Home > Letters to CR
Michael Netzer On Comics Sales
posted April 12, 2013
I think there's a link, or a direct line that can be drawn, that connects between the presumed impotence in improving the relative benefit for creators from their work – and the social/psychological conditions that prevented the founding a union or guild, several times over the last half-century.
The predictable mayhem, or prevailing competitive-to-binary attitude, preventing most industry web-discussion from focusing on the issues being discussed, is not necessarily a new thing that's risen out of the internet culture. It was there, rampaging through the meetings where creators came together to try and form a working union aimed at securing a more advantageous position with publishers. Having been present at one such effort in 1978, it was disparaging to realize we were not destined to get past square one anytime soon. When the evident need to form this representative body becomes blurred, degenerating into competitive oneupmanship over which creator's fears and trepidations are more substantial, instead of taking the risks necessary to satisfy the essential need for founding it, then we can only blame ourselves for being devoted to an art form that we ourselves helped keep under the maneuverability of concerns that are alien to it, and alien to the devotion we have for it.
I don't think the industrialized entity can achieve any necessary benefit for creators without the righteous indignation of said creators rising to the surface of industry talk and keeping it focused on the issue. And I don't think it can happen without at least a visible threat of widespread intent to derail the marketing juggernauts with potentially damaging public opinion relative to the gross injustices that permeate the field.
Knowing this is the case and these are the conditions doesn't necessarily mean we're doomed to continue arguing about it and incessantly flogging each other with little hope of changing the basic assumptions under which the talk is being talked, nor that it's not possible to inspire some sense of goodwill and courage within the community that could spill over into how market forces relate to creators. We're not talking about a homogeneous entity, I know. As Rugg says, and a hefty bunch of devotees agree, there seems to be a diversity of levels and realities across the art-form-spectrum, some of which appear to be showing signs of progress. But I think we tend to lull ourselves into complacency when strolling for crisp air on the deck of a teetering ship that we don't realize has blown a gaping hole in its hull.
Mending the hole would've come much easier back in the time of the first efforts to form a union in the 60's and 70's. Most everyone who worked in comics then was in close proximity -- geographically, professionally and personally. The thought of coalescing thousands of creators behind the cause today, who are spread around the genre-expanse and perpetually distracted by the sideshow of properties becoming engraved in pop-entertainment psyche, seems daunting to a halt. But it's not impossible, or even highly improbable, in our instantaneous-communications playing field. I think the need for raising the essential issues to the surface is growing more rapidly than it seems. The tools are at fingertip reach and the playing field sprawls open to all comers. At some point, when the need becomes strong enough and the means blatantly available, then maybe we can start talking.
I get sick of hearing how everything seems alright, or that at least things are getting better, because of the multiple venues available to creators today. It's grossly disgusting to be overwhelmingly distracted, time after time, from the fundamental need for fans, professionals and creators to voice a loud discontent with the brutal rape of creators, that's become the hallmark practice of the industry. The corporately driven forces, holding back the growth of comics shops, as an example, whether intentionally or by reckless abandonment, or for whatever reasons they may or may not have, will not consider changing course unless they are faced with an essential need to do so, relative to their own best interests.
If this was a comic book, it's almost as if the heroes have been hypnotized into becoming ultra-pacifists, bickering among themselves about the presumed benevolence of the villains. I think we've had enough of that already.