Comics Scholars Survey Results, November 1995

compiled by Peter M. Coogan

C. Industry
C.1. What about the industry has been and needs to be studied? (independent publishers, censorship, creator's rights, etc.)

Everyone agreed that much more needed to be done on the industry, including the rise of the "hot young artist" and the pontificating of more established figures on that rise, and "licensing of comics characters; ties to other media (movie deals, difference in comics organizations (are the routines of production the same for Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse); different exhibition arenas (do book store chains influence comic production?); and the appeal to different markets" according to Matt McAllister. I would love to see a book along the lines of Todd Gitlin's Inside Prime Time dealing with comics. Luca Somigli posits the relations between creators and industry as crucial, "even in terms of articulating a different paradigm of 'creation' which makes it more problematic to simply recuperate comics as 'art'."

Guillaume de Syon asked for study on the ways the comics industry has shifted in response to comics becoming "acceptable" adult entertainment. Barb Rausch turns this desire on its head, suggesting that we study marketing to find ways to broaden our audience, to develop a wider variety of comics, and to create new mark eting techniques to reach wider segments of society, particularly the almost untouched women's market, and the overlooked seniors, all of whom grew up on the great newspaper continuity strips.

Martin Barker caught me with my politics down in my use of "creators' rights." He wrote, "You ask should we be exploring creators' rights. That is precisely to accept the definition of the situation from the writers' and artists' side. I prefer, for very important reasons, the phrase 'intellectual property' because it problematises both sides, and links the issues of royalties, ownership of characters, merchandising, etc. to the issues, more widely, of the production of culture, to control, etc." I think he makes a very good suggestion here.

C.2. How is the comics industry similar to and different from other media industries (t.v., film, recording, etc.) and how do we know this?

Amy Nyberg brought up the issue of DC's role in the Time-Warner conglomerate, and the domination of the comic b ook market by Marvel. Barb Rausch broadened this issue to encompass the way that comics, as an industry, share the corporate mindset at the executive and upper editorial levels, as well as the focus of other entertainment industries on the youth ma rket and the almost built-in pop culture tendency to repeat, with slight variations, anything that sells. She continued, that comics, "almost alone among pop culture mass media--can still be the creation and labor of a single person, and be produced and distributed on an individual's shoestring budget (which was also mentioned in A.3.).

I believe comics may be different from other media industry in the extent to which fans have moved into creative positions, but this conclusion may be a result of ignorance of other media industries on my part, rather than anything unique to comics. Ian Gordon pointed out that "Science fiction fans were the first to move into creative positions," including work as writers and editors of science fiction, and as "rocket scientists" at NASA. Luca Somigli linked this question to the earlier ones about the medium's uniqueness, "How do comics 'communicate' differently from other visual media? How is the reader positioned in relation to the text, etc."

Back to the Introduction and Survey Outline