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Magdalene, Bitches @MagsVisaggs
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"Comics is an industry, not a community."

Well, yes and no. Comics is an artistic medium, of which "the comic book industry" is a facet. And people who make comics to publish on the web or to pass among friends are just as much comic creators as @BRIANMBENDIS and @fionastaples.
Just because you aren't signed doesn't mean you aren't in a band or that your music is no good. And there's a lot of shitty garage rock I *adore* because of what it brings to rock music. The work Devonte Hynes does on a tape recorder is still great music. Comics is the same way.
It's so tempting to talk about "breaking in" to comics, but that just refers to *one aspect* of the business side that monetizes the art form. Marvel and DC aren't the only people publishing comics; Scholastic does it. HarperCollins does it. First Second. Drawn+Quarterly.
And comics qua sequential art has an ENORMOUS history of underground and self-published work -- the eponymous comix movement of the 60s and 70s that gave guys R Crumb and Art Spiegelman among countless others, a DIY mentality that ignored mainstream publishing entirely.
That same movement gave us Wimmen's Comix, a legendary feminist press from the 1970s, and RAW, Spiegelman's quarterly mag with Françoise Mouly. It gave us Maus. The 70s and 80s saw a ton of new pubs opening up doing really fantastic work well outside the "comics mainstream."
Everything from Heavy Metal to Dark Horse to the fucking Ninja Turtles. Stuff that combined the underground mentality with efforts to bust into the bigger and rapidly changing market. And then in the 90s and 00s, webcomics fucking EXPLODED.
Suddenly there weren't any barriers for entry; all you needed was web hosting, a scanner, and some free time. Webcomics have a HUGE audience, some of them draw in buckets of money and run for 10+ years, doing critical, vital, and inventive work.
XKCD, Penny Arcade, Assigned Male, Up and Out, Hark! A Vagrant, Existential Comics, Dumbing of Age -- these are ALL part of this comics community, part of the same basic medium of sequential art that unifies us all.
One of the single best comics I've ever read is a weird little DIY strip called 1/0, an absurdist, metafictional joint that's only about itself, about pointing out the lines in the drawing and the boundaries of the panel. It's absolutely fucking brilliant and experimental.
1/0 has stuck with me more than *most* of the Marvel and DC work I've read over the years, because it offered me something I've never seen before or honestly even since: a complete deconstruction of the medium. I tried to bring some of that sensibility to EG but 1/0 stands alone.
The business end of direct market comics, in other words, is just one small chunk of an artistic and creative community that spans all genres, all points of view, all manner of publication, from the comics a 12 year old shares with her friends to fucking Saga.
I hear people talking about making comics for the audience, or making comics to be marketed -- that's DC and Marvel's job, to look at their audience and figure out how to serve them. But it's creative's job to make the comics they want to make. Then it's about finding balance.
Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby et al, in the 1960s, looked at what was selling: sci-fi superheroes with absurd, weird adventures; Jimmy Olsen turns into a lizard monster. Batman becomes a genie. And they said "Okay but what if instead we did grounded, realistic stories about
larger than life characters? What if a superhero was a nerdy kid? What if a super team was a squabbling family? What if a super-team was *hated* by the people they saved?" That was MASSIVELY innovative. Completely changed the game. Nobody was doing that.
In the late 1990s, Marvel looked out on the wasteland of the market of the time and said "who is doing the kind of stuff we *wish* we were doing," and scooped up Joe Quesada and company, who were just running their own small press.
In the 1980s, DC wanted to revive a few old properties like Sandman and Doom Patrol, but instead of going to Jerry Ordway or Roger Stern, they called up lunatics like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman and let them do whatever the fuck they wanted. They looked at the
weird-ass work the UK comics community had been fostering and said "let's bring that over here." The end result? Legends. Nobody asked Neil Gaiman to do what everyone else was doing. Nobody told him "people want escapist action fantasies." They trusted him to do good work.
All of which is to say that comics as a *medium* is about artistic expression and creative vision, not delivering the audience the same thing they've always read, while comics as a *business* is about filtering through the creative work to find what will sell. It's symbiotic.
And right now, the media audience is utterly, utterly fragmented; about the only things that consistently sell in the DM have "Bat" in the title, and comics are both harder to find and more expensive than ever. It's a problem everyone is trying to solve. But that's *the DM*.
Comics as a medium are fucking FLOURISHING, expanding to new audiences, finding new venues, reaching the people who don't give a flying shit about the Flash but really love sequential art. Middle schoolers (who we shouldn't shit on as an audience, because most of us were reading
comics in middle school, too). Kids. High schoolers with their own favorite webcomics that maybe have a readership in the dozens. It's still comics. It's still real.
So it's frustrating how myopic some people can be, equating comics entirely with the direct market's comichron numbers. A book not selling doesn't mean it's not good (who doesn't have a cult classic movie they love, an unappreciated gem that passed everyone by?). A book selling
gangbusters might just be plodding along on inertia. The market is shifting, the audience is changing, the *world* is changing, and comics are in transition right now. It's going to settle down eventually. Until then? Let's just enjoy what we enjoy.
Because comics, as a medium, *really are* for everybody.
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