Whit and Wisdom: 7 Predictions for the Future of Comics

If you read any social psychology or eastern philosophy texts they will tell you that the future is unknowable and that humans are actually poor predictors of what’s to happen.  I believe this to be true, as life has taught me that the only constant is change. I do however, feel that sometimes we can predict trends based on current events. It’s quite evident that the comics world is not only growing, but evolving in ways that previously wouldn’t have been considered. It’s an exciting time to be a cartoonist, as new platforms for exposure and sharing of work pop up every day. At the same time though, it’s daunting, as a larger group of artists compete for the same resources, such as publishing opportunities. Below is a list of my top 7 predictions for the future (at least near future) of the comics world.

1) Micropresses will expand (viva la floppy).

In the past few years we have seen a proliferation of “micropresses” pop up. I’d define a micro press as a small publishing company that predominately publishes “floppies” or shorter form comics without hard covers (this is not always the case though). Furthermore, many of the artists put out are traditionally up-and-comers, newer artists, those who prefer shorter-form storytelling, and well… fellow cartoonist friends. Yes, they can be insular at times, but they allow for a greater diversity of stories being put out and are often strengthened by publishers being cartoonists themselves.

Some of the reasons that micropresses have expanded are because more people are making minicomics/floppies, they need an avenue for funding and exposure, and well…more people are reading them. Another reason is that the tools of the publishing trade are now more than ever accessible to the “average person”. I think micropresses are a fantastic addition to the publishing world, where we often see the same “established” cartoonists being published by the same larger companies. I’m all for publishers building enduring relationships with specific artists, but I like how many micropresses are taking chances on who they publish. I’m not saying that a micropress is the most lucrative or sustainable business, but I foresee the number of them expanding in the next few years.

2)  Comics will become more diverse.

As the general population becomes more diverse and different demographics of people start to read comics more, the material being put out will have to accommodate this. This is not just about having more comics geared towards women or racial/ethnic minorities, but to people living all sorts of lifestyles. And the process for this happening is two-fold. Cartoonists from different demographics will start telling their own stories and finding their own means of producing and distributing them, such as through self-publishing or starting their own presses. Second, if current publishing companies are to stay relevant they will need to expand their idea of what is marketable and publishable. This is already happening, but it will only continue to grow.

3) Older “classics” will be lost to the new generation.

This is not a new thing, but yes, as time goes on, younger cartoonists will not be as familiar with who/what are now considered to be ‘classic’ cartoonists, comics, and graphic novels. Of course there are exceptions, including taking comics history classes or actively seeking out older materials, but younger artists will gravitate to more recent works and if they look back at older ones it will be with a different lens than that of older generations.

4)  There will be more cons than cartoonists.

Yes, this is an exaggeration, but you get the point. There are more and more cons every year, not only in large cities, but smaller ones both domestically and internationally. I think this speaks to the fact that there are more cartoonists and material out there, there are markets for comics in places that people would not have expected, and that comics people are taking the initiative to set up these festivals.

This is great news for cartoonists, as it makes it more convenient to get to local cons (the opposite could be said if you are overwhelmed by the options) and to sell newer work with less lag time in between production. It allows one to build readership more readily. And most importantly, it allows cartoonists to continue to build a community of other artists, industry professionals, and fans.

5)  Digital copies will thrive but so will print comics.

With digital comics marketplaces such as Comixology or Gum Road growing in popularity, many have predicted that print comics will go the way of the dinosaur. Yes, digital comics will continue to grow in popularity given the elevated use of technology and physical convenience of reading something on a computer or tablet, but there’s something to be said for print copies that will continue to make them indispensable. With digital you lose out on the tactile nature of reading as well as some of the visual nuance. I’m not saying one is better than the other. I’m just saying that they will not be in competition, but rather complement each other.

6) Tumblr, Twitter and other social media platforms will become the center of comic criticism.

There has been much debate recently about the state of comics criticism. Some believe that it’s in the hand of a select few that are of the older, white male demographic and that there are few younger and more varied critics out there. I disagree with this to an extent. Yes, I think that these aforementioned critics may be the ones running some of the bigger sites and they might be more ingrained in the “industry”, but there are plenty of “amateur” reviewers running their own blogs and sites.

More reviewers and critics means more variable quality, but it also means more variety in writing styles and analysis. Tumblr is one of the best places to see this and I believe that it is now at the forefront of comics criticism and discussion. Tumblr and whatever future online platforms develop will continue to support the evolution of comics criticism.

7) Comics will become a more respected medium.

Sometimes when you’re so immersed in comics culture, it’s hard to see that many outside of your bubble do not think as highly of it. In fact not only do many not see it as a legitimate art form, but they are unaware or even misinformed about comics in general.

I do think this is slowly changing however as the diversity of cartoonists and work expand, as comics become more accessible for some via digital and online platforms, as bookstores start to develop their comics and graphic novels sections, and as academic institutions learn the value of  using comics as teaching tools.

I’ve always seen comics as a valuable medium and in fact a deeply complex one that takes much effort to thrive in. Cartooning utilizes art, math, storytelling, design and PATIENCE among other things. And if you decide to promote your work, it means developing business and networking skills as well. We should not expect the outside world to fully understand this, but rather to appreciate the fruits of the cartoonist’s labor and honor it as a real profession just like any other.

-Whit Taylor