I’m a really competitive person. I’m even competitive with myself. I went from routinely walking on a treadmill to running on a treadmill to running my first half marathon this past January. All because I wanted to go faster, go further and beat myself.
Games? With games I am the worst. Just ask anyone who plays against me in Scrabble or Words with Friends or whatever they are calling it these days. I want to win. It’s important. For the most part I think a little healthy competition is good for you. Keeps you sharp, focused, and creates situations in which you can come up with unique solutions.
However, I do think there is a point at which being competitive becomes a fault, and I’m not talking about getting runner’s knee or throwing something breakable across the room when my challenger gets the triple word score. There’s a point where you are so inside the game you can’t even see anymore.
Do you ever think it’s kind of weird that various comic publishing companies seem to be completing with one another like they were sports teams? I’ve always thought this was a uniquely strange thing that happens in comics. And I say unique to comics cause I don’t think it happens in other aspects of entertainment. It’s not like you are loyal to Bloomsbury since they published your favorite book series, “Harry Potter.” Shunning Harper Collins and Random House because they couldn’t possibly have anything you want. Bloomsbury understands what you like. They are your home team.
Can you even name another book published by Bloomsbury off the top of your head? I can’t.
Seems to me that the book market, along with gaming, television, web series, movies — any other form of entertainment, really, don’t put themselves in a sandbox.
So why do comics?
From the outside, it looks like healthy competition. Same old Marvel vs. DC. The share of the Direct Market volleys for the most part back and forth between Marvel and DC based on whatever event promotion is winning over the retailers at that particular moment. And for a long time, that was the state of things. But over the last few years, IDW and Image have been eating into the Big Two’s share while Dark Horse maintains a very consistent 5% share.
Looking from the inside out gives you different view, though. Bookscan’s most recent top 20 Graphic Novels didn’t have a Marvel or DC title on the list. Some of the books were creator-owned, some of them were licensed properties, some all-ages, and a lot of it was manga. Fascinating!
All of this information tells me the comics market as a whole is changing. Duh, right? More people want what’s on offer from Image, BOOM! Studios and IDW than have in previous years. Instead of competing with each other in the Direct Market, smaller companies are attempting to expand the market as a whole and bring in new audiences. Offering more diverse titles to a more diverse audience.
What strikes me as significant is not that DC and Marvel are absent from Bookscan’s Top 20 in February, but that the list is made up of kinds of books DC and Marvel don’t publish in any great number. So the case could be made that if DC and Marvel had avenues to publish a greater variety of material with a focus to reach new audiences, the entire comics market could expand. More books for kids, more all-ages titles, both corporate and creator-owned. Creating more in general that doesn’t completely focus on existing characters and continuity. Creating a bigger, much healthier pie chart.
I know I’d much rather make a bigger pie then take someone else’s piece. Besides, I like thinking we are all on the same team. Team Comics. And I like to win.
On your mark everyone.