Comic Culture: The Drawback to Reading One Publisher
There once was a time, in a land far far away, where this wee old lad was strictly a one publisher reader. This was nearly a decade ago, and at that time the publisher I so mightily held my allegiance to was DC Comics. I grew up on Batman, and because I lived and breathed him the only logical thing to do was to also read about him. Back in the good old days when they actually seemed to have a grasp on how to run their business, DC was a staple for me and as I got older I slowly began to branch out into Marvel, but only sparingly. For the most part I remained a DC reader for some time. Fast forward to today and my interests and views on comics in general have greatly changed as some of you have read (as well as seen).
I didn’t realize it at the time, mainly because I was young and naive, but there is a vast world outside the walls of just one publisher. And, that sentiment could not be more true than in today’s comic landscape. The Big Two are both putting out some great titles (Daredevil and Batman both come to mind), but other publishers are doing the same…and sometimes with greater consistency. Image Comics, Oni Press, IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Vertigo Comics, Monkeybrain Comics, Valiant Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Top Shelf Productions, Top Cow Productions and BOOM! Studios. Many of these publishers are putting out some of the best titles they have in years. Attribute this success to the suits running the show, or the creators actually making the books, or maybe even both. Either way, it is definitely a good time to be reading comics and the numbers seem to show it as well. In the case of DC specifically, they managed to turn things around with the New 52, some three years ago.
When I got heavily back into comics I started with the New 52. Going back to DC felt familiar and with their line-wide reboot it felt like a good starting point. I never really had intentions to stick “solely” with them, especially this time around. This new “foray” into comics for me was when I agreed to take the training wheels off and really, truly explore what all was out there. The goal was to open up my mindset and try some new publishers, titles, characters, creators etc. To be frank, I found a lot of shit along the way, but I have also found A LOT of really great books as well. I also made the jump to digital for monthly books (which you can read about in previous posts). What I quickly began to discover along the way was that creator-owned and indie books are where I should be focusing my attention. I found myself more vested in the characters, the higher stakes, and saw that anything can really truly happen in these books. There’s no resetting everything back to square one. Character’s actions have consequences, and when someone dies they more often than not stay dead. The ability for creators to really “cut loose” just felt so refreshing and inspiring compared to the constraints the Big Two writers are left with. And, there’s something else great about these books. They have a beginning, middle, and an end. They are not everlasting. They will not outlive me, like Daredevil and Batman will. And frankly, I love that about indie and creator-owned books. I love that when these books are completed, I can have the whole story collected and on my shelf to read later. There is a definitive sense of finality.
Slowly, but surely my pull has been taken over by indie and creator owned books as I have clearly alluded to above. There is not a single Big Two book to be found amongst my books now. Publishers range from Image, to Monkeybrain, to Oni Press and more, and the list is always changing. There is nothing to say that the hunt is over now that I seem to have settled into my new “comfort” zone though. There are always new publishers, titles, characters and creators entering the fold every day and this fact alone makes this whole new comic landscape so exciting. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up, but I’d rather have the industry booming than sinking. There are also new apps, technology and resources for people to read their comics worldwide and that is long overdue as well. To survive, the medium of comics needs to adapt, and those in charge seem to be getting that message. Time will tell if the bubble will pop again, but for right now I am definitely enjoying the ride, even if my wallet isn’t!
So, in closing don’t pigeonhole yourself into reading just one publisher. We’re not living in the middle ages; you don’t have to shackle yourself to one company in order to avoid being smited by the hand of the comics gods. There are too many good books being put out by all publishers across the board to do this. Read what you like, regardless of the publisher. Take me as an example; change is good. Reexamine your pull and don’t be afraid to give a new publisher a try.