Heather Kenyon introduces this issue with a focus on two hot topics in the comics world plus introduces two new features of the magazine.
This month's topic of Comics and Animation proved to be fascinating but has uncovered some unpleasant news about the state of the comic world in the United States. The comic book industry is not particularly thriving. Obviously down from its record mid-1980s high the industry continues to shrink. More perilous is that the problems continue to compound and further damage the industry.
Up until 1987 the comic industry was booming - unnaturally booming. Comic sales were up as a craze swept through, emphasizing the collectability of titles (much like the animation art craze of the early 1990s). An average Marvel book could easily sell around 75,000 to 100,000 copies. Some titles sold almost 250,000 copies! Then the greed came in and publishers started to print thousands, and thousands of copies of individual titles. Not only did this make these comics less collectible, but as the craze passed, this volume of unsold comics remained, wellunsold.
The problem in the comic book world does not appear to be the relatively small number of major publishers or vertical integration, but rather an industry-wide lack of cash flow. Some insiders believe that currently up to 50% of the industry's cash flow is sitting, gathering dust in warehouses. Now, even the large comic book distributors are lucky to sell 100,000 copies of any given title. Why? Comic book stores can't afford to stock a largeselection of books because readership is down. As a result they do not always have a wide array of product for the consumer, and independents have a very difficult time finding shelf space. Therefore, sales continue to decrease. Many comic book stores have been forced to close their doors, which compounds the problem by reducing the potential sale of books and bring in rejuvenating funds. Somewhere someone forgot about the true comic book fan; the kid who rides his bike down to the local comic store and after purchasing a few precious comic books, a Coke and some candy, returns home.
Another interesting facet of the comic book world is its long relationship with censorship, especially in the United States. Why do comics incite people so? Susan Alston writes on the current cases that are being wrangled over in the United States justice system. I encourage everyone who is interested in the preservation of the First Amendment to read this article. Comics aren't under fire solely in the United States, however. In early April of this year, a Turkish magazine editor was sentenced to prison for publishing a cartoon that was said to insult Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. Kutlu Esendemir, editor of Leman magazine, was given a three and a half month jail sentence and fined the equivalent of $17 US.
Two new monthly features are being introduced in this AWM issue. In response to the success of our last "Education and Jobs" issue, we are starting a new feature called "The Student Corner." This feature will include information that appeals to the needs of students. (Anyone can read it though if they want!) So, now we want to hear from all of you students out there. What do you need to know? Give us some insight and we'll see what we can do. Another new monthly feature is "Hidden Treasures: Archive Profiles." Each month we will highlight an animation archive or resource so that hopefully it will become more useful to our community.
Finally, on a sad note we are including good-byes to two industry greats: Jerry Smith and Phyllis Craig. While working at Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, I heard Jerry Smith's name quite frequently but, unfortunately, did not know him past "the amazing man who used to run Fil-Cartoons but retired to race cars." In the past few weeks after hearing from his family, friends and colleagues I wish I had asked many more questions and "discovered" him sooner. He was a pioneer with an amazing amount of knowledge. The stories I have heard in the past few weeks have convinced me that he was truly a remarkable man. The testaments included only confirm this.
And Phyllis...I met Phyllis Craig at the first Women In Animation meeting. I didn't know who she was but was immediately struck by the statuesque woman who energetically entered the room with flaming red hair, turquoise suit and pink shirt. I later learned that she was a color key artist and thought to myself that she must absolutely live color. When I look at a lawn and see just one shade of green, I thought to myself, she must see one-hundred. At the opening night party of the World Animation Celebration I told Phyllis that and she laughed, saying, "I do. I do see so many colors." Thank you Phyllis for helping us see so much.
Until next month, Heather