The Q: The Biggest Opportunity for Comics in '09?

As 2009 begins, Newsarama focused this month's "The Q" on what opportunities lay ahead for comics. Each month, we ask one question to a variety of people in the comic book industry. This time, we asked:

Art above, detail of "Sunrise" by Roy Lichtenstein.

- What is the biggest opportunity for comics in 2009?

Greg Pak (War Machine, Skaar: Son of Hulk, Magneto: Testament): After talking with a few friends about this over lunch the other day, I'm convinced that cracking the digital market has the potential to be enormous. This will entail not just figuring out the best means of selling comics online (the iTunes-for-comics dream), but figuring out how to make comics more readable not just on laptops but on iPhones. In fact, especially on iPhones. 'Cause the kids love those things, man! The exciting thing is that figuring out the right format and pricing and distribution scheme has the potential to make comics immediately accessible to hundreds of thousands of people who would never take the time to track down their local comic book shop and set up a pull list. The individual price of a comic would almost certainly have to decrease (I'm guessing to the 99 cent iTunes standard), but readership could skyrocket -- my entirely unscientific gut tells me between five to ten times more people would start reading comics regularly.

Vince Hernandez (Editor-in-Chief, Aspen Comics): Due to the amount of attention from Hollywood being placed on new and existing comic book properties after the success of films such as The Dark Knight and Iron Man, it's a shared opportunity for publishers and fans across the board. The comic book industry has generally taken a back seat to other popular entertainment mediums: movies, television, video games, etc. However, now after these hit films, people outside the industry are starting to see the massive creative potential in comics. Gaining new readers in any form or fashion is whatever publisher strives for. It also forces us as a comic book company to put out the best possible product to compete for that added revenue, and to continue to satisfy our existing readership. And higher quality books-- with better stories and art, is always a good thing.

Jamal Igle (Supergirl): The biggest opportunity? Well, I think with the amount of comic properties being turned into films and TV shows these days, the time is ripe for cross pollination. I mean some company stepping up and really connecting one of their properties to its film/TV/DTV brother and promoting the hell out of it, and vice verse. DC is sort of doing it with all the Watchmen related stuff that's shipping but why isn't the Blue Beetle getting another chance now that he's been featured on the [animated] Brave and the Bold. Now I know alot of people are concerned about the U.S. economy, so am I. I still think there is a way to really connect everything comic related into one big publicity ball and profit from it, financially and creatively as well.

Keith Giffen (Ambush Bug, War in Hell): There's opportunity in comics!?

Mike Mayhew (X-Men Origins: Jean Gray, Savage): In 2009, I hope comics creators and companies can capture a piece of the pie in the global digital marketplace, with product specifically designed for viewing on your phone or your flatscreen. The storytelling possibilities taking advantage of today's software and broadband connections, combined with ubiquitous distribution portals like iTunes, are a thrilling combination. Outside of what's happening in film and tv, I think it's our best chance to reach a larger, mainstream audience that we desperately need to survive in the long run.

Christopher Folino (co-owner/publisher, Catastrophic Comics): William Katt and everybody at Catastrophic Comics is beating the farm that motion comic books will have the biggest opportunity for independent publishers in 2009. In a short time from now, we will be launching Sparks as a motion comic book in a very cool manner that's never been done before and we got real actors and treated the genre like its own. Meaning, we didn't just use the same actor to do all the voices and you can't have the bubble on it, it kills the whole mood and makes no sense to include...

And the best part of motion comics is that the evil empire won't be taking the lion share of the profit and you won't have to pay your monthly mortgage to advertise in their magazine." Apple is successful because it understands that greed will kill you in the end and that you need creative people to help support and drive your business.

Rob Liefeld (Killraven, Youngblood, Armageddon Now: World War 3, Image United): The biggest opportunity for comics in 2009? To continue the dominance in other media that started in ‘08 and funnel it back towards our industry. When I wake up and read the New York Times today and the headline about 08's box office success reads "Super Heroes Save The Day " it only underscores how important the rest of the entertainment industry views our hard work and creations. From Iron Man to Wanted and Hellboy, a wide, diverse array of comic book films thrived in '08, chief among them Dark Knight. The top GN's of the year were Watchmen and Killing Joke, one from a mere trailer, with great bumps for the others on the list. When you can add 1 million copies to a book from 20 years ago, that bodes well for what we do.

Control is key as well. Remember back in 2000 when Joe Quesada said, when referring to Wolverine: Origin that if Marvel didn't take authorship of Wolverine's origin, Hollywood would. And here we are 9 years later and the trailer to X-Men Origins: Wolverine has clips straight from the very comics created to control Marvel's crown gem. That's the kind of control we should all assert as the audience for our creations widens.

The future is very bright for comic books and an ever increasing appetite for our efforts.

Mike Carey (X-Men: Legacy, Ender's Shadow: Battle School): Probably all the biggest opportunities at the moment relate to ways of reaching out to new audiences and reinstating comics as a powerful and universal popular medium. The success of comic book movies isn't exactly new news, but the spectacular sales of the Watchmen trade on the back of the movie trailer suggests what can be done when the movie audience can be coaxed into looking outside the edges of the screen.

Michael DeVito (publisher, Th3rd World Comics): There is a real opportunity to take part in the advent of the synergy between the print and online comic world in 2009. This is particularly true for independents who have been struggling to play in the same sandbox as the larger companies for years. The web should act as the great equalizer, in terms of product and content awareness due to its extreme accessibility. Publishers like SLG Publishing, Viper Comics and Th3rd World Studios have been supporting web content for several years now, and also use it to drive print sales. In 2008 we saw larger publishers, like Marvel, creating web content that not only gives them an online driven content, but supports their printed works. 2009 will be the year when it becomes evident that the smart money is on both web and print comics media coexisting. They can and will complement each other, to the mutual benefit of both.

Mike Johnson (Superman/Batman, Fringe, Star Trek: Countdown): Comics have a great opportunity to capitalize on the high profile of films like the The Dark Knight and Iron Man to raise awareness of the medium. We're not in the backwater anymore when we're the basis for the most popular movies in the world. And its our obligation as creators to make sure that when someone picks up a comic for the first time they find stories as good - and better - than what they see on the screen.

David Hine (Brave and the Bold, Spider-Man: Noir): Comics have never had as much attention and respect in the USA as they have right now, and that's largely thanks to the movies. Now that we're in a recession, it would be nice to see Hollywood switching attention away from the obvious blockbusters and sourcing comics like Love and Rockets or Fun Home for low budget, quality movies. And if I was running things at HBO I'd be looking at Scalped as the next big crime series after Sopranos and The Wire.

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