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Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Wisdom of Dirk Deppey -- I don't know how I missed this Dirk Deppey post at The Great Curve, but it's a brilliant summation of the state of the industry, and a great set of principles upon which to build a successful comics shop (and industry). Here's what Dirk has to say:

1) Don't expect salvation to come from Marvel. As the recent past demonstrates, structural limitations prevent the company from taking advantage of the position it holds.

2) Unless the editorial departments are restructured in a fairly fundamental way, don't expect salvation from DC either. DC is a collection of corporate fiefdoms, each frequently working at cross-purposes to one another in an effort to protect turf. Unlike Marvel, DC isn't hopeless and CAN be reformed -- but is far too dysfunctional to do any real good at present.

3) 70% of the Direct Market is a hermit-like one-genre network, and thus might as well be selling leeches so far as the general public is concerned. This isn't a slam on superheroes -- if they sold nothing but poetry chapbooks or radioplays on audiotape, they'd be just as useless. For any number of reasons, money poured into attempts to build this segment of the market might as well be set on fire. Innovation must come from elsewhere.

4) The above point aside, that still leaves 30% of the Direct Market in play. The store owners who comprise THIS segment of the market would do well to get to know one another better. (May I suggest a trade association? Have Seth or James Kochalka design your literature, for no other reason than that it'll keep the proprietor of Bob's Hero Hut away from your doorstep, thus conserving resources for those for whom resources will do some good.)

5) Change is ALREADY coming, and the basic building blocks have been in place for several years now. The major indy publishers already draw significant portions from their income from the bookstore trade, and have been around long enough now to learn to deal with such things as returns. It can be done, and there's really no alternative to doing so at present. Get used to it.

6) Likewise, publishers aimed at the youth market had better get used to surfing alongside manga, and learning from their present and future competition. Mike Gold's barely concealed wish for the manga "cycle" to end is whistling past the graveyard in almost humorous fashion; it also demonstrates a total ignorance of the enormous sea-change that manga represents. If your sole goal is to create a gateway to the same old superhero comics you want everyone to read, you don't get it -- and likely never will. The One True Genre is just another form of Stalinism. If this notion offends you, you're a dinosaur in need of a tarpit. Die, already.

7) If the industry cannot figure out how to appeal to women and children, it DESERVES to die.

Some of the truest words on the comics industry that I have ever read. Dirk's understanding of the industry is put to good use every six weeks or so in the pages of The Comics Journal, the magazine for which he is the managing editor.

In other news, two great pieces up today at Comic Book Galaxy. Chris Allen revives Breakdowns with a jam-packed column full of reviews, and a biting look at DC's spectacular failure to make the 2000AD and Humanoids lines viable. Also today, The Galaxy's Mick Martin looks at Peter David's first last issue of The Incredible Hulk. Go read.


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