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Supply, Demand & Comics


If you google “supply and demand,” this is what you’ll get. “the amount of a commodity, product, or service available and the desire of buyers for it, considered as factors regulating its price.” Most of us get it, but as a personal exercise, I thought it would be interesting to apply this concept to several aspects of the comic book industry. Especially since the grumblings about the economics of this business seem to be louder than ever. 

Creators & Creations
I think we would all agree that there are way more people who want to make comics than there are comic projects from comic book companies. And since there are more creators willing to work and work for less in order to get their break, fees are being driven down. Demands for higher rates will not be taken seriously by publishers as long as there’s undercutting among creators. Unfortunately, there isn’t a foreseeable solution for this. Not a guild or a union (too much competition), not a minimum wage (unenforceable), and not personally refusing to work for less (someone else always will). The only thing I can think of is for publishers to be selling (and creating) WAY more comics than they are today. Easier said than done, I know.

Readership & Print Runs
Up until the 80s, the cheapest form of entertainment for kids was comics. Movies were beyond most children’s allowances and cartoons only aired on Saturday mornings. But that’s all changed now. The internet provides millions of hours of practically free entertainment, you can watch cartoons 24/7 if you want and video games are no longer exclusive to arcades. Not to mention you usually have to go to a specialty shop to buy comics instead of the corner store. Readership is down. You can’t sell millions of comics anymore when the demand is now a fraction of that. Less comics, less profit. Less profit, less comics.

Properties & Popularity
They say we are in a golden age of comics. Mainly because of all the comic-based movies that Hollywood is cranking out. While these films generate tons of profits, they don’t necessarily generate tons of sales of comic books. When was the last time you want out to buy every piece of merchandise or companion books based on a movie you really liked. When you were ten years old, right? So why should we expect reasonable adults to go out of their way to find a shop to pick up an issue of Batman or Thor?  For most people, the movie was enough! And fuggedaboutit if you’re an indy creator, 99% of the public doesn’t know about your book or character.  And people don’t look for things or buy things they know nothing about. 

“So how is any of this helpful, Ramon?”

I’m glad you asked! Have you noticed that THE MOST popular comic book properties have had TV or cartoon shows in the past? Superman, Batman, Hulk, Wonder Woman, X-men, Avengers, TMNT. Those weren’t cartoons! Those were commercials for toys, t-shirts and, yes, comic books! They say with today’s technology, anyone can easily publish a comic book. Well, you could say the same thing about cartoons and TV shows! It doesn’t even have to be fully animated shows. Google “comic dubs.” All the kids are doing it! Including mine! So, build up a demand for your work! So you can start supplying that demand!

While most creators are struggling in this industry, the ones who are really good at it, the ones who write the most engaging stories or draw the most mind-blowing sequential are actually in high demand! And the supply of their time is limited, so they can charge a premium for that time. I see a lot of complaints from indy creators about people not buying their books. So, I ask, is the story and art as good or better than what more established publishers are putting out? Why should we expect people to buy our comic when an average Marvel or DC book is usually better written and drawn? But really, what will it take for your work to be better than anything else out there? What do you need to do to make that happen and do you want it badly enough? Don’t be entitled, be the undeniable best!

Lastly, you can’t supply demand if people can’t get to the supplies. 90% of the general public doesn’t regularly set foot in comic book shops. So, explore every and all other means of getting your work out to people. Maybe it’s a free web comic (build demand), maybe it’s getting published through a traditional publisher, maybe it’s a self-contained graphic novel, instead of hard-to-find multi-part single issues. The old ways aren’t working anymore. Think outside of the 6 x 10, 20-page box. Create demand and figure out the best way to supply it!


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