Why You're Wrong About the Big Two

I was never the traditional comic reader. Born in Paris, the first comics I ever read were the Franco-Belgian series Asterix & Obelix, Lucky Luke, and Tintin. I only ever got into Marvel and DC comics later, when I was in High School in California. And even then, I only read them in a limited capacity.

While I used to be the exception to the rule - with most comic readers in America having grown up on comics. That's no longer the case. More and more comic readers are like me. But instead of reading Franco-Belgian comics, they're reading webcomics.

And though most of the comic industry has recognized the viability of creator-owned comics, many of us still fall short on our perspective on webcomics. Even though we know that they're still comics, regardless of the fact that they're not part of the Direct Market, we don't act on this understanding. Even though they're not out of reach, most creators aren't trying to engage this audience and are missing an opportunity to build a larger, more global audience.

This is due, in part, to the terminology we use and the way in which we educate ourselves as creators. Since we're trying to become a part of the industry, we work to surround ourselves with other creators and devour any information about the industry that gets shared.

As a result, owe end up only thinking about comics in terms of what's being done or considered by our peers, leading our thinking into very insular territory. This is apparent, even in the language that we use.

Take the term "Big Two." For those of you who aren't familiar, the Big Two refers to Marvel and DC, and references their combined dominance of both the dollar and unit market share in the Direct Market.

But when you think about how much wider the industry has really become. When you consider the many webcomics out there getting thousands of views, everyday, the more than $40 million raised on Kickstarter, or the rising number of creators turning to Patreon for support, it's easy to see that Marvel and DC aren't really the Big Two anymore, regardless of their influence over the direct market.

The market is much bigger than we give it credit for and we could capitalize on this, if more of us were looking elsewhere, to other industries, to find strategies we can bring back to our industry. To innovate.

Unfortunately, we generally don't. And that's partially due to our goals as creators. Many of you reading this grew up reading comics. And even if you weren't, you might still share a desire to achieve traditional success in comics by being published, or just having your book on the shelves of a comic store.

And while I share both of these ambitions, I think these goals can actually hold creators back. Because if we're too focused on reaching traditional milestones, we might miss new opportunities along the way.

Opportunities like publishing online, building your own audience, and taking your career and future as a creator into your own hands.

We're in a Second Golden Age of comics. But it's not a golden age just because of Image and their increasing market share. It's a golden age because comics now reach far beyond the traditional brick and mortar shops. They're not limited by print distribution, or previously established business models. And I'm not saying that those things are bad.

I love a good comic store, print is my preferred way to read a comic, and I think that publishers can bring a lot to the table for a creator.

What I'm saying is that not having those limitations is inherently good. It means more is possible. Creators who might not have had the contacts or resources to create comics before, now can. And creators who were already making comics can reach far more people, and do projects the market might not have been able to support before.

But if we're not making use of this new landscape and seizing these opportunities, then we're wasting our Golden Age.

That's why I want to experiment. I want to try new ways of funding, producing, and delivering comics to readers. I want to utilize all the resources available to us, like online marketing and crowdfunding, to build my own career.

And I think you can, too - if, and only if, you're able to realize why the Big Two really isn't the Big Two anymore and stop thinking about comics in an insular way.

With each creator that does we come a step closer to really changing the comic industry for the better. Because every creator that is able to look past the Big Two, past the traditional comic market, and past what we already know to possible can look, instead, toward the future of comics, where we can build the kind of comic industry we all wish existed.