Announcement: Final Exam Questions

As promised, here are your final exam questions for Tuesday’s final.  Remember, you only pick one of these to write your essay on.  You can prepare ahead of time to your heart’s content, but you cannot bring any material into the class.  I’m looking for a thoughtful, detailed, intelligent, and interesting approach to how you address the question you choose.  So, here are the questions:

  1. The direct market is arguably one of the most important developments in the history of the comic book.  Explore the the factors that contributed to the development of the direct market, the impact that the direct market had on both the comic book industry and the medium of comics, and the future of the direct market.
  2. While most people think about comic books, they most often think about mainstream publishers and characters.  However, independent comic book “movement” has had as much of an impact on comic books as the mainstream industry.  Discuss the development of the independent comics scene.  Be sure to include a discussion of the influence that indie comics have had on mainstream comic industry.
  3. You simply cannot talk about the history of the modern comic book without talking about the Comics Code Authority.  Discuss and explore the events that led up to and shaped the foundation of the Comics Code Authority, the fallout (both in terms of the creative aspects of the of the industry and the business aspects of the industry), and the Modern Age revolution in comics as it relates to the Comics Code Authority.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to give me a shout.  I look forward to seeing everyone on Tuesday at 12:45.  Remember to bring a blue book and a pencil/pen (I don’t care which)

Announcement: Bonus Blog

so folks, as I promised, here is a bonus blog for you. It is worth the same as all of your other blogs – and will either make up for a blog you missed or give you a little extra boost in your grade.  It will be due by Sunday @ 5pm.  So, here is the question:

Choose one thing (creator, company, event, invention, trend, etc.) that you think has had the most important impact on the development of the modern comic book (industry, medium, etc.) – and explain why you think its had the biggest impact on the development of the modern comic book.  Be specific!  So, choosing “Marvel” definitely won’t cut it (unless you are talking about something specific about Marvel).

Happy blogging!

Bonus blog

I believe the creator has the biggest impact on the industry. They are the ones creating the book; they are the ones creating the story. Without them there would be no comic, and in several modern instances there would not be a “movie representation.” There are many popular movies that are based off of comic books. There are even some cartoons based off of comic books. Where would these be without the creator?

                One example of a popular movie that would not be around is Superman. There have been several movies that have come out over the years that were based on this legendary comic. There was also a cartoon show about him, Smallville, and even some really weird things, like the Krypto the Superdog cartoon. If the creators had never dreamed Superman and Clark Kent up none of these would exist.

                Another example is G.I. Joe. The movie recently came out, personally I enjoyed it, and it was based off of the comic books and the cartoon. Transformers one and two have both come out and they have a history that includes comic books, cartoons, and a lesser known Japanese cartoons, toys, and comics. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is another comic based movie. The ever popular V for Vendetta, Watchmen, X-Men, Ironman, Blade, Teen Titans, Green Arrow, and many more were all based off of comic books (if you would like to see  a list feel free to go here: http://www.comicbookmovie.com/comic_book_movies/).

                Some of the Comics that either have or have not become movies have become actual books (literature). The Transformers and G.I. Joe moves each have their own books. There are a few Japanese Manga that have become novel series, like Fullmetal Alchemist.

                None of these things would be possible without the creator. Yes, there needs to be someone to publish it and whatnot, but without the creator the comic doesn’t exist.

Bonus Blog

While fan base seems like the obvious answer to the question of what has had the most impact on the modern comic book industry, I firmly believe that is what keeps the industry alive. When Jason Howard visited the classroom he mentioned that he has spoken with many fans that did not like his comic when they first started reading it, but after following the comic they began to enjoy it. I think this is an excellent example of the persistence many comic fans have. While plot and illustration strongly impact the reader’s willingness to buy a comic, I think it is ultimately up to the reader to invest their time enough to care. It is like watching a television show; if someone does not like one episode of a television show but continue watching it, they may get hooked on the series anyway because of the plot. But ultimately it is the consumer’s decision as to whether a plot is worth following.

There are a million different answers to the question asked, but I think that without the consumer fan base none of the other factors matter. Each person has a different perception of what makes a good comic; some like art, some like plot, some like action, etc. Because consumers have different opinions of what makes a good comic, it is hard to say a storyline is the most important part of the industry because to someone else the storyline may be the least important factor of a comic.

