On Friday, during the 10th annual ComicsPRO membership meeting in Portland, Oregon, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson gave a speech about where the comic book industry came from, where it is now, and where it is going.
In the speech, Stephenson discussed the boom of the industry during the 1980s and 90s and how that led to the gimmicks that led into the downfall.
The unprecedented level of creativity that ushered in one of comics' most prosperous periods gave way to gimmicks. There were more comic book stores than ever, and there were more comics, too.
Stephenson also explained there were too many gimmick covers as well, which includes variants, hologram, and embossed covers.
Comics were polybagged, comics were commoditized, and comics were hoarded as speculation ran rampant. Comics were shipped late, and sometimes not at all, as publishers of all breeds galloped ever onward, with little regard for their readers and next to no respect for retailers.
Heroes died, and heroes were reborn. Titles were canceled, and titles were relaunched and renumbered. The market expanded. And then it collapsed. Stores went out of business.
He went on to explain that this is short-term thinking and won't help the industry, as a whole, down the road. He continues with the idea that everyone is doomed to repeat history unless change happens and soon.
We've gone back to gimmicks, to variant covers and relaunches and reboots and more of the same old stunts disguised as events, when really all our readers want are good stories.
We're giving them great jumping on points over and over again, but it's becoming so commonplace our audience instead sees them as opportunities to cut and run. We are misinterpreting sales spikes for long-term success, and worst of all, we are spending so much time looking at how to keep going that we've lost sight of where we were heading in the first place.
Stephenson wants to work with everyone to have the industry thrive and keep readers reading comics, month after month and not just because there's a new cover to collect. He wants them to continue reading, no matter which company they're getting books from, because they love the stories.
He spoke out directly to retailers to be more vocal about what is working and what isn't for them. Stephenson closed up proclaiming his love for the industry and wanting to see it get better.
It’s not easy to get up in front of people time and again to call attention to longstanding problems, but I do it because I care deeply. This is my 24th year in this business, and there’s one reason and one reason alone that I’ve stuck around this long: I love comics.
We all have our successes – we all make mistakes – but we can all do better.