Feature #2 (1997)
Edited by Charles Brownstein
Cover by Peter Bagge
(from 'State Of The Industry', Feature #2, 1997)
...I've come to perceive the comics environment as having its own consciousness in addition to its physical form -- number of companies, number of titles, number of stores etc -- and I believe that the consciousness governs the physical dimensions. That is, the number of companies, number of titles, number of stores expand in response to the consciousness perceiving that something "good" is happening, that something "good" is possible. There seems to be an in-built perceived ratio of good shit to bad shit -- an acknowledgement that there will always be more bad shit than good shit -- coupled with a "capping mechanism" which causes the environment to make itself smaller at the exact point that the ratio begins to drastically favour bad shit.
The rise of Marvel Comics in the early 'sixties, the Batman television show, the influx of the underground in 1968-69, the emergence of ground-level comic books like Witzend, Star*Reach and so on: Each functioned as a signal that it was time to expand. Good shit was possible! The "capping mechanism" kicked in when Marvel started to put out too much, imitation Marvel companies proliferating like bacteria in a petri-dish, DC attempting to imitate Marvel. Same thing with the undergrounds -- the good shit to bad shit ratio started to favour the bad shit so the expansion was arrested. Star*Reach got supplanted by First and Pacific. For every American Flagg! there were three dozen interchangeable X-Men rip-off titles. Self-publishing is the same way. It expands in 1984-85, 1993-94 until the ratio of good shit to bad shit drastically favours bad shit and then the expansion is arrested. In the pre-direct market days, the environment was capable of lying dormant for years at a time. It would "exhale" impurities and lapse into survival mode, waiting to something good -- or potentially good -- to happen so that it could expand again. It still does this, in my view, but the periods of "lying dormant" in the direct market age are much shorter. I think the consciousness is completely at peace whether its expanding or lying dormant - inhaling or exhaling...