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Friday, July 30, 2010

20 Future Trends For The Comic Industry

The following 20 future trends for the comic industry (and fandom) is scheduled roughly for the next two years -- by 2012. They are based on a combination of market research and intuitive insight. My track record for previous predictions is quite good, as I have successfully predicted things like the DC restructuring and Disney buying up Marvel a couple of years before they actually happened.

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1. SDCC Name Change:
By 2012, the San Diego ComicCon will have a name change to either something like "Comic & MediaCon" or just drop the word "comic" out of the name completely.


2. "YouTube" of Comics:
I compare this upcoming online database of comics to YouTube only in terms of its large breadth of material and ease of browsing. It will be initially "seeded" by a significant collection of unlicensed scanned comic material, but will be open to user uploads. This collection might also be part of a larger "YouTube" of books, or inspired by it. Much different than Scribd, Scans Daily, Google Books, etc. in terms of its scope of material and popularity. So say you want to read something weird like "Man From Atlantis" #3. You type it in, the comic comes up, and you have the option of either viewing it in a reader or downloading it. Look for this by end of 2011.


3. West Coast as Center of Comics Publishing:
The West Coast will largely be the destination for comic book publishing by 2012. California, Oregon, Washington, but mostly in CA. This is largely due to its proximity to movie studios, but also to that of Silicon Valley.


4. Non-Localized Comic Publishing Staff:
During the next two years, the trend towards non-localized staff at comic publishers -- telecommuters -- will increase. This might be in part due to the exodus to the West Coast, but it also follows general trends in employment.


5. iPad/Digital Reader Mainstreamed:
By the end of 2011, the iPad and other digital readers will be "mainstreamed" as the method of choice for reading books, magazines, and comics. By 2012, printed material will have the same status CDs have now.


6. The Big Changeover:
The changeover from print to digital in the comics industry should happen quite suddenly, by SDCC (or, "SDCMC" or "SDMC") of 2012. It will seem very sudden, but will have been planned out beforehand. By "changeover" I mean:
  • Standardization of day-and-date digital release
  • Sharp decrease in # of print titles

7. Centralization of Digital Comics Distribution:
Though there are a number of digital comics distributors at the moment, this will whittle down sharply by end of 2011. The corporate partners/parents of major comics publishers might want to provide sole digital distribution themselves, or one central distributor will emerge.


8. Narrowing The Talent Door:
While the comics publishers will still scout for new talent, they will also be more likely to do so through talent agencies than comic cons. Prospective freelance talent might start needing professional representation in terms of literary or art agents. "Talent pools'' will be created to serve the needs for specific projects created by editorial/marketing staff, rather than new projects being brought to the major publishers by talent. Access to editors will be at an unprecedented minimum.


9. The Blurring Of Job Duties:
  • Editors will often find themselves as the first uncredited "writer" or "plotter" of a comic.
  • Comic creators will also increasingly be expected to do the jobs of editors -- if there even is a true editor on the project.
  • Marketing professionals will be an integral part of the project creation process. Editors will be required to have the instincts of marketers.

10. Buy-Outs by Entertainment Conglomerates:
The trend of comics publishers being purchased by larger parent companies will continue. Mid-level comic publishers might suddenly become top publishers through buy-outs and increased money from these parent companies. The need of a "research and development" wing and a dedicated "studio" to adapt their movie/TV/videogame properties will be a major factor for these conglomerates. Watch for a couple of major purchases by end of 2011, especially concerning publishers who already put out a lot of licensed material.


11. Buy-Outs by Traditional Publishers:
Traditional publishers, hurting from the digital revolution, will increasingly turn to the comic publishers of reprint materials and original graphic novels. This is because a large, folio-sized reprint edition or lush, tactile hardcover graphic novel provide an experience that an iPad or eReader cannot. Look for one major purchase by a traditional book publisher of a very established "indy" comic publisher by 2011.


12. The Broadening of Genres:
The digital revolution -- and increase in the mass market comic audience -- will necessitate the cultivation of comics in genres outside of the traditional superhero narrative. The most up-and-coming genres are:
  • Children's
  • Teens/Romance
  • Fantasy/Sword-and-Sorcery/Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland (pre-2012 anxiety)
  • Biography/History/News (somewhat of a "new category")
  • Licensed Movie/TV adaptations

13. The Changing Demographics of the Comic Reader:
By 2012, the demographics of those reading comic book material will more closely resemble that of the Golden Age 70 years previous: sharp increases in females and especially children. This will be due largely to the rise in digital comics, and the opening up of the industry to the masses instead of a specialized sub-group.


14. The Split In Comics Markets:
The market for comic book material will be split into two main segments:
  1. Digital comics delivery, on a day-and-date basis
  2. Elaborate collected editions and first-run graphic novels

15. The Comic Retailer as Book Retailer:
Any smart comics retailer right now is cultivating a customer base for collected editions and first-run graphic novels. Digital comics can never replicate the lush and tactile feel of a hardcover book. Certainly, book editions of comics are not a mass-market product category -- yet. But this is where the biggest growth will be for comics retailers.


16. The "Core" Print Floppies:
The market for print floppies will shrink to a core group of tried-and-true brands: Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, etc. Any titles that are not immediately related to the core groups will be released in digital first, then (if sales warrant it), print collected editions -- the floppies will be skipped completely. There will also be a smaller core group of children's titles based on well-known children's properties.


17. Midwest & The South: The Floppies' Last Stand
The market for monthly print editions will continue in the Midwest & the Southern regions of the United States longer than any other. This follows the general stable/upward trend of print periodicals in those regions (while print in the rest of the country continues to plummet). A traditional comics retailer in those regions might flourish far longer than those in New York or California. But this might also then create an overall more conservative audience for mainstream superhero comics.


18. Increased "Fanboy" Insularity
In the early stages of this overall sea change in the landscape & character of the comic book industry, the former "core" comics market of hardcore male fans (25-50) will get more insular and resistant to outsiders. This will even be the case, to a much more limited extent, with the remnants of old-school types from within comics publishing itself. There will be a last ditch effort to "kill" progress for comics from both these fans and on behalf of those still within comics publishing. The mentality is that of: "if I cannot control it, it is better off dying with me."


19. 2011: The Year Of Superhero Movie Fatigue
The general wisdom is that the success for superhero-based films is what makes the comic publishers valuable to Hollywood. But after the year of "Superhero Fatigue," this will be reversed. Then the comic companies will become more valuable for Hollywood as multi-media producers of spin-off entertainment based on pre-existing movie & TV material.


20. Aging Freelancers In Crisis
Due to the above developments, many freelancers will increasingly find themselves cut out of the loop. This will be the combined result of:
  • More writers being cultivated from TV, Movies, and Books
  • The near-complete digitization of the comic art creation process and delivery
  • The increasing requirement of having an agent or other representation
  • The direct access to editors being blocked in favor of "talent pools"
  • General "ageism" in the industry
The amount of aging freelancers unable to find work in their chosen field will skyrocket, even greater than it is at present. There will not only be financial but health crises as well. Assistance and education will be crucial.

There is so much more I could touch upon, but these 20 will do for now. Hope it helps, or at least gives you something to think about!