An Analogy to Understand the Decline of the American Comics Industry

The problem with starting a comic publishing company is that there are many assumptions made by the ill informed about the history and business of comics that are simply false.  For example, in a desire to go off and make the price of comics cheaper than they are right now, fans will suggest  that the publishers switch to cheap newsprint rather than the higher quality paper comics are printed on. This, by their thinking, would lower the cost of production, therefore allowing the companies to lower the price.  Any investigation into the actual costs would suggest that switching to newsprint would not appreciably lower the costs  of making comics; for most companies, this is waste of time.

Another assumption  that’s widely held among right leaning comic fans is that leftists are a significant part of the decline of comics. This is also false.  The obnoxious  leftism that really drives people away in substantial numbers only really started happening in 2010, and there’s evidence that sales and general influence started to significantly decline in 1960. By the way, the amount of open leftism was very small in 1960, and the problems that caused huge declines in circulation (in this case, a  limited mindset on the capability of comics and the stupid business decisions that resulted) were in every single company during those years.

So in order to help people who perhaps aren’t as familiar with the overall history and business of American comics as to the relative insignificance of leftism in the cause of massive problems,  I’ll use an analogy to help understand how relatively unimportant they are.

Imagine that there’s a house. It’s a nice large house, with some parts more developed than others,  but a pretty good house nonetheless.  Then, one day, a fire starts in the house. It starts small, as all fires do, but then it gets larger and larger until it consumes most of the house in a fiery blaze.  Then some pyromaniacs come along; they see the fire, and decide to fulfill their desire to see the house continue to burn by getting gasoline to pour onto the fire.  When the gas is poured, they hoot and cheer as they watch even more fire come out of the house.

The leftists are the pyromaniacs, and the comics industry is the house. Any investigation into the cause of the fire will have to label the pyromaniacs a secondary cause and go into the house to determine the primary  cause or causes.   Just kicking out the leftists, but failing to significantly change the industry and the culture surrounding it would be like stopping the pyromaniacs but failing to put out the fire.  It would be Pyhrric victory which would be extraordinarily difficult to recover from.

Leftism is responsible for a great many ills in our society, but  always remember that it is possible for an industry or institution to decline simply because of a combination of incompetence  and stupidity.

 

 

 

Digital Disruption in Print Comics

It’s interesting to note how technology affects the business different kinds of art.   When the Kindle came into the market around 2007, I don’t think many people realized how radically it would change the distribution and pricing of prose books.  It’s was and still is causing massive problems for the Big Four, who aren’t doing a good job time adapting to it. These problems adopting the new technology by the Big Four has allowed self-published authors and small publishing houses like Castalia House to get readers that the Big Four never would have actually gotten, either due to an ideological resistance to publishing those types of stories or an inability to convince the upper management to take those kinds of risks.

For comic books, the effect of digital comics on the regular publishers like Marvel, DC, Image, etc. has actually had the opposite effect.  Despite the doomsaying from people in comics saying print comics would die with the introduction of digital comics, the digital comics appear to have basically been additive(1).  This is rather interesting, as publishing is (according to Vox Day), a negative sum game. The fact that digital comics have been additive merits an investigation.

Why hasn’t there been the disruption in the comic book industry due to digital publishing like there was in prose publishing?

It’s not like there isn’t a Kindle like device with the iPad and Android tablets hanging around.  There’s also a big digital distribution service in Comixology that’s backed by Amazon and has pretty much all the major American publishers and even a few French and Japanese publishers.  By all accounts, this situation is ripe for a disruption on a level with the prose book industry.  So why the disruption come like it probably should have?

In order to find out why there hasn’t been the disruption that should have happened, it’s worth examining why Amazon’s Kindle device was so successful.  This analysis is subject to hindsight bias, but examining the differences should show us why the disruption hasn’t occurred.

So what were the factors that allowed the Kindle to become so successful? I think it boils down to these reasons:

  1. It came from a trusted company.

In this case, it was Amazon. Amazon had built up goodwill and trust from their time of selling books and other items.

  1. Had a large list of titles that people wanted.

Since you want to have as many people as possible buy your ereader, having a broad range of titles is very important. With its self-publishing program, the number of books has increased even more.

  1. Easy to use

The Kindle is very easy to use, which means more people will use it.  The more complicated the device, the less people will use it.

4. Had a reading experience that is for all intents and purposes identical to reading a regular prose books

Most of the other ereaders on the market used normal computers screens for their ereaders. This is a problem, as most people’s eyes are already strained from looking at computers. The Kindle used Epaper, which basically replicates the experience of reading on paper perfectly.

