Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Comic Book Magazines:
Coming off a weak Chicago Con scheduled too close to San Diego and of course the Atlanta/Heroes Con fiasco, I'm sensing the backlash against the premier offline comics magazine Wizard. You can get a sense of it in Heidi's report and Augie's report, to name two sources.

Which got me thinking, maybe it's time for someone to launch a new comics magazine. Wizard has been under assault for years now because they basically represent the industry to a lot of folks (the monthly sales at one time were higher than any monthly comic, and anecdotal evidence from my experience in retail shows that a lot of readers are still taking their cues from Wizard and little else), and the face they put on the industry is one that is maybe a little childish, certainly driven more by hype and "hotness" than quality and artistic achievement.

That's to be expected, really. Why have so many comics magazines (Hero, Combo, etc.) fallen by the wayside when Wizard survived and thrived? It's because Wizard has something that Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman and the rest have... they're established. Familiar. Comfortable. They got established by riding one of the last waves of new stuff that broke through to the general public, the emergence of Valiant and Image publishers.

In other words, they rode to prominence during the speculator age. Speculation and hype and style over substance is coded into Wiard's DNA. Sadly, it also seems to be present in the DNA of a lot of comics readers these days, and so there's a vicious cycle of Wizard hyping the stuff that's already popular, people buying the stuff that is popular, and Wizard reports on what people are buying. You can't really fault Wizard for being what they are, just as you can't fault a lot of folks for being frustrated that the primary face of our industry represents some of the worst aspects of it.

But could a new magazine knock Wizard off the perch? Offer up a slightly more adult viewpoint, without becoming too dry, too old school or too snobby? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say: Nope. The place once held by print has been subsumed to a great deal by online media, and it would be damn near impossible (if not actually impossible) for a print source to compete with what's being done by literally hundreds of people whose turnaround time from source to print is minutes or hours and whose geographical spread means that it's essentially a 24 hour news cycle. It might be different if these folks were all amateurs, but most of them (or, more immodestly, us) have been at this for years, and many come from a background with ties to the published world of comics.

Better yet, the Internet comics journalism world is free. So a new magazine would have to be so good as to overwhelm not only the longstanding stranglehold Wizard has on that segment of the market, but to make consumers think "even though I can get the same news, interviews and reviews online, this has *something* worth paying for in it." It's not an impossible task, but it's definitely an uphill one.

Sorry if that was all a bit scattered. Just some thoughts I was having. And I didn't even touch on Comic Buyer's Guide, The Comics Journal or any of the other magazines that are also covering the industry these days, or my thoughts on the downsides of the free Internet economy for those who are actually providing the news, interviews and reviews.

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