If I had to distill what’s happened in the wide, wild, wonderful world of comics and entertainment during BC’s first ten years, it would boil down to this: The Avengers franchise accounts for four of the top 10 films of all time, and not only did nobody see that coming, but the world was also so utterly unprepared for the concept that this represents, we’ll be catching up to it for a long time to come.
When BC launched in 2009, the American comics industry was seemingly flatlined and still grasping for the barely-remembered glory days of the early 90s. Despite the cautious optimism brought about by the success of Marvel Studios’ debut film Iron Man the year prior, Marvel’s bankruptcy and numerous film misfires was still a fresh memory. There was plenty of uncertainty in the future. If you’d told me in June 2009 when BC launched that within a decade, the Avengers — the Marvel team that comics fans up to then had always considered 3rd string behind X-Men and Fantastic Four — would come to dominate the global box office as one of the most successful film franchises ever, I’d have taken any odds in a bet against that happening.
Suppose that back then, you’d further mentioned that the dream of at-your-fingertips digital comics would become a day to day reality, that comic book television series would also explode on multiple networks, that social networks would connect fans in undreamt of numbers, new fans would discover our favorite characters and concepts at an unbelievable rate, and that along the way a comic book publisher would quickly accumulate so much wealth and power that he’d become a major player in presidential politics. I’ve always been an optimist, but even I might have suggested that it was more likely that comics would verge towards irrelevance, rather than all of that happening at once. On top of the Avengers owning four of the top 10 spots on the all-time box office chart.
But since I am an optimist, you might have talked me into imagining what all of that implied. If you’d asked me to predict the consequences of those things a decade ago, I’d likely have said that it sounded like the business, art, and culture of comics would be vibrant and unbelievably healthy. In 2009, that would’ve sounded like a comics and entertainment Tomorrowland so good I wouldn’t have asked for a fraction of that much even if you’d have granted me three wishes. Global dominance instead of stagnation and perhaps even eventual death. It would have sounded like a shift too huge and fast to believe, from the perspective of ten years ago.
Now that we’re in 2019, we know the unexpected plot twist. Comics… well, major comics franchises, anyway… broke out of their life-sentence niche audience confinement. But not in that Shawshank Redemption way where a bunch of different people found common cause to work together despite the odds and the universe finally righted a great wrong and we get to live on a beautiful beach in Mexico somewhere happily ever after.
No, it’s more like that Pet Sematary way where it’s back from the grave all right, but it’s not really the same thing and also has weird and creepy side-effects. And speaking of Stephen King, somewhere along this decade’s winding path, some pockets of fandom skidded off the road and into a sort of cultural analogy to the Misery scenario, where a dedicated reader appeared to be kind and helpful, but then started breaking legs when the storyline didn’t proceed to her liking.
You might think all that sounds like an awful decade, but the truth is, I loved it, and even through difficult turns of events for the industry and culture, there have been plenty of glorious high points too, and there’s no place I’d rather be than chronicling all of it at Bleeding Cool. Disruption leads to evolution even under the worst of circumstances, and in comics, we sometimes forget we’ve got the best of circumstances: you can’t be a superhero fan without understanding the “with great power comes great responsibility” concept — even though young Peter Parker takes a little time to realize that — and also understanding the notion of helping people when they need it, the concept that a diverse team is powerful indeed, and all those other things that Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Matt Baker, Ruth Roche, Alfredo Alcala, and countless others turned into the fabric of the characters and concepts we all admire.
As for the next ten years of the entertainment industry? No public guesses from me, for the moment. Whatever’s coming next, I do know that I’m going to enjoy covering it here far more than even the first decade. For the longest time, I thought of Rich Johnston as the last comics journalist of his particular kind, because there will never be someone with his level of comics industry contacts and his instincts for breaking news. But the reality is that he’s the core and prototype for BC’s future, because while information is easier to obtain than ever, having those news processing instincts and knowing which information might become the next big story is more tricky than ever. Jude, Ray, Madeline, Gavin, Bill, Mary Anne, Jeremy, and the rest of the team that EiC Kaitlyn Booth is building here have become scary-good at understanding that. And under the guidance of Kaitlyn Booth, who knows what to fix, what to break, and what to tune up with the expertise of a Nexus-6 designer, I expect the next ten years of BC to be even more entertaining than the first ten years have been.
I’m certain we’ll run into some weird and unintended consequences on the way to the entertainment industry’s Flying Car Future, but chronicling it as it unfolds is going to be one hell of a beautiful ride.