5. Has the right price

Digital versions are typically much cheaper than the print versions. Apple figured out the price point of music should be about $0.99. The right price will probably not be $0.99, but comics do need to find their equivalent of the $0.99 price point.

*****

   So what are the differences? The comics industry has 1, 2, and 3. 5 is pretty well known as a problem, because most comics (from Marvel and DC) are par with their print prices.  However, number 4 is one that while sometimes mentioned, hasn’t really been examined in any kind of depth.

I think that having a reading experience that essentially reads like reading a print comic is the key missing ingredient for a disruption of the magnitude seen in prose publishing.   There are other factors that are important here, like the fact that comics are a niche medium in the U.S.  However, pretty much all these other factors are actually discussed at length, while the fact that there is no device that has an identical reading experience to print comics is basically not discussed at all.  In fact, I barely see anyone discuss it in the comicsphere even though it’s one of the key ingredients that made the Kindle such a runaway success.

There are quite a few factors that would make it difficult for the comic book version of the Kindle to become successful in the United States.

The first is the technological problem.  There’s been some clamor for color epaper, but the technology has been slow to develop.  For a while, the colors have been washed out.  Additionally, when the page was turned, it produced a ghostly afterimage that made the ereader look like it was possessed by Satan.  There has been an advance by Eink Holdings Inc. which seems to solve the problem of having a broad color spectrum.  However, it’s only available in signs.(2,3)  Additionally, the pixels per inch (ppi) is only 150 with that technology. Any hypothetical ereader would have to have 300 ppi at the bare minimum so that images would replicate the look of the print comics. I suspect the actual ppi necessary  to make it work is probably 600.

The second is the size problem.  Comics are a visual medium, which means any hypothetical ereader that wants to capture an almost identical reading experience will need to have a screen that is much bigger than the current Kindle screen.  I read a comment suggesting  an A4 sized screen ( 8.3 x 11.7 in) would be an good size, although I suspect that 8.5 x 12 in. or 8.5 x 11.5 in. would be the ideal size.  This would capture the widest range of comics possible while also allowing for things like cookbooks and textbooks to be read on this brand new Kindle.

The final reason is a money problem. Comics in America have made leaps and bounds in respectability and profitability. Consider that in 1948 there were actual comic book burnings organized and no one would be caught dead saying that comics could be a respectable art form. Now, not only can you get money off comics, but they’re actually respectable.  These are good things, but the brutal reality is that the actual total comics market is pretty small.  In 2015, the comics industry passed $1 billion (4). For comparison, prose publishing is $28 billion(5), and video games are about $23.5 billion(6).  In order for someone like Amazon to invest the money in making an ereader that actually would be able to show comics at the correct dimensions, it the buying market would have to be much much bigger.

I do think the digital revolution will come for print comics, but it’s going to be a lot slower than many people think.

Sources

  1. Has been mentioned many times by John Jackson Miller when discussing digital sales
  2. http://www.eink.com/press_releases/e_ink_announces_advanced_color_epaper_05-24-2016.html
  3. https://www.slashgear.com/e-inks-color-epaper-up-close-24441401/
  4. http://blog.comichron.com/2016/07/comics-and-graphic-novel-sales-top-1.html
  5. http://publishers.org/news/us-publishing-industry%E2%80%99s-annual-survey-reveals-28-billion-revenue-2014
  6. http://www.theesa.com/article/u-s-video-game-industry-generates-23-5-billion-in-revenue-for-2015/

 

Message Fiction

For my three loyal readers:

An interesting blog post  from Superversive SF writer Marina Fontaine about message fiction.

http://superversivesf.com/2017/01/18/waiter-theres-message-fiction/

This was the comment I wrote below the post, currently awaiting moderator approval.

The real problem with message fiction is not the message per se, but the fact that it’s incompetent in how the message is presented. While phrase “message fiction” is fine rhetoric, as dialectic it fails miserably.

Why? Because fiction by it’s very nature is intended to carry messages. In fact, if an author does a horrible job putting in a message or messages, the readers will make an effort to find one. So complaining that fiction has a message is essentially missing the point.

What people really mean by message fiction rhetorically is more accurately called didactic fiction dialectically. Robert McKee had a section about this in his book Story, where he uses the example of an anti war movie that beats you over the head with the message that war is bad over and over until you want to pick up a gun just to anger the storyteller.

Fiction is designed to impart messages like “Good will triumph over evil” subtly, allowing the reader to reason themselves into the message. Fiction is also designed as an argument for and against whatever point of view the author is espousing.

What makes left message fiction so bad is that they are hilariously unsubtle about their message, thus shattering the suspension of disbelief, annoying the reader, and preventing the reader from reasoning themselves into whatever argument the author might have had.

