Comic book movies are incredibly popular and flourishing. Meanwhile, comic books themselves struggle to find an audience and are in a state of flux. Media that cover the industry are changing too, with the old guard starting to crack and new publications appearing. Bounding into Comics is one of these new publications. The Loftus Party spoke with BiC founder and editor John F. Trent to learn a little bit more about the site, and to find out what his thoughts are on the industry, including if it has a future.
“I started Bounding into Comics as a basic Google Blogspot website to review comics in June of 2014,” Trent told TLP. “My first review was of an Image Comics book called C.O.W.L. about a superhero union set in 1960s era Chicago by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis. It was purely a hobby I planned on documenting,” he added, referring to his enthusiasm for comic books.
It didn’t take long for that basic site to expand into something larger.
“By April of 2015, I transitioned the website over to BoundingIntoComics.com. We were still heavily doing comic book reviews, but I had also begun running some movie trailers and experimented with some television show recaps,” he said. “We also started running comic book focused news with previews and announcements. In addition, we started covering a number of the controversies in the comic book industry, including ‘diversity in comics’ as well as criticism of the Batman: The Killing Joke animated [movie] adaptation. Today we cover everything from comic books to movies and we still provide our unique opinion on the controversies in the entertainment and comic book industry.”
Anyone who casually follows the comic book industry knows that there are a lot of fights and controversies going on in it, with new ones seemingly developing every week (or even every day). Politics has played a large part in this. Indeed, modernity has politicized every aspect of life, and the comic book industry has embraced this politicization. So how is this changing the industry and what will the outcome of it be?
“Politics has deeply affected the comic book industry,” Trent agreed when TLP mentioned the subject to him. “A number of creators, like Bane co-creator Chuck Dixon, have said they have been blacklisted by Marvel Comics purely for their beliefs. We’ve even seen Will Caligan lose his job because of his personal beliefs that he expressed on Facebook,” he said.
“We’ve seen people [from] popular comic book focused sites actively call for a number of professionals to be fired because [of disagreements] with their politics,” he continued. “There have also been organized calls for censorship from websites like Graphic Policy because they don’t like the content of certain books.”
But those controlling the comic book industry aren’t just punishing creators who don’t think correctly, they’re putting their politics into the comic books they publish too. To a degree, this isn’t entirely new.
“Not only do you have these off the page pressures, but there’s plenty of political division on the page and there always has been,” Trent explained. “Just look at the first cover of Captain America: he’s punching Hitler. It’s a political statement. Alan Moore’s iconic Watchmen definitely was political as was Frank Miller’s oft-criticized The Dark Knight Strikes Again. In DKSA, Miller almost brings the Question and Green Arrow to blows over their political debate. Politics have always been in comics and I’d argue some of the most well-known comics are highly political.”
Yet the politics that the industry currently injects into comic books is not the same. “But what we are seeing in comics today is a different animal,” he said. “The politics is over the top and ham-fisted into the stories. For example, Nick Spencer’s run on Captain America: Sam Wilson saw conservative and libertarian ideology being spoken almost verbatim from Captain America’s villains. The intent of what Spencer was doing was clear: he was infusing his own personal politics into the story and ensuring that the side he disagreed with was villainized. It’s very different from what you saw in Miller’s DKSA where both side’s points were made and neither was shown as being villainous.”
So does this mean there aren’t any worthwhile comic books any longer? Not according to Trent.
“There are a lot of good comics right now,” he said. “I’d probably say one of the best is Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight. It’s highly political, but it shows a number of different viewpoints and doesn’t whack you over the head on which side is right or wrong. Donny Cates at Marvel has been putting out some great stuff. His work on Thanos was a lot of fun and he just launched Venom which was superb. Image has some good stuff too: Gideon Falls and Seven to Eternity are some of my favorites.”
Lesser-known publishers make Trent’s list as well. “I absolutely love almost everything Valiant puts out: Bloodshot, Ninja-K, and X-O Manowar are all great!”
And he has some praises for independent work too. “I highly enjoyed My Hero Magademia, which is a political parody of the 2016 election cycle by Mark Pelligrini, Timothy Lim, and Brett R. Smith,” he said.
Still, even with some good titles available, it remains to be seen if the comic book industry will continue to exist. It seems intent on self-destructing. But Trent thinks it has a future.
“The comic book industry will definitely survive,” he said before adding, “but it’s going to have to adapt. I think you are going to see a lot of creators begin innovating and bypassing the current model. They will go direct to customers with their product, and in some instances you are already seeing it with Diversity & Comics’s [real name: Richard Meyer] massive IndieGoGo campaign [for the graphic novel, Jawbreakers: Lost Souls] that has already raised over a quarter of a million dollars. But there are also smaller creators who are seeing success, like Roland Mann’s Cat & Mouse.”
Meyer’s success in crowdfunding Jawbreakers: Lost Souls (written by him with artwork by Jon Malin and Brett R. Smith) is a huge blow to the big comic book companies. And anyone involved in running them should be concerned by how well he is doing compared with how they are driving away their customers. But Trent doesn’t think all is lost for the big companies and he sees signs they are adapting as well. “I think DC Comics is onto something with their DC Black imprint,” he said.
Adapting also means comic books might have to change format, and look to form symbiotic relationships with other industries. “In today’s age of Netflix, people are craving completed stories,” Trent explained. “I think you will see more people putting out more completed stories in graphic novel format rather than single issues. I also think you are seeing people use comics to pitch movies and TV shows. It allows you to create a dedicated audience who will more than likely follow over to movies and TV. It can be a positive signal boost for any studio looking to find a dedicated audience with a good story,” he said.
“It’s actually a pretty exciting time for comics because we are seeing quite a lot of disruption and innovation from the major publishers like DC as well as smaller, more nimble creators who are using fundraising techniques to bring their product to market,” he concluded.
The short-term future of the comic book industry will remain in flux, chaotic, and outright destructive at times. Some people might think all of this means that the industry is headed on a path to extinction. Others, like John F. Trent, believe that it will continue to exist, even if it has to go through some major changes.
Regardless of what you believe about its future, if you are interested in seeing how it all shakes out, make sure you regularly read Bounding into Comics. BiC is reporting on the changing comic book landscape and providing readers with a viewpoint they’ll have a hard time finding in any other industry publication.