For as long as I've been aware of comics media and comics criticism, comics have been on the verge of collapse. Every moment, every issue is the one before the last. Prices are rising, talent is dwindling, the market is shrinking--for at least 15 years, comics news has been doom and gloom, doom and gloom. Even when the bookstore presence of comics is higher than ever, when teh mass of talent creating comic books is the most impressive it's ever, ever been: go to a comic book message board or read an article or column by someone who concerns themselves with knowing comics, and the question most often posed remains: "What can we do to save the industry?"
It just occurred to me now, writing this in my journal, that this is a question that isn't concerned with the artform, the medium, or its practioners. It's about comic book stores and the people who shop there. Convention season is the summertime--outside of that, the big time in a comic nerd's life is when a comic book movie comes out. If Spider-Man 2 does well, comics are bound to look up at any moment. All we have to do is sit back and wait for the throng of the mainstream to exit the theaters and flock to the comic shops.
They never do. After Batman in 1989, Spider-Man in 2002, Constantine in 2005--the movies make millions of dollars, the comics don't even feel a bump. The reason is simple and seemingly impossible to grasp by the folks who complain--Warren Ellis sums it up by calling them Dad Comics. Spider-Man, Batman, whatever--they are essentially the same stories told as 40-plus years ago. The cadence has changed, the comics-vocabulary used to tell the stories, but at the end of every issue or every six-part story-arc, all of the characters are in the same place--they just had to bore through a few pages of angst and kick-splode to get there.
This is mostly transcribed from my journal, so there's no real closure here--except to say that the folks who write diatribes like the above, trying to fix comics, seem to be concerned with making superhero comics popular again. The folks who shut up and Do Good Work are putting out the comics that have the most depth, are the Next New Thing, and still get me excited about writing more comics.