5 Challenges Threatening Indie Comics as an Art Form

If you’re a lover of art and literature, you can indulge in both hobbies by taking up reading indie comics. Although these comics were first introduced in the 1960s, they caught on in a really big way in the 1980s with a whole range of new genres. Authors and artists developed themes that appealed to the adult audience in place of superheroes who ruled the world of comics published by giants like DC Comics and Marvel.

In recent times, several independent publishers have emerged marketing their offerings to readers across the country. You’ll come across titles like Battlecats from Mad Cave Studios, Saga written by Brian K. Vaughan, Kinski by Gabriel Hardman, and Red Team written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Craig Cermak to name a scarce few.

Up Until 2014, Indie Comics Sales Were Soaring in Popularity

According to CNBC, the North American market for indie comics or graphic novels as they are also called, expanded from a range of $650 to $700 million in the year 2009 to $835 million in 2014. Readers welcomed the slick storylines written by new aspiring authors teamed with new age artists who created innovative frames to depict the tales. Not only did the issues become collectibles but some of the most popular books are adapted into TV series and movies. You’ll be surprised to know that many of the series that you’ve been following avidly or movies you love are actually based on comic stories. For instance, movies like Wanted by Mark Millar which was made into the Angelina Jolie starrer by the same name, The Addams Family made into 3 different movies, and Oblivion immortalized by Tom Cruise. And, of course, there are well-known series like The Walking Dead, Riverdale, and Arrow.

However, in recent times, sales of indie comics seem to have slowed suggesting that this art form will need more patronage from readers if it is going to survive. Several factors are making it hard for both independent publishers and the big guns to maintain the interest of their audience. Here’s why.

1 – Most Graphic Novels are Published by their Original Authors

While the market has several publishing houses commissioning writers and artists to create series for them, most adult comics are developed and released by the authors. Creating the novel and getting it illustrated by working closely with the artist takes a lot of time and is largely labor-intensive. Many writers need four to five years before their books are ready for sale in the open market and they can make any real money. At the same time, authoring a book is creative work and not something that can be done as a side hustle.

As a result, any novelist wanting to design an indie comic must invest in a venture that may or may not appeal to the audience. Having sold copies to distributors, most novelists must wait for at least 5 months before the books start to make money and they get paid. Often times, vendors may cancel orders for further books in the series if the first few don’t sell. That’s another risk the writers have to take. Above all, like the folks on TheBeat reveal, profits are not exactly attractive in the arena.

2 – Digital Prints are Offering Tough Competition

The big guns of the indie comics industry are now offering readers the opportunity to download back issues of their best-selling books. Given a choice between spending money on paperback copies and signing up for a monthly or yearly subscription, readers tend to opt for digital media to enjoy stories about their favorite superheroes. Comics released on the internet do have an advantage though. Fans interested in this genre can find them online in place of hunting for them at stores. Further, as this feature on Wired explains, lovers of books enjoy the experience of holding, feeling, and breathing in the aromas of actual prints so much that they will go ahead and buy them even if it is cheaper downloading them from the internet.

3 – Indie Comics are Not Easy to Find

One of the biggest setbacks for graphic novels is that distributors are not exactly mainstream dealers so you’re not likely to find this genre of literature at your usual bookstore. As a result, fans of indie comics should know where to find them and when they walk into a store, they should know what to look for. All the same, the popularity of the movie and TV versions is generating enough interest for people to want to look for the books and read them simply because they loved watching them. The original books have more detailed stories and many readers pick them up because they want to know what’s going to happen next. Publishers are also offering complete series in a single book form to entice buyers.

4 – Graphic Novels Appeal to a Specific Audience

Only Should you check out this article on the Forbes magazine, you’ll learn that indie comics appeal to a specific audience which is why they are losing out on the next generation of fans. Most kids, teenagers, and young adults are only familiar with superheroes released by DC Comics and Marvel possibly because of the collectibles they come with. Movies and other merchandise introduce kids to characters that they come to adore. In comparison, the main protagonists of graphic novels are largely unknown to such readers.

5 – Indie Comics are Typically Non-Returnable

Storekeepers stocking graphic novels must deal with the possibility of incurring losses if the titles don’t sell. That’s because most distributors have a non-returnable policy. Retailers must carefully strike a balance between not having too many back copies of books that won’t sell and having enough copies of books that become hits.

Graphic novels are an exciting literature genre that gives readers a more immersive experience with new storylines and beautiful illustrations. Such novels have a wide range of themes like fantasy, magic, horror, sci-fi and alien, comedy, and so much more. It would be unfortunate if the development of this art form were to slow down simply from lack of adequate interest. You could help give these comics exposure to a larger platform of readers so that their creators continue to develop them in the future. Indie comic, anyone? The movie’s coming out soon!

Thanks to Saroj

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