Monday, October 17, 2011

Four reasons why the 90s almost killed comics

Comics in Crisis has a nice post citing the four things that hurt the comics industry back in the 90s, things like the Clone Saga and variant covers. It's a good list, but they left the biggest reason: comic book speculators. You see, folks, back in the 90s, some people got it in their heads that comics could be worth a lot of cash. The problem was the only comics with any substantial value were old ones from the Golden and Silver Age. Maybe even in the early Bronze. This was because naturally, not a lot of kids growing up held on to comics. They'd read them, then either toss them, trade with a friend, or give them to their younger siblings to read. Either way, not a lot survived in decent enough condition to be worth something. Speculators - liking Wall Street folks - somehow figured that brand new comics would, in a few years, be worth huge sums of money, so they started buying them en mass. Well, Marvel, DC, and others weren't about to pass this up and so they started printing off comics by the millions, creating "collectors" editions with those infamous variant covers. It created a bubble, not unlike what happened to the industry in the late 90s and the real estate market in the early 00s.

Well, all bubbles must burst and this one did before the decade was out. Those same speculators who had spent thousands of dollars hoarding comics discovered years later that those same comics weren't worth the paper they were printed on, because there were literally millions of copies of each one. Needless to say, when word got out, the bubble burst and the market collapsed. The industry barely survived  - Marvel notably had to file for bankruptcy - and in many ways, is still recovering. X-Men, Spider-Man, Justice League, Batman, these comics used to sell millions of copies each and now, their success is measured in whether they several a few hundred thousand.

The 90s were truly a terrible time for comics and its moniker of being the "Dark Age" of comics is fitting. Let's hope we never have to experience it again.

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