Perspective: State of the Comics Industry in 1999 via Warren Ellis

– by Brandon L. Rucker –

IMG_20160201_155414[1]8551231835_3c4c9ec04a_oSo for the first time in well over a decade I am re-reading COME IN ALONE, the trade paperback collection of Warren Ellis‘ year-long column at Comic Book Resources that ran from December 1999 to December 2000. It’s a starkly honest observation and analysis of the seriously ailing comics industry of the time. Surely you all remember that bleak time period: post-early-90s boom, and post-mid-90s bust, yet prior to slight post-911 rebound? For me personally it was a time most significantly marked by the horrible decision of Image Comics standout partner Jim Lee to sell his widely popular and successful (and much beloved) WildStorm Productions publishing company along with all characters and intellectual property assets to DC Comics/AOL Time Warner (as the parent conglomerate was called at the time). That’s how bleak a time it was, that one of the industry’s richest, smartest and most powerful creator/businessman found it wise to sell his company as well as his Image Comics partnership stake (and some would argue his soul) to a competitor within the same market (and also join DC/Warner as an executive. An aside: he later became co-publisher of DC Comics but that’s a whole other chapter).

To wit, please observe this paragraph taken from Mr. Ellis’ introduction to his book (dated May 2001):

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Doesn’t sound like we’ve come too far in a decade-and-a-half, does it? In fact, there have been many cries of industry demise of late in the comics media sphere, with some predicting an eventual collapse in say, another decade. Are these doomsday naysayers actual prophets, or are they merely Chicken Littles?

Only time will tell, right? One thing’s for sure, the days of comics titles averaging sales at the mid-100k level are likely (i.e. certainly) never to return. And that too is a whole other chapter in the epic saga of this niche industry, despite the fact it’s being pillaged for other big money media industries like television and film.

Comic books are nearly dead. Long live comic books.

 

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