Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stopver at The Economist: Comic Fragmentation and Taking in the View from Mainstream

I came across this piece by The Economist on comics and Stan Lee.

In case you don't know, The Economist is a published news magazine, the type that stuffy businessmen carry around and read while flying business class in between meetings. 

Safe to say, comics are NOT usually a topic found in the The Economist. Most of the time they concentrate on real-world happenings and science stuff, like elections in Iran, the collapse of GM... global warming... that kind of thing. However, this particular article does tie in with my personal conviction that the writers of The Economist are actually mostly Oxford-graduated closet geeks ;) but that's just my theory...

Anyway, despite it being about the old tried and tested Marvel mainstream comic book hero and comic book movies, I did find one portion of it rather interesting:

A problem of character

But there is a hitch. Mr Lee’s most celebrated creations appeared at a time when comic books were widely read. The heroes were honed over many years by other writers and artists. As a result a great many people of diverse ages are familiar with them and will happily spend $10 to sit in a cool cinema and renew their acquaintance. Blockbuster audiences are built not of enthusiastic fans—there are never enough—but of people who are vaguely aware of a character or a story and want to see what a studio does with it.

These days it is extremely difficult to propel new characters or stories into broad public consciousness, and therefore hard to mobilise a mass audience for films based on them. Take Alan Moore, a revered writer of comic books. His works have inspired five ambitious films (the most recent is “Watchmen”), none of them hugely successful. And what goes for comic books also goes for television shows, computer games and other fodder for summer blockbusters. As audiences fragment, there is simply less mass content to throw into the Hollywood recycling machine... (read more)

While I disagree on some things in that article, it does have a point about the audiences fragmenting. Even the "webcomics community" has fragmented into individual comics on the web. (From my point of view after leaving for 3 years and coming back) 

It used to be collectives were everything. If you weren't in Big Panda... if you were in Keenspot/Keenspace... If you weren't in Modern Tales/Graphic Smash... etc etc.

And now, I'm willing to bet a lot of people who read online comics won't know what Keenspot is. (No offense, it's just an example of the fragmentation.)

But it's too soon to make any judgments on something that is in the midst of a metamorphosis like comics right now. Will it be it a good thing? A bad thing? It's too soon to say.

It should be interesting to revisit this topic in a few years time though.

Now excuse me while I go "Squee!!!" The lastest chapter of One Piece has freaking WHALE SHARKS in it! It's like my two favourite things, diving and comics coming together! <3

1 comment:

  1. I think that the move away from collectives comes from the fact that the "big dogs" of webcomics, (I.e. Thoughs who make money out off thier comics) all recommend having your own URL, and the webcartonist coming in today looks to these people for an example of how to set up their own sites.... But I do think that it is am evolution, and it should be interesting to watch.