Just my two cents.

The Problem with American Catholicism

My friend the Ecclesial Vigilante had a post a while back showing the difference between a French traditionalist Latin Mass and an American Traditionalist Latin Mass. Read it here. While you’re at it, watch the videos.

https://ecclesialvigilante.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/two-very-different-ways-of-doing-the-same-mass/


I read the post and watched the two videos. The French mass seemed to be authentic and the American mass, well, to be charitable, seemed fake. I don’t doubt the people’s dedication, but it comes off as fake and slightly off-putting, which is not a feeling you want when worshipping at Mass. After mulling on why it should be fake and off putting, I did some research to see if one of the thoughts I was having was credible. Then I came up with a theory.

American Catholicism has problem.  Most of it is phony.

This is not the phoniness of the fact that most of the congregations don’t believe in the faith, the fact that many of the American bishops don’t like their faith or their congregations, or the fact that the vast majority of Catholic churches have the absolute worst of modern era architecture which makes my eyeballs want to cut their optic nerve and jump out of my head in protest of the existence of such atrocious church architecture.   These are all issues, but American Catholicism has much bigger existential problem.  It’s big, because no one realizes it even exists.

American Catholicism has, for all intents and purposes, not really existed until very recently.

This is a provocative statement, but in order to understand its full implications, some history and thought is required.

First, it must be understood that Catholicism reflects the character of the people who adopt it. Irish Catholicism is not the same as German Catholicism, because the Irish and Germans are not the same.  This is true of wherever people decide to follow Catholicism:  it adopts the habits, customs, and worldview to whichever people it happens to be attached to.

So then, the obvious question is as follows: If Catholicism reflects the character of the people who adopt it, what should American Catholicism look like?

It must be noted that despite the propaganda that America is a melting pot of all the various races of the world, this isn’t actually true.  A basic examination of the way the government was set up, the language, the laws, etc. say that American is fundamentally an English nation.  Sure, there were other groups like the Germans, the Irish, and the Scots; however, the vast majority of Americans were English, so they made a nation like England across the sea from where they came, but with a few adjustments and some interesting experiments in the way the government was set up.

Coming back to the question of what should American Catholicism look like, it should look something like this:

American Catholicism should be English derived with a smattering of influence from the other groups who were present here in the America.

For example, a church with a group of Germans would be English with a slight German flavor.

In theory, this is what should have happened. Indeed, it did happen that way, at least, for a while.  America declared its independence in 1776 and won the Revolutionary War in 1781, so the now formerly English Catholics in America started to split off and develop their own unique brand of Catholicism: American Catholicism.  They started to develop their own traditions separate from the English, and things probably went well for a while.  Admittedly, there was persecution, but that’s pretty much normal for any Christian who operates anywhere, so there was nothing out of the ordinary there. Even under the worst of the persecution they could get, America was much kinder to them than the English government ever was. Thus, life went on for Catholics in the United States.

However, something large and terrible happened.  In fact, it was so terrible and so significant that it would alter the destiny of America forever, and kill any real chance of American Catholicism sprouting up for a very long time.

The first of many mass waves of immigration came to America.

This can’t be underestimated in its importance to American history.  While this wave of immigration and subsequent waves of immigration had many effects, two of them are important for the purposes of discussing why American Catholicism is phony:

  • By sheer numbers, other types of Catholicism, mainly Irish, became the predominant form in the United States
  • Catholicism became associated with immigration, and thus became inherently alien to Americans even though it had always been a part of it.

As everyone knows, demography is destiny. The English derived American Catholics became replaced by Irish, Italians, Poles, Germans, and Hungarians. Thus, the standard Catholicism in the United States did not become the English derived Catholicism, which was already in a somewhat shaky position already due to it’s small size, but a bunch of different types of Catholicism, all of them reflecting whatever the original ethnic heritage of the immigrants was; as a result, none of them really fit in with the English derived culture that America had. Ironically, for the longest time the closest that many Americans would get to an American Catholicism would be the Episcopalian Church.

There were two significant outcomes of all this:

  • The immigrant groups had a church that was reflective of their culture, so the Catholicism was not American.
  • When the immigrants “assimilated”, they created a Catholicism that was a mixture of all these different groups of Catholicism, but with no real connection to any of these groups. However, the mixture isn’t  American.

Consequently, American Catholicism feels sterile, artificial, and completely out of place of any of these groups as well as the broader American culture that it’s supposed to be reflecting.

English derived Catholicism in the United States died because it was accidentally replaced by non-English men and women starting in the 1830s. It probably wasn’t noticed at the time, but it did happen, and consequences are very far reaching.

