The Rise and Fall of Comics in the Modern Era

The comic book industry, like any artistic industry, or any industry for that matter, is cyclical.  There are up times and there are down times.  There are times when sales are through the roof and there are times when sales can’t break through the basement floor.  Right now comics are in an in-between place, unlike a few years ago when things looked pretty grim.  But before that period there was a high that crumbled down before our very eyes.

I’m of course referring to the 1990s when all was right within the comic book world.  This is the time I was really into comics and got to see firsthand the rise and the fall of the comic book industry as it was.

In the ‘90s, comics took a turn for the better, or so we thought.  Books were beginning to get wide recognition thanks in no small part to comic book artists like Image Comics founders Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and others.  Comic properties were beginning to pop up in cartoons and movies like hadn’t been seen before, and the collectible value of comics became a widely known phenomenon.  The aforementioned comic book artists were working for Marvel Comics at the time, and were launching new or revitalized properties that were getting fans newly excited about comics again.  X-Men relaunched and X-Force was born.  Spider-Man exploded with a new title, and fans were eating it all up.

Also, thanks to the dynamic styles of these comic book artists, prints and exclusive covers and the like seemed like the perfect advertising and money-making ploy to comic publishing companies at the time, and the general public somehow got wind of this.  So the average person on the street was buying up all the copies of all these special covers and special stories (Death of Superman, anyone?) that caused the publishers to keep printing.  Before you knew it, everyone had multiple copies of everything, and nothing was worth anything.  Sales went down, creators left the big two, and the speculator market nearly broke the comic industry.

Marvel Comics went into bankruptcy, many fans (such as myself) left comics behind for years, and the movies and cartoons all but disappeared.

A few years later, Marvel restructured, climbed out of bankruptcy, and began making waves again.  Spider-Man and the X-Men hit the big screen, and all of a sudden comics were on the map again.  Not to mention the efforts of the short-lived Crossgen Comics, which brought a lot of people (again, myself included) back into comics.  And with the success of these new ventures, comics began a steady climb back up to a place of mediocrity.

Now, comics are still struggling, but with the success of films and current big storylines it’s possible a rise could occur again.  Providing publishers and speculators don’t make the same mistakes twice, comics could be alright for sometime to come.

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