing weird and brilliant and inventive as they want. When I look at manga, I see a medium that doesn't have the same position in it's culture so it functions a bit more like television or movies. Which isn't really a good thing. The girl in my senior class who wore a Naruto headband to school would sit around and read manga that appeared to be some kind of teen snowboarding drama. I can't imagine that this is a deep and insightful series. I'm not putting down manga, but I think that appealing to as wide of an audience as possible means that your industry is probably going to put out a lot of vapid crap. Comic books have always benefited from appealing to such a narrow audience of geeks, weirdos and smartasses that the kind of bizarre and complex stories that would never even see the light of day in any other medium are lauded and beloved. I don't want to see the comic book industry become an industry where The Invisibles or Promethea never even get published because they're just too 'out there' for any of the key demographics. (And I'm fully aware that there's tons of weird manga stuff, but Japan is Japan and America is America. Over here everyone throws a hissy fit over GTA and over there people gleefully buy tentacle rape video games.)
Cheap shot that has nothing to do with this conversation.

Beyond that I can't help but feel that your assessment that comics wouldn't get published because they're too weird is completely baseless. If we have a market that isn't so dominated by men in tights hitting each other repeatedly books with different and unique stories, characters, and art would have a much better chance of getting printed, not worse. Japan isn't printing tons of weird manga because they're tentacle rape loving freaks, they're printing lots of different stuff because their entire market didn't develop around a fetishized love of spandex and fulfilling a god complex.

The only reason you like having a comic industry that only appeals to geeks, weirdos, and smartasses is because you're at least two of those three things. With a broader market we could see books that appeal not just to us geeky smartasses, but also to everyone from little girls to old men. The industry as a whole would benefit, but you're scared they'll take away the specialness of our weird little geek culture. Why shouldn't the crazy chick that wears a Naruto headband to school or the kid whose life is devoted to playing Rock Star or any number of different people who just don't like superheroes have comics printed in America that appeal to them. Just because you wouldn't read it doesn't mean it shouldn't be made. Comics are a medium that has far too much potential to only appeal to a small niche market like ourselves. We're squandering it's potential. That's what I mean when I say it should be more like the Japanese market.

Not because I'm advocating the printing of smaller tentacle rape comics.
 

E

Moderator
Excelsior Club
Moonie's right. The target demographic should be teenagers and the college-aged.
"Teenagers" is a bad term to use. A thirteen year old reader would be marketed to differently than an nineteen year old.
 

SSJmole

Face-Punching As Foreign Policy
"Teenagers" is a bad term to use. A thirteen year old reader would be marketed to differently than an nineteen year old.

If the 13 year old and the 19 year old are both male they won't. Just slap boobs in it and they'll be good to go. Hell i'm 22 and that would work for me too :lol:
 

Ice

Teh Sexy Monkey Queen
"Teenagers" is a bad term to use. A thirteen year old reader would be marketed to differently than an nineteen year old.
True, but once 18, people are considered more of an adult than a teen, so they would market them as an adult and not a teen.
 

E

Moderator
Excelsior Club
True, but once 18, people are considered more of an adult than a teen, so they would market them as an adult and not a teen.
But my point is that there's not some magic switch that just flicks on when you turn 18 and makes you say, "oh, I guess I will start liking adult stuff now." It's slow and gradual, and there's a fine line between alienating and patronizing a 14 or 15 year old with kiddie stories and turning him off to the whole thing and over-exposing him to adult situations. That's why I said 3 lines - the books as they are now seem more geared - GENERALLY speaking - to that in-between crowd. Give us an adult line (not necessarily MAX) with characters that we've always loved, label everything clearly, and everyone's happy. Kirkman had it partially right - you grow up loving these characters. But it's not something that just gets turned off when you reach a certain age, at least not for everyone. Why not give people a chance to see these heroes and characters "grow up" with them?
 

Ice

Teh Sexy Monkey Queen
But my point is that there's not some magic switch that just flicks on when you turn 18 and makes you say, "oh, I guess I will start liking adult stuff now." It's slow and gradual, and there's a fine line between alienating and patronizing a 14 or 15 year old with kiddie stories and turning him off to the whole thing and over-exposing him to adult situations. That's why I said 3 lines - the books as they are now seem more geared - GENERALLY speaking - to that in-between crowd. Give us an adult line (not necessarily MAX) with characters that we've always loved, label everything clearly, and everyone's happy. Kirkman had it partially right - you grow up loving these characters. But it's not something that just gets turned off when you reach a certain age, at least not for everyone. Why not give people a chance to see these heroes and characters "grow up" with them?
I wasn't disagreeing with you or anything. I just meant that most companies will see 18-19yo's as adults and market to them as such.
 
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