Prepare for Darwin

A column article, Mission: Professional by: Steven Savage

So, last I checked, DC's semi-reboot has eleven Batman titles. That's a lot of Batman, and though Batman and company sell, it's still a very high number.

Of course, do we expect them all to succeed? No. In fact I'm sure people at DC are looking to see what works and what doesn't Batman-wise and indeed in the entire semi-reboot. There's gonna be some Comics Darwinism going on.

I think that may be the future of comics as we move more and more into an age of fast-printing, multiple-distribution models, and e-comics.

Let's face it right now no one is quite sure what's going on, what's going to sell (and what's going to sell in the future), what methods work now, and what methods will work in the future. Throw in the fact that some comic companies have inherited decades of cultural relevance they can use - or squander - and it's got to be a strange time to work in comics.

That makes me think that it's time for some Intentional Darwinism in comics - because it'll be easier to do. Release comics in ways that cut your losses if they don't work, that test the market, that are able to be evaluated for inclusion or exclusion.

In fact it's easy to do:

  1. One could try out comics as e-comics and see which survive, vastly cutting printing expenses and distribution expenses.
  2. Print-on-demand allows small authors to try out their plans on, well, a small-scale. I'm sure as POD advances it'll be applied to comics more and more, allowing big companies to test out sales even easier.
  3. The internet allows for faster feedback and data, better promotionals, more information gathering - in fact you might be able to test the waters easier.
  4. Multimedia is becoming more the norm - and gives you new ways to test viability. A comic can have a special code for a website, an e-comic can be bundled with something else, etc. This gives new ways to try distribution and gauge reaction.
  5. Comics can come out in many formats at the same time - letting companies find out what works.

So more and more there are reasons to actually release comics with the complete understanding some will fail - because it's easier to determine failing and easier to cut losses.

Of course that is something larger companies can do far easier than smaller ones - which could mean that smaller companies and indies will need to figure out how to compete with Darwinism. If companies can just throw titles out and see what survives, smaller ones and indies will need their own strategy to deal with it.

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