GLENN HAUMAN: The Thirty Year War
“Ladies and gentlemen… rock and roll.”
With those words thirty years ago today, a revolution came to an industry. The old ways of consuming pop culture weren’t dead, per se, but they were being badly eclipsed by what was coming down the coaxial cable into the home. And although it didn’t happen overnight, the old ways of doing business were gone forever. No longer would marketing to individual distributors scattered across the country in fragmented markets work, you had to change to a larger brand identity that relied on visual punch and integration with new media.
The new medium was subversive. Innovators could create for the new communications channel and gain a tremendous first mover advantage, which could then be maintained by fresh content on a constant basis.
In time, a new crop of stars came to the foreground. Some of them were pros from the old guard who learned to adapt. Others were people who couldn’t break in under the old regimes, but found a way in the new uncharted territories. And some of the most interesting work came from people who were immersed in the new ways, who didn’t have any reference for “the way things were supposed to be done” and came in and broke the rules precisely because they didn’t have any idea what the rules were.
This was incredibly disruptive, as you can well imagine. Some people simply couldn’t make the leap– their stuff just didn’t look all that hot. Some were too entrenched in the old system. But the ones who probably got it worst were the stores. First, the mom and pops and the hobbyists got pushed out, or amped up their game and got big. Then the formats changed, and while purists claimed the new digital format leached out all the fire and passion and humanity, most people either couldn’t tell the difference or—heresy!— preferred the shiny new format without scratches or imperfections, copies that were as crisp and sharp the thousandth time as they were the first. Soon, the old format was completely gone from the stores, and for that matter, a lot of the stores were gone too. The stores that carried the new digital format did okay… for a while. But then after a few years, most of them disappeared too, even some of the biggest.
In time, even the new channel lost focus. They started making movies, and dabbled in animation. But after a while, they seemed to stop being as relevant as they used to be, branching off with new storylines and products that seemed to have no connection to what they were once known for– even their name was divorced from their identity. It didn’t seem to be a problem, they were still reaching the demographic they were shooting for, or so it seemed, and they were still making money, although not as much as they were, because times change, y’know? Besides, they’d say, you just aren’t getting it because you’re old, and this is what the kids want now. They ignored the cries of people who said they’d completely gotten away from their original focus, but maybe they had a point– after all, you couldn’t cater to the fans of the old stuff forever. We can still make things for the nostalgia market, but we have to pay attention to the new audience too. And really, have you looked at some of the old stuff recently? It’s downright primitive. These were met with the predictable cries of “Sellout!” Meanwhile, new artists still break through to new audiences any way they can.
Mike Gold’s edict is that these columns should have something to do with comics.
I saw the latest reboot with new 52
We thought it was another crisis to go through
We didn’t know that printer invoices were due
They took the blame for all collector dormancy
Forced to adapt their ways to new technology
and now I understand the problem at DC
What did they tell you?
There was no sell-through…