When Warner Brothers gained the ownership of Detective Comic, or just DC, they didn’t buy it for the comics. They bought it for the IPs and all the money that came with them. The comics were, and still are, just a side gig for the main purpose: to farm out the comics of their usable material and make proper bucks on television, movies and merch. Marvel has, ultimately, become the same kind of entity for Disney, though Marvel was this kind of IP farm well before in the 1990’s before Disney’s purchase was looming in the horizon. It’s a rare industry where it was intentionally screwed over my marketers and CEOs that had nothing do with the creation of the comics themselves. Then again, your normal comic writer and artist isn’t a jack-of-all-trades and often suck with the business side of things, which often can lead swift downfall of a label even if the books were well made.
Then again, the comic book industry has always been full of people who want to abuse others, steal someone else’s thunder for their own gain, stab people in the back to undermine deals and such. While this is somewhat common in every field, the American comic industry is marred with people and stories of someone effectively screwing their partner over because of money. One of the best examples is Bill Finger, the person who effectively created what is recognised as Batman nowadays, with Bob Kane’s original concept being trash and trashed. Another would be Todd McFarlane, who quit Marvel with other writer-editors to create Image Comics in order to fulfil the dream of creators owning their characters. McFarlane is a massive hypocrite for championing such cause, but then claiming that other writers and artists were only hired to create characters for him. The American comic book industry is full of stories of creators turned business, and they become the exact same kind of businessmen they hated while being under their heels. Some of the stories that float around or have been discussed to lengthy extends, like in SF Debris’ Rise and Fall of the Comic Empire series, are more fantastical than the comics themselves. It’s no surprise that an industry that carved itself into the American culture found itself loathed and shunned, only to be used like a cheap whore whenever their parent companies needed something to be squeezed out.
The sad thing is, the mainstream American comic industry deserves every bit of loathing and mocking it gets, if not for anything else but for essentially starting its own slow, painful death that’s still going on and only somewhat saved by the digital revolution. The single most destructive thing the American comic industry saw was the removal of comics from general grocery and drug stores and segregating themselves into specialised comic stores, which then became livelihood to some alongside the comic merch, card and board games and some such. Diamond, the distributor with a monopoly position, is the only lifeline these stores had for the longest time and the current world situation is rocking that fragile balance, especially now that Marvel seems to turn to digital more and more with their comics. It’s a situation that the industry and the very core customers have cultivated throughout the last decades, and now they have to face the fact that it isn’t all that viable. The best selling comics now have the same number of sales as most of the cancelled titles in the 1990’s or earlier.
It doesn’t help that the writers and artists themselves are unprofessional, to put it lightly. These are people who can steal someone’s life defining work for themselves because of money and (relative) fame, so it isn’t surprising these same people lash out at the general population and at their own fans. When a writer tells straight up not to buy their comic for whatever reason, the comic stores feel the hurt. Harassing your own consumers and raving on the social media falls into this category as well, and it’ll never end as soon as these people keep getting all that attention. It’s one of the reasons why, in general, both the American and global culture has deemed these mainstream American comics as not even worth the paper they are printed on.
Both the comics and its creators are the reason why American comics are regarded as low-tier entertainment with little intelligence to them. The mainline American comics had almost solid full century of laughable content. Yes, they had great stories and deep explorations of human psyche. Yes, they had absolutely marvelous artwork and broke ground and defined a whole visual style. At the same time these great stories were also extremely childish and directly made for kids, their exploration was weak at best. The artwork was still marvelous, and then co-opted by “real” artists to be actually defined and used. Andy Warhol being the best example of an artist who plagiarised comic panels by blowing them up in size and making millions on other peoples’ works. Nobody blinked at this, because at the time, and barely even now, comics were not considered art. The perception of comics being for children with their colourful pages and less-than stellar writing, hasn’t exactly changed, but it has morphed into that comics are for fat nerds who haven’t left their parents’ house and barely have any work. As inaccurate as that is, to a large extent, the comic book stores don’t help with this. On the contrary, it might’ve been the originator of this view as well as the continuing perpetrator. Just shower yourself before going to a comic or game store, please. That alone helps a lot.
The fall of the American comics in the late 1990’s and early 00’s were one of the reasons why Japanese media, both comics and cartoons, took so much hold of the new millennium’s ten’s. With a new generation seeking something new as well as offering an alternative to languishing American comics, which also had constant down spiral of quality to the point of breaking some of the characters completely, it’s no wonder the Eastern media managed to carve itself a niche. Of course, this wasn’t a new thing, Japanese media had been making its way to American mainstream for several decades at that point, but until then it was either relatively underground or heavily localised to the point of being unrecognisable from its source material.
The American mainstream comic book industry would have died few times already if not for the fervent support of its customers. Customers they constantly keep attacking nowadays. It’s an industry that’s not exactly what we could call healthy, but it is invaluable as an idea farm for the big companies. All the negative and stereotypical stuff that’s touted about these comics since, well, from the beginning, still applies to them. It’s and industry that should’ve died few times around only to be rebuild stronger, but rather it has been kept on life support, along all the comic book stores. As sad as it is, the characters we see in the comics are not the ones that are integral part of the American culture, and to see their more iconic visages, you have to go to the cinemas. (If all that wicked tongue’s are true, that’s not going to last long either.) After all, the cinema is the highest peak American media can reach. Comic books, on the other hand, is at the bottom of the barrel alongside video game journalism.