What has gone wrong within the industry and can it be fixed? The rape and pillage, in the eyes of some, may have left the comic book industry gasping for life support. It seems that for an industry that has seen so much success, the history of comic books, has apparently been confounded by seemingly dumb mistakes.
The first could have very well been the coining of the name "comic books". The earliest versions of the so-called half-tab (for half tabloid) reprints of the Sunday funnies (the comics) became known as "comic books". This led to the thinking in general, that comic books contained comic or funny material, which we all know, is a far stretch from reality. Comic books can be very somber, dark or adventurous magazines. It has often been suggested that there should be another term coined to better describe this literary package we all know as comic books. To date, no other user-friend term has been suggested for use in the comic book industry.
A second misdirection came when magazine prices started to rise. Instead of increasing comic book prices, like other successful magazines did, the comic book industry decided to cut pages to keep the then current price tag of 10 cents. This brought on the impression that comic books were "cheap" by definition, and neglected the fact that a dime was a lot of money at one time (steak & eggs cost 35 cents). This presented the image that comic books were just for kids. It also made the product increasingly less viable for retail merchants to stock. Why take up the same shelf space, when a higher priced magazine would do more nicely. Again the perceived value of the comic book was loosing credibility.
Then as the 1950s rolled around, an individual by the name of Dr. Frederick Wertham, published a book entitled "Seduction of the Innocents". Through the use of unscientific research and assumptions, he stated that all the nation's ills were directly related to kids reading comic books (ah hmm, what?). Central to his thesis, was the misassumption that comic books were strictly for kids. The more adult material, it was irrationally assumed, was aimed at our sweet, naïve innocent children. Yes, we do have to protect our children, but it still bothers me to no end, that certain self-righteous individuals believe their lot in life is to make the rest of the planet adhere to their own personal beliefs. If this were the case, then our great country would have never been founded.
With this wildly irrational attack on the comic book industry and many congressional leaders jumping on the bandwagon, comic books were gaining a bad reputation. The comic book industry publishers at this point, could have banded together and declared that comic books, like movies, were not "just for kids". It should have been stated that the wide range of comic book genres represented was target to as wide a range of readers. All but one of the publishers (William Gaines, publisher of EC Comics) buckled under to this Congressional Investigation and the Comic Code Authority was created. This governed the content of comic books and ensured that for the next 15 years or so, the literary content would not rise much above that of pablum for the mind. Therefore another slide into incredibility for the comic book industry took place. Can the comic book industry be saved? Very possibly, but when the individuals in charge of the saving are as eager as ever to make the same mistakes all over again, what will the outcome be? They don't even appear to be cleaver enough to make new mistakes.
Dave Gieber, a former rocket engineer, has decided to take up residency on the Internet. He is the owner and editor of several websites, one of which was built around one of his childhood passions; www.comic-book-collection-made-easy.com . You can visit here to keep up to date on the world of comic books and comic book collecting. Feel free to sign up for my comic book ezine.