I have some real problems with the state of the comic book industry right now. If it were up to me, I would force these rules upon every creator, publisher, shop and reader, Thanos-style.
I was considering posting this list over at my comic book site, Kids and Comics. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that I want to keep the focus of that site specifically on kids items. While there are some kid-related points here, it speaks to the wider industry. Later this week I'm going to follow it up with a piece about pricing, collecting and why the publishers get away with charging exorbitant prices (see points one and two here). Dig in!
- Cover prices of regular comics shall not exceed $2.99.
…and that's for special issues. I buy full color, ad-free technical books (mainly about Photoshop) for 10 cents per page. A 32-page comic should be $3.20 with no ads. With ads, cut the price in half. We're getting gouged, people.
- Cover prices of kids' comics shall not exceed $1.49.
It's not that I resent publishers their right to make money, far from it. It's just that every time there's a price increase, we're told “the cost of paper has gone up” or some such nonsense. It's not true. Prices on comics have risen at a pace far exceeding similar formats like books and magazines. Cosmopolitan magazine had a cover price of $2.50 in 1988. Today, the cover price is $4.29, an increase of 71.6%. In 1985, Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 had a cover price of 75 cents. Final Crisis #1 had a cover price of $3.99. That's a 439% increase. People wonder why kids aren't buying comics like they did in previous generations?
- Advertising in the comics must match the demographic of the readers.
Publishers are generally good about this, but some things do get overlooked. Ads for teen- and adult-related things shouldn't be showing up in books aimed at the under-10's.
- Anniversary or milestone issues may only be published every fifty issues.
Your 25th issue isn't a milestone. There's nothing special about lasting two years and a month, unless your title was created by Jim Lee, in which case, getting past number two is a historical event. Your #50 is a big deal. Your #100 is a big deal. Publishing a book with ten extra pages and twice the cover price every 25 issues is wrong.
- Rob Leifeld is not allowed to draw anymore.
- Characters that are killed off must remain dead for a period of at least 20 real years.
Killing off and bringing back Superman was hollow and silly. Bringing back Barry Allen is dodgy, but acceptable. Bringing back Bucky, though? Out of bounds. Next they'll bring back Uncle Ben and really ruin things.
- DC is not allowed to publish anything with the word “Crisis” in it ever again. Ever. Again.
Honestly, Final Crisis was a bloody mess. Hard to follow, pointless, and ineffectual—not the words I want to use to describe a DC Crisis, but I must. Bruce Wayne will be back in a year, maybe two—count on it. He's “trapped” in the past. Do you realize how easy it is to get out of that? Everything you do in the past affects the future. All he has to do is write “Hey, it's me, Batman. I'm trapped in the past. Come get me.” on a few cave walls, and he'll be back to the present in, um, no time… so to speak. Maybe I'm missing something, but this seems like a no-brainer.
- No more variant covers.
They're insulting. The collectibility of comics is supposed to be a side-effect, not the purpose. I thought we learned our lesson back in the 90's. Collectors and speculators, aided by the publishers with their silly variants, destroyed the industry. How much are those 50 copies of Jim Lee's X-Men #1 (ten of each variant cover) in your closet worth these days? After a nice period of time with no variants, we're starting to get them again, to the detriment of the industry.
- Wolverine is limited to appearing in no more than two ongoing series and three limited series at any given time.
Wolverine is a perfect example of a company believing its own hype. Marvel told everyone throughout the 80's and 90's how awesome Wolverine is, and people, for some reason, believed them. Now, Marvel seems unable to publish a book without Edward Pointyhands showing up at some point. It's almost like they have no confidence in anything they're publishing unless he makes an appearance or co-stars in the book.
- No company-wide “This Changes EVERYTHING!!!” events for a period of 5 years.
When there is no stability, when the company is CHANGING EVERYTHING!!! every year or two, the series have far less impact than they should have. Give us five years of stability. We don't need to kill off major characters every summer because at this point, it just looks like they're doing it out of habit and not because it's the best way to tell the story.
- Company-wide events must crossover into established series for as long as they are running.
Nothing pulls the readers out of an event like the fact that while major events are happening in the limited series, it's status quo in the regular titles. Final Crisis was published over the course of nearly one full year. In that span of time, there were two issues of Batman that tied into it and one issue of Justice League of America. That's it. It is impossible to take an event seriously when it has zero impact on any of the regular titles. Marvel isn't much better. Civil War tied into 16 regular series (major ones like She-Hulk, Blade and Moon Knight), but there were 13 side series, like Civil War: X-Men. Why weren't those X-Men stories told in the regular X-Men series?
- You have to finish your drink every time Alan Moore says he wants nothing to do with <insert movie based on his comic here> in an interview.
Okay, that's not really a rule for the industry, that's a rule for people playing the Alan Moore drinking game. One more then:
- All publishers must keep the primary focus of comics on comics: dead tree material, roll-it-up, put-it-in-your-pocket, real comic books.
Having digital comics is great, but kids don't need yet another reason to sit in front of a computer. Comics are meant to be read laying on the floor surrounded by a pile with your friends. You know, you can survive (more or less) on fast food, but nothing beats a home-cooked meal. Keep comics real.