Molly Jackson: Breath of Fresh Air
Last week was the ComicsPRO Members Meeting. In case you don’t know, this is a gathering of the comic industry, creators, and retailers to discuss the future of comics. A lot of interesting bits of news comes out of these meetings but one thing in particular really grabbed lot of attention. Image Comics head Eric Stephenson gave a speech encouraging change and growth for the industry.
You can read the entire transcript online, but some of the highlights included a look back to the history of comics, an encouragement in creativity, a discouragement of too many titles, and a call to think long-term. As he put it “If you – if any of us – are putting short-term needs ahead of long-term thinking: Stop. Stop stunting your own growth by doing things the way they’ve always been done.”
My favorite part of the speech still is “If you are a creator – a writer, an artist, both – the legends of yesteryear have done their work. For decades now, we’ve all been standing on the shoulders of giants. It’s time to stop. Let them have their rest. Now is the time to create new characters, to explore new worlds, to tell new stories.”
This speech says a truncated version of things that I have asked for in my columns. While it doesn’t specifically call for diversity, he does mention female supporters of comics during his speech. He also mentions that new creativity and voices are needed and should be given room to grow. I can only hope that this call will bring women, LGBTQ, and racial minorities into the view of comic publishers, so that new, diverse stories can be created.
Reading this speech made me feel hopeful and inspired. Someone out there (and at a major player, no less) cares about the future, not just the present. Someone is looking at what the past has cost us but is trying to learn from it rather than repeat it. As someone on the fringe of the industry, I care if it’s here in two decades. As a fan, I care that there is someone who wants to evolve stories rather than rehash them. In fact, it inspires me to create, to envision and to be bold.
There are real challenges ahead for comics, including ways to bring in new readers, rising costs of printing, and digital comics hurting brick and mortar stores. Now, this speech won’t instigate immediate, widespread changes in the industry. No one believes that it will. However, my sincere hope is that it sparks discussion. Real conversations about the current and future state of comics. And as fans, I think we should all hope that the stories keep getting better, new worlds keep getting created, and new creators lead the way.