One of the big problems facing the comic industry is "way too many books," according to Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson.
"Comic book stores can’t keep up with ordering them, there’s just too much to keep track of, and if a specialty market catering to this specific type of content is overwhelmed by the amount of books being published, that’s definitely going to be an issue for other sales channels," Stephenson said.
"Worse, it’s going to trickle down to readers - because at $4 and $5 an issue, that limits the number of comics someone can reasonably afford within a single month. Or every month."
According to the Diamond Comics Distributor (the comic book store market's primary distributor), 5,395 comic books were released in 2019.
"Every publisher - and I want to be clear that I absolutely include Image in this - could do a better job of curating their content instead of constantly flooding the market with books that may not have an actual audience," Stephenson continued.
When asked what Image has - and could - do to further that aim, Stephenson revealed some big picture plans.
"Over the course of 2019, we’ve launched fewer books. Like a third less," he explained. "We’re planning to continue that going into next year, because we saw positive results from thinning the line over the course of this year."
Curating Image's line doesn't just mean in quantity of titles, but also in how many titles are are being developed for specific audiences.
"By that same token, we’re using different criteria to judge what we do and don’t do," Stephenson said. "A few years back, at a ComicsPRO meeting, I spoke about the fact we were doing too much science fiction, but I think it’s more than just singling out a specific genre, it’s isolating the audience for whatever is being proposed."
When asked for an example, the Image co-owner gave a snapshot.
"For instance, I was recently sent a pitch by a creator whose work I really like, and while I personally found the idea to be interesting, we ultimately passed on it because it didn’t seem like the sort of thing that would have a very wide audience," Stephenson revealed.
"Because we publish creator-owned comics, we are in a position where we could publish anything, but I think it’s in creators’ best interest and the industry’s best interests that we instead exercise some prudence."
Look for Newsarama's full interview with Stephenson later this week.