Without an established fan base no comic would survive, let alone the industry itself. The fans are what keep the industry alive and without them and their interest in each comic the industry would die. That is the beauty of the fan base, because each person has their own opinion of what is good and bad in a comic, there are so many different types of comics. Without the opinion of fans comics would be boring and too similar to one another.

extra credit blog

I think the idea of a fan base community has had the most important impact on the development of the modern comic book industry. Without the enthusiastic fans who would write letters to the creators and writers or the numerous fans who keep up with the issues and purchase the tickets for Comic con that the industry has been able to get through tough economic times. The comic book industry has survived through wars and not so bright presidents simply because of the strong support in their choice of comic book. Merchandising, ticket sales, web blogs and fan created websites are what keep the companies creative in thinking of better ways to keep up with the times and to not be overshadowed by Hollywood trends. Fans who create websites who recommend comic books to others helps expand and bring in more readers who may not have given comic books a chance. People don’t just wake up one day and strike an interest. Hollywood has taken comic books and turned them into strong showings at the box office and endless amounts of merchandise but without someone coming up with the idea to make the superhero comic book into a movie, it would not have been possible. The person would have to have read comics and its characters in order to bring it up to producers as a potential movie. It may be the storyline or the hot leading lady (or dude) but it is the fans that continue to purchase/subscribe and follow comic books that give the modern comic book industry motivation to keep growing with its readers. Fans that create art or comic books themselves and grow up having it become a career. Regardless of the little that actually become successful in the industry, they help contribute to providing a future for comic books.

Bonus Blog – Superman

I believe that the character of Superman has had the most important effect on the development of the modern comic book. Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, in 1938, and since then the comic book medium and industry have never been the same. The history of comics in America is certainly one of ups and downs, but throughout, superhero stories have been by far the most popular genre in American comics. Superman IS the prototypical superhero, and his influence on American comics (and many other aspects of American society for that matter) should not be underestimated.

It is hard to imagine an American (of a cognisant age) without some knowledge of the story of Superman, given his status as a cultural icon. Jerry Siegel (writer) and Joe Shuster (illustrator) created Superman, a being born on the planet Krypton and rocketed to Earth by his scientist father just before the planet’s destruction. According to the tale, Superman is discovered by a Kansas farmer and his wife, given the name Clark Kent, and taught strong morals as he grows in an awareness of his superhuman abilities. Every superhero title in publication today can be considered a variation of the original archetype born in Superman. Even antiheroes, whose imperfections place them outside the realm of typical heroism, belong to this community of fictional characters who form a lineage that can be traced back to the Man of Steel; after all how could there be an antihero without the classic model of the superhero? The rapid rise in popularity of Superman comics upon his arrival onto the scene in 1938 and the unprecedented amounts of revenue reaped in his name proved to publishers that the comic book is a lucrative medium beyond a reasonable doubt. With their ingenious creation of Superman, Siegel and Shuster kick-started a young industry that needed affirmation, and formulated an original genre that is possibly the most important American contribution to comics.

Bonus Blog — The Anti-Hero

I know this seems obvious, but the anti-hero changed the comic book industry in so many ways. The way that I think is most important though is the affect it had on the stories that could be told. Comics could go from knights in shining armor walking over the worlds filth, to a dark grizzled hero that would crawl through it. The heroes that would get the job done, but sometimes they’d have to do things that Golden Age super heroes would never consider, because sometimes for true justice to be served, some laws need to be broken.

Having an anti-hero as an element of comic story telling opened up whole new directions for comics to go. Comics had already created characters with depth and emotions, now events could affect them in whole new ways. When Batman was originally created, he was a man that worked with authorities to take down criminals, the only thing that set him apart from a police officer is that his identity was a secret and that he had access to greater resources than them. Now though, Batman is a character that was hardened by the death of his parents who will use any means necessary to make sure that the villains are apprehended. He breaks laws and the cops are after him just as much as the villains are. He is no longer a character whose punches go “WA-POW!” and that makes him all the more interesting and complex.

Another good example of this is in the recent Ultimate Avengers. When Captain America finds out that his son is the the mastermind behind the plot of an evil organization, instead of vowing to fight harder with the Avengers to apprehend him, he goes underground and even resorts to fighting other super heroes that get in his way. This makes the story more interesting, and I think there are many other examples of where the anti-hero element has opened broader pathways for comic story lines.

Extra Credit Blog Post

I think the creation Spider-Man has had the biggest impact on the development of the modern comic book. Although Spider-Man may not be as old as Superman or Batman, both of whom are also quite famous, Spider-Man has become the face of Marvel and is one of the most easily recognized comic book characters.

Although Superman became the golden standard for heros back in the 1940’s, Stan Lee revolutionized the concept of a superhero by giving Peter Parker a miserable life that stemmed from his outings as Spider-Man. Up until Spider-Man, superheros had been painted as having perfect lives, and little was shown of the strain they underwent while battling villians. Spider-Man changed all that. Spider-Man’s personal life is constantly put in jeopardy, and misery after misery seems to follow the poor hero around. The overriding theme of the Spider-Man series is that if Spider-Man wasn’t Spider-Man, he wouldn’t be so miserable, and would in fact lead quite a nice life. Spider-Man was the first superhero to struggle with the job. Superman, on the other hand, was a more typical superhero of the times, stoically going through his job without ever seeming to truly be strained or tested (he is, after all, Superman).

