Piggybacking; or, Disconnection

Kevin mentioned the Neil Kleid interview with Slave Labor Graphics honcho Dan Vado, among other things, in a really good post the other day about both comic blogging in general and his own blog-niche specifically. He used a great pull quote from Vado that got me thinking about something I've always sort of noticed but could never completely identify until now. At the risk of being redundant, I'll reprint Vado's quote here (or at least a portion of it):



VADO: Something cannot be both a sleeper and a hit. A comic or graphic novel either sells or it doesn’t. Critical acclaim does not translate to sales. For all the talk and hype on Street Angel, the comic hovered around 1500 copies sold and never broke out of that. Not enough for a creator with rent to pay to keep the project going. A million blog entries or message board posts mean s--- when it comes to actually selling something. For all of the hype or critical acclaim for Street Angel on the Internet, that alone wasn’t enough to help make it a financial success or, for that matter, even get it nominated for a single award in any category. Snakes on a Plane, that movie was in discount houses in a couple of weeks despite all of the viral marketing hype.

(Emphasis mine)

So at first, I thought it was sort of refreshing to hear an industry professional - a publisher, no less - come out and actually say "Thanks for your support and all, Comics Blogowhatever, but it's not actually translating into solid sales in a lot of cases." Refreshing, but a little weird, too, because based on all of the online acclaim you read about a Street Angel or a Manhunter or a Thing or whatever, you'd think that there would be a bigger groundswell of support for these books. But as has been proven time and again, this often isn't the case (Manhunter being a notable exception). I mulled this over awhile, and that's when I realized it: comics blogging is like college radio. Or like my particular college radio experience, at the very least.

My college radio station had an Alternative AOR (album-oriented rock, meaning less of a focus on singles) format and a clear mission to play music that wasn't being heard on other outlets in the area (radio in central Maine is mostly Country, Top 40, Easy Listening, and Talk). We viewed this as our grand mission to expose the masses to new and wonderful things. The masses mostly viewed us as the station that played a lot of stuff that nobody had ever heard of, if they were even aware of our existence at all (we were low-wattage, and the idea of broadcasting on the internet was still in its infancy*). But we did have a fairly devoted core audience, most of which shared our musical tastes . Unsurprisingly, most of that audience ended up working at the station at one point or another.

And I think that's how comics blogging works. We all type our thoughts/opinions/recommendations/ to the masses, and the masses, by and large, ignore us (whether that's on purpose or not I leave to you to decide). I mean, that must be the case if the sales charts are any indication, right? Because I've seen a lot of online criticism of Civil War, but it's still basically Marvel's license to print money right now, so there's clearly some level of disconnect between the tastes of bloggers and the those of the general comics-buying public. But there exists a certain core readership out there that keeps up with the blogs and apparently shares similar opinions, and I'm willing to bet that a lot of the folks - maybe even most of them, if comments threads are any indication - are bloggers themselves.

This isn't a unique phenomenon to either college radio or comics blogging, though. Go visit a wrestling news site sometime. Those places are full of folks who write about how much they hate the old stars like Hulk Hogan keeping new talent down, and about how wrestlers with actual technical wrestling skills (e.g., Chris Benoit or the late Eddie Guerrero) should pretty much be made king of everything. But you put Hogan in a WWE show even today, and he sells out stadiums and pops a crowd like it's still 1986, so there's certainly something of a disconnect there, too.

(And maybe disconnect is the wrong word to use. "Difference" probably sounds less negative. But you get my point.)

I realize this probably isn't a revelation to anyone. It's just something I've been thinking about lately. Thanks for your time.




*The year I was station manager, I suggested we actually look into webcasting, and people laughed. Luddites! But, of course, the next year they actually started doing it, and were all "Look at how cool we are! What a great idea we had!" Hypocritcal Luddites!

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