Comic Books Need An Upgrade – Jimmy Palmiotti


I think comics are treated the way they are, mainly because of the way they look and feel.

 Walk into any bookstore and you will see that presentation demands respect. If comics stay the way they are, size, format, paper, then they will always be treated like magazines and be disposable…and on some level, the people making them will continue to think of them as disposable entertainment.

 Rebooting a line is fun, but at its core, the stories have to be better, mean something, push the characters forward, and entertain in the process.

 I look forward to the time when each title comes out quarterly and they are hardcover books with 68-page single stories. If your basic comic is 22 pages and comes out 12 times a year- that is 264 pages a year. Making them quarterly with better paper, larger print size- hardcover stock and single stories per book, gives us 272 pages a year—longer shelf life-more focused stories, single-artist stories, and with the amount of titles that DC and MARVEL put out, there will still be new books coming out each week.

 On the financial side, you charge accordingly for the books and even better, with a longer shelf life and better visibility , a company can dig in and get major advertisers involved with the books. Yeah, I know some of you hate the ads, but they subsidize a lot of costs and as long as they don’t screw up the story, are a necessary thing.

 As well…we are looking at the demographics of comics changing. The people that buy them have more money, more females are buying the books and so on- so why aren’t we seeing advertising aimed at these new stats? Why are there new car ads and perfume company ads, fashion and so on in the books? Why is the advertising limited to each companies internal products and video games? People that buy comics own homes, go to school, travel, and consume other things. Anyway, that’s the end of my rant for now.

 I have been saying this stuff for years and will be applying it to the the Paperfilms books from now on.

Opinions are welcome folks.

Jimmy Palmiotti

Originally posted on Mr. Palmiotti Facebook page and reposted here with his permission.


3 Replies to “Comic Books Need An Upgrade – Jimmy Palmiotti”

    1. Instead of just promoting yourself with a website link, why don’t you share what you’re doing.
      Share things like the page count you shoot for, what size books you print, examples of your print runs, where are the books distributed, and if they’re hardcover and/or softcover, whatever information you think might be helpful.

      These are the things that we want successful publishers to share so others can learn from their example and gauge against in their own efforts to build in their own publishing.

      Don’t just give us with a website plug, but share what you know, what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, etc. That’s one of the things this website, Comic Creators Secrets, is about.

      Robert W.

  1. [Originally posted on FB]

    (1) If a publisher is going to charge me a BOOK price for a HARDCOVER comic that has a 68-page single story, and that publisher wants to cluster a bunch of ads in it, then how is it NOT just a hardcover MAGAZINE? The point of ads is to offset the cover price, which means that the hardcover book price point is just another way to gouge a fan.

    (2) Why adhere to the traditional size and portrait orientation? Some of my favorite “comics” right now are Oni Press’ collections of John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY web comic. Beautifully oversized! Lusciously landscaped! [And, look! NO ADS!]

    (3) Why be in a hurry to be on a bookshelf, where only the book’s spine is displayed? Bookstore real estate is a premium with frequent turnover, and only periodicals get the full Monty. (It’s even true in comic shops: spine exposure only!) I agree that, perhaps, the public perspective that comics are “disposable” can be insulting to the creative people involved in their production, but dressing it up like a “proper” book won’t necessarily impart “legitimacy.”

    (4) I’m one of those working-married-adults-with-kids-and-a-house. My discretionary income has dropped DRAMATICALLY. If anything, I’m cutting back on media consumption because rent/food/gasoline/medications/&c take up the lion’s share of the household’s budget. Having to line up for pricey hardcovers is a deal-breaker.

    (5) Comics used to be a spare-change kind of expense for kids. So, thinking of them as adult entertainment prices a large segment of the population out of the market. The infrastructure of distribution–that is, the loss of newsstands and current print runs that are orders of magnitude LOWER than those of the golden age–THESE have had the most tremendous effect on access to comics by a broad audience. Even prices for electronic distribution, which should be the modern-day equivalent of spare change to allow for widespread accessibility, are influenced by the comparatively few specialty retailers trying to keep their brick-and-mortar operations afloat.

    (6) Have we EVER had TRULY ACCURATE distribution numbers? Sales numbers? Breakdowns by gender or ethnicity? If I were an advertiser, I’d spend my marketing money on a periodical with a distribution in the hundreds of thousands to a specific population cohort than on a comic book that sold maybe 5,000 copies to mostly 18- to 35-year-old men (some of whom MIGHT be women? Gender-fluid? Non-caucasian?).

    All that said, there are no easy answers because the problems are bigger and older than we’d like to admit; there’s a dearth of really useful information coming from the Big Publishers; advertising revenues haven’t returned to pre-Recession levels; and the internet continues to be the elephant in the room. Personally, I blame the collapse of the distribution system in the ’90s. Maybe the solution to the problem of floppies is having a distributor to compete against Diamond? And, of course, larger print runs that can get back onto magazine racks in more places–grocery stores! Pharmacies! Book stores! Coffee shops! Game shops! [Other places easily accessed by kids!]

    Which doesn’t even touch upon the idea that electronic comic books might NOT really be comic books anymore. According to a now-ancient essay by Alan Moore, one of the advantages of a comic book–the thing that makes it unique among media offerings, the thing it can do that nothing else can–is it’s ability to manipulate time; that is, a reader can twist and fold the pages of a floppy to compare/contrast imagery to simultaneously examine multiple moments of time. Once the reader is locked out of that experience by the limitations of a digital reader, is she reading a comic book? I’d say form, look and feel are critical to the experience; they define it. Otherwise, it’s a different medium.

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