If Spider-Man had never been introduced to the face of comics, we never would have seen the much darker, grittier superheroes of today. Today’s average superhero is quite human; they face moral, human trials, and find themselves tested by the challenges they face in a far more human fashion than their counterparts 50 years ago. Spider-Man opened the door for this. If Stan Lee had never drawn Spider-Man (and later the Fantastic Four) as being so human, the door might never have been open for Frank Miller to draw The Dark Knight Returns. Superheroes would have continued, for some time at least, to stay “perfect,” be infallible. The creation of a struggling superhero led the way towards the tortured, dark, superhero. Spider-Man started a trend of far more “human” superheroes, beings who felt the strain of their jobs and responded, quite often, in human fashion. Although their feelings are often shaped in a grand fashion (they almost always make the “right-but-hard” decision), they no longer make it in such black-and-white fashion as they used to. And all because Spider-Man was a little more human.

Blog Post: Bonus

          If I had to determine one person who was able to single handedly change the face of comics it would have to be Alan Moore.  Moore wrote some of the most influential books of all time: Watchmen, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Swamp Thing, and V for Vendetta to name a few.  In the 1980’s Moore changed the face of comics forever and created the dark style of storytelling that became so popular afterwards in the Watchmen and V for Vendetta.  His style laid down the path for all comic book writers in the 90’s and still influences writers today with his realistic and flawed heroes.

          When it comes to Moore it’s hard not to talk about Watchmen as a perfect example of his overall career work.  The story is dark and suspenseful with realistic characters that look into a true view of what would happen if some of the classic comic stereotypes, like superheroes who think they can save everyone and know what’s best for the public.  This book is what would likely happen if there were people with unlimited power, but a very limited sense of moral obligation.  In those types of situations even trying to do right can lead to terrible abuses.

          Moore wrote about the flawed heroes and showed reality instead of the unreal and squeaky clean look at people and society that comics before him had.  In From Hell he shows graphic scenes of Victorian England’s poverty and prostitution.  There may have been writers who wrote about graphic adult situations and themes before, usually in underground Comix, but Alan Moore was the first to find huge amounts of success because of it.  On top of the experimentalism in his writing he is also one of the most intelligent and great writers to ever grace the comic book industry.  Moore has writing abilities better than most novelists and brings those skills to his comics.  Few would disagree that Moore is and always will be in the upper-echelon of comic book writers.  His works are often considered the best of all time and his influence cannot be doubted.

Bonus Blog- Direct Market

The creation of the direct market had the biggest impact on the comic book industry because it encouraged the emergence of the local comic book stores, it created a comics distribution monopoly with Diamond, and it led to the collapse of the comic industry after a speculation boom in the 1990’s. Before the creation of the direct market, comic books were sold in the mass market in public areas such as drugstores, grocery stores, and newsstands. The comics were haphazardly available and arranged. This discouraged fans because it was difficult to follow the storyline of the comics. The local comic book store took risks on new comics, kept old issues under the direct market system, displayed the comic books in an organized spacious fashion, and kept the comic books in good condition. The comic book specialty shop became the center of the comic book fan culture, encouraging new fans and sustaining the current fans. However the local comic book stores became secluded from the public and overtime this developed the stigma associated with comic books today.

With the establishment of the direct market in the 1970’s, originally the distribution system was set up with regional companies. Then in the 1980’s two major companies emerged and became more centralized: Diamond Comics Distribution and Capital City Distribution. When the speculation boom hit and then the following crash, Diamond bought out all the other distributors and emerged as the only distribution company. Essentially Diamond has a monopoly over the comic book industry, but does not have a true monopoly over all periodical literature because it does not deal with magazines.  Diamond is the only option for comic book publishers and stores; however Diamond can control the comics that it sends out to the stores so sometimes it is difficult for creators to get new comics out to the public.

The direct market led up to the speculation boom in the early 1990’s where collectors realized that scarce historical comics were now very valuable. So collectors began to buy lots of comics with the hopes that these comics would be valuable in the future. Publishers bought into this frenzy by creating limited edition comics, event comics, holographic, glow in the dark, and foil covered comics, and creating new series. The local comic book stores bought comics in excess with the idea that they would be sold. This created an artificial boom in the industry. Once consumers realized that the comics would have no real value in the future, the comic book industry crashed. The direct market, Diamond, and speculation almost killed the comic book industry and the industry has never returned to its height that it had even before the speculator’s boom.