Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by Big Comic Numbers

Some electrically good and some electrically bad business leads the way in my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, but if that’s not 2020 for you, I don’t know what is. Let’s get to that and more in Comics Disassembled.

1. Comics, Being Popular!

As you may have discovered through a multitude of tweets saying things like “AnD I tHoUgHt CoMiCs WeRe DyInG?!?!?!” while linking to Comichron and ICv2’s report on United States and Canada comic sales via comic shops, the book market, and digital download, the medium of comics had a great year in 2019 when it came to revenue generation. In fact, it was the best year Comichron’s John Jackson Miller and ICv2’s Milton Griepp have seen since they started putting together this report, generating $1.21 billion across these varying channels, a monster number and a great sign for comics overall.

It is strange how quickly