That is the fundamental reason why traditionalism cannot work in the United States and why it can come off as strange to both Americans and non-Americans: there hasn’t been a real tradition that reflects English derived America since the 1830s. It’s not because Americans are inherently anti-tradition, the presence of Enlightenment ideals, Catholic persecution, or even the length of time the United States being inadequate for the establishment of strong Catholicism.  These all ultimately fail the scrutiny of history, and are not adequate explanations.

So if you are an American traditionalist who wants to really be traditional, there are two routes that can be taken:

  • Get back to the very beginning and discover the English roots and get a genuinely English derived Catholicism, make that the norm, and allow it to evolve from there.
  • Go off and separate all Catholic Churches into the different variations for all the different ethnic groups

The first one will be very difficult to, but with introduction of runaway Episcopalians and Anglicans through The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (or as I like to call it, the Anglican Ordinariate), this option is actually not as farfetched as one might think.  This may be the very first time since the 1830s that a viable English derived Catholicism has actually existed in the United States, which I don’t think anyone really realizes. To take option one, convincing all the clergy and well as laypeople to adopt this as the norm would be very difficult. If successful, there would be a truly English derived Catholicism that could evolve to whatever changing needs the American people have over time.

The second option would be rather unpleasant for traditionalists. There would be Italian Catholics, Irish Catholics, Polish Catholics, Mexican Catholics, etc.  However, there would be no American Catholics, which I think is what the traditionalists want. Considering the mixture of the different groups via interbreeding, this option will probably only really apply to recent immigrants and not people who have been here for a long time.

There is a third thing that can happen. It’s entirely possible that American Catholicism is entirely beyond saving, and nothing short of total divine intervention can save American Catholicism. I personally don’t believe this to be true; but in being honest with ourselves, we must at least consider that this possibility is true.

American Catholicism will continue to be phony and fake unless it recognizes its English roots and takes it seriously. Until then, it will be always a stranger in a strange land, always  odd, out of place, and unnecessarily out of sync with the broader American culture it allegedly comes from.

I pray that American Catholicism blooms in the future, but if I’m honest, it’s not looking good right now. May God have mercy on us and protect us.

A brief thought on #Texit

I would like to note that while I don’t think Texas leaving the United States will happen in my lifetime barring something really bad happening (like say, the election of Hillary Clinton to president). However, if worse does come to worse, and Texas does leave, what kind of government  should it have?

It probably won’t have a monarchy. Knowing that, it pretty reasonable to say that it will probably have a democracy.

But what kind of democracy? I personally wouldn’t mind a Swiss style direct democracy. They seem to be doing pretty well over there in comparison to all the other European countries.

What do you think?

Atheism will be destroyed by science.

I know that, as a viable belief system, atheism will be destroyed by science. This is a bold claim, and I believe it to be true.

Why?

It’s simple. If you’re an atheist, you’re only viable philosophical system for understanding the world is materialism, which is

a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter

According to atheism, there should be no existence of any kind of supernatural entities.

However, there’s a massive hole in this philosophical system though that will pop up. You see, despite what some people seem to think, there’s no real reason  to assume that humans  can’t actually detect supernatural entities through some kind of machinery .

I suspect that in the future we will detect supernatural entities through some kind of machine that can detect the supernatural (think PKE meters in Ghostbusters) . As the scientific evidence starts grow larger and larger for the supernatural, atheism as a viable philosophy will simply be destroyed.

In some ways, this is already starting to happen. Confirmed out of body experiences are starting to punch holes in materialism, and more evidence of this type will continue to crop up as time goes on.

I won’t say with any certainty how long this will take, but it will happen. I guarantee it.

Sources

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/materialism

 

Book Club

I’m pleased to introduce the Proverbs 3:13-18 club, a book club designed to expand your thoughts and to challenge yourself intellectually.

Why Proverbs 3:13-18?

Like all good Catholics, I don’t read my Bible enough. Realizing this, I picked a particular book in the Bible to read for Lent and read that one as much of it as possible. One Lent I decided to read the book of Proverbs. I read through the most of Proverbs that Lent, but chapter three, verses thirteen through eighteen jumped out at me. It’s stuck with me with me ever since:

13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy

 

Here are the general rules:

  • The book will be picked by me. If the commentors  have multiple good ideas, I might put it to a vote. The book with the most votes wins.
  • You have a month to read the book. Extensions can and probably will be offered.
  • Once the appointed time is reached, there will be a thread where you can discuss the book and write reviews.

The first book will be

Free Trade Doesn’t Work: What Should Replace It and Why, by Ian Fletcher

Happy Reading!!