Last week I received an email from a writer at one of the comic book news websites asking me on my thoughts on Comicsgate and its impact on local comic book shops. I had no clue what Comicsgate was so I looked into it. I read that Comicsgate started a few years ago as a campaign in opposition to perceived forced diversity, there seems to be renewed interest. Its scope includes not only the characters depicted but also the creators hired. Some prominent comic writers and artists have been leading this “consumer protest”.
As a shopkeep, I realized that I have a lot of skin in this game. New comics and graphic novels are the biggest buckets at our shop and any weakening demand on this front is not good for the shop. Our new comic and graphic novel customers come into the shop to buy the stories they want to read, this is entertainment and escapism for them. Obviously I want the publishers to publish things people want to buy, this is good for their business and ours.
Publishers should be pushing into and creating new markets and they should be trying to expand their consumer base. Publishers should also satisfy their existing consumer base. Publishers need to do both. Change is one of the true constants, its relentless and inevitable and usually positive and when it comes to change in comic books any true and lasting change can only be driven from the consumer side.
Forward thinkers are often early, way ahead of the curve and way ahead of the marketplace so it would be wrong to say that if a new idea didn’t work it was a bad idea. Often the change comes much later, slower, more organic as consumers are convinced overt time.
There is one thing that worries me as a shopkeep though. I’ve always assumed that publishers want to make money, decision making was logically based on “will it work”. We’re now in a climate where the decision making at the Board Room level might be influenced by “this is the right thing to do”. These are not easy decisions when the viability of your company depends on profits and not positions.
As noble as the causes that on the one hand defend the heritage and on the other hand break new barriers are it will still come down to what the consumer finds interesting and engaging. I’m a big believer in the marketplace and have all the confidence in the world in the consumer.
The diversity push in comic publishing started a few years ago, we now have at least some data to process. It’s obvious that some new ideas have worked while others didn’t. Exactly what one would expect when the final arbitrators are the consumers.