Now that the San Diego Comic-Con is history for 2010, it is time to look forward. Where will comics be in five or ten years?

Every once in a while, someone comes along and announces they are going to “save the comics industry.”  They usually start up a company that does well for a while.  But comics are an expensive proposition, and eventually even the wealthiest of investors cuts his or her losses, then disappears.

Also, occasionally the word is that comics are all going digital.  One comic I can think of in particular is only available online.  And some of the older comics have been available on PDF for a while now.  Will we make our weekly trek to the local comics shop to pick up a disc of the comics we want on it?  Or will we download them from an FTP site and save ourselves the trip?

Predicting the future is always a tricky thing.  I’m always amazed at the project that appears “out of the blue,” taking people by surprise, and being a big hit.  I always refer to the Harry Potter books as a good example.  Since most of you know that story, I won’t repeat it again here.  Let’s just say that J.K. Rowling went from abject poverty to being the richest woman in the U.K.  And no one expected it.

Comic books have been around for decades now, but that’s no guarantee they will continue.  The first comics I bought were 12 cents each, and now the average book sells for $2.99 in the States.  That’s a steep increase.

Then, too, the average age of most comics readers has swung to an older demographic.  With children more interested in video games than reading, is that a bad sign for the future of comics?

As always, I’m going to express my opinions, whether they turn out to be true in the long run or not.  Please take what I say with a huge grain of salt.  When trade paperbacks first came out, I was terrified that they would draw the average comics buyer to the local mall instead of the comics shop.  Instead, it has turned out to be a huge boon to those who sell comics.  So I’m not always right.

  1. I think the paper copy of comics is here for the foreseeable future. There is something about holding a comic in your hands and “falling in,” as Frank Miller once said, that is an experience not duplicated by the computer screen.  That leads me to my next prediction:
  2. Motion comics are a fad that will fade away in a year or two. I don’t see any big advantage to having a “motion” comic over a paper one.  Those of us who read comics have pretty good imaginations, and comics tickle them very well without soundtracks or swinging arms and legs.
  3. Hardcover editions will continue to grow in popularity. There’s nothing better than having a story you love in a format that will last more than a few years.  And then, there’s the way they make people think we’re reading real books … that is, until they open it up and find comic pages inside.
  4. Some new characters will catch on, but the tried and true heroes will rule the roost. There’s a reason a classic is, well, a classic … it strikes a chord in many people.  There have been many new creations that have done well, for sure, but none of them will replace the “big guns.”
  5. Digital comics will be a way to introduce new readers. On my iPhone, for instance, I was able to read several comics for free that I had never found locally.  Several of them have caused me to go after the later issues.  On the other hand, those that haven’t interested me will fade away, but at least I gave them a try. And the iPad is just getting started … .
  6. There will be many more direct-to-DVD movies and stories. While I don’t think motion comics are “the next big thing,” I know many comics fans who enjoy the stories being told in animated style on DVD.  Will they replace comics? No.  Will we see more fan-made movies?  Definitely.  The technology is readily available, and fans are getting better and better at using it.
  7. Sales of DC Comics will one day surpass Marvel on a regular basis. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Here’s a review of the Marvel Comics app on the iPad:

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