Here are some comic industry trends/predictions I anticipate for the next couple of years. I don't base any of it on things I have specifically heard from other people, though in some cases I have analyzed news and data in the media to come up with these predictions. Also, I have to warn you that some of this is wrapped up in "jargony" business terms which might be kinda boring.
* In a year or so, it will pretty much feel as if the "One More Day" Spider-Man storyline never happened. Not that OMD will be reversed, but that the new continuity will be accepted and things will just move on. While I don't see a huge "Spidermania" spike (like, say, an "X-Men" #1), the books will be solid sellers and I don't see them going down in readership.
* "Final Crisis" will probably have a slight sales advantage over the "Skrull Invasion" event, especially in terms of a short-term sales spike.
* I see DC focusing more on acquiring hot artists than maintaining core writers. The idea being that it's a win-win situation: they can have more control over their storylines while at the same time grabbing readership (and presumably the attention of the not-insubstantial Wizard/Newsarama audience) with flashy art talent. In this sense, DC might "switch" roles with Marvel -- Marvel focusing more on writer-spawned books by people like Brubaker, Bendis, and Slott.
* I see Marvel grabbing some defecting DC writers; which might be significant in that these might be writers that are considered classically "DC."
* Rather than developing its own "Zuda" like initiative, I see Marvel more likely to acquire an already functioning & thriving webcomic company.
* Across the board I see more outsourcing of "extra-curricular" publishing enterprises -- rather than depending on internal development. For example, while a venture like Minx has been developed internally, in the future new publishing offshoots would be done by outside contractors or "packagers."
* Following trends in the workforce in general, there will probably be more outside agents/freelancers/vendors helping to put out the comic books than internal on-site staff. In the future -- say, within three years -- the new editor of a title may not be chosen by who on the staff would do the best job, but which freelance editor might be best for that specific project. Rather than shaping the project to fit the staff, staff is sought externally to fit the project.
* I see an outside business venture/merger/restructuring more effecting DC than any proposed Final Crisis "reboot" might. The biggest changes will not come from editorial planning but larger business strategy in response to change.
* I see Marvel being connected with a huge Time Warner level company within two years. I don't see this as much as a corporate father-child situation as in TW/DC but with Marvel bringing a bit more to the table -- more like a brother-sister situation.
* I don't see Wildstorm getting cut off from DC so much as functioning more as a manager of new or existing publishing imprints & licensed products. They will not so much come up with the concepts themselves, but be assigned them and asked to work within certain parameters. The biggest change would be the center of power & decision-making. I don't see there being a separate "Wildstorm Universe" anymore, either.
* I see the need for a separate "Ultimates" universe as getting more and more reduced. I see Marvel working towards its own "Crisis" like event with the purpose of consolidating the multiple versions of their characters and thus reducing brand confusion. I see DC heading pretty much in the same direction, in terms of consolidation & simplifying continuity.
* I see adaptations of the comics more and more dictating and setting the direction of the comics themselves. In that sense, as much as the comic books are theoretically "research and development" for the movies, the movies (the successful ones, at any rate) dictate the content and direction of the comics. This has of course been happening for a while now, but it will be more pronounced and obvious.
* The online comics media will get largely bought up/sponsored by larger interests. This means several things. More staff/columnists will get paid. More of a demand for "quality" articles and columns. Bigger budgets. More of a pop-culture aspect integrated in order to maximize audience. I don't see any of this leading to a more "hard-hitting" investigative journalism, though their might be an increased focus on "Lying in the Gutters" type rumor columns (because they're fun).
* A bunch of prominent blogs will either be sponsored by/moved over to larger venues or be stopped/put on hiatus/reduced in posting frequency. Factors: Google ads/web ads boom is over, bloggers getting older with more responsibilities. Larger factor -- the blog "boom" is dying out to the extent that instead of everybody & his mother doing them, only the hardcore will continue. Blog use largely gets co-opted by the media and marketing forces. The average person may wish instead to more quickly broadcast their happenings through a streamlined Facebook type format. The Facebook/fully-integrated format will become more popular than out-and-out blog use. This does not mean that blogs are dying out. It just means that people will turn to different online applications & formats to express themselves.
* Back to Wildstorm -- I see most of DC licensed product, including children's material, finding their way to Wildstorm or another outside studio/branch/packager. This also works well because a lot of the licensees are on the West Coast where Wildstorm is.
* I see DC doing more of a premium "Archive Edition" release of key titles in digital format, for purchase on DVD. I don't see them doing an opening of the "archives" online as Marvel is doing. I see this as because DC regards their backlist as highly valuable in the reprint market, which is true. "Invisibles" is worth far more to them as a series of trade paperbacks than as a digital online comic.
* Conversely, I see Marvel going even further in the digital comic arena. I see that as something they wish to corner the market on and perfect. It would be more likely for Marvel to start offering some of their first-run mainstream titles online than DC -- and I see Marvel doing this on a regular basis in a couple of years.
* MySpace as we know it is largely dead, except as a venue for teens and rock bands. Not specifically comic-related, but I thought I would just toss that chestnut out there. Oh yeah, and Facebook me.
* There will be an overall "youth oriented" style/approach that has been born of manga but will surpass manga. A company would be better served researching & developing that "youth culture" dynamic/aesthetic than simply glomming on to manga. The manga boom is over. Any company who wants to seize the youth market has to be intuitive enough to anticipate that next step.
* The next hot comic format is oversized/portfolio/tabloid/omnibus edition. Stop making little bitty digests, they are dying out. Just because you put it in a cute little book format doesn't mean you have instant kid appeal, though it might rack up better in a bookstore.
* I see Dynamite Entertainment being the next big company. I'm talking in terms of talent, licenses, mainstream appeal, and the acquisition of other companies' characters.
* There might be a weird "reshuffling" of certain characters to other companies. It might feel downright unsettling.
* Marvel gets the GI Joe license again. Okay, this one is more wishful thinking than anything else. But I can dream, can't I?
* If you noticed that I haven't talked too much about Countdown/Final Crisis, it's probably because I see other factors that eclipse it and the importance of whether The Flash will be rebooted or not. I see change. The sales will probably be very decent for Final Crisis. The Countdown issues that lead into it will probably be on a much higher level of quality. The last issue of Countdown might even break sales records, and I would expect a cliffhanger of gargantuan proportions. I just see DC heading into a new overall directional phase and philosophy, especially as it pertains to their superhero titles.
* I also see change for Marvel, but it's more evolutional and planned-out than the change for DC might be. I think if I had to categorize Marvel, I would say that they have been anticipating change in the industry, models of product delivery, and needs of the public for some time now. With DC it will be more about a radical streamlining and pruning. But with Marvel it will be more of letting things change in stages, a continuity of change. And I'm not going to say one approach is better than the other. The proof will be in the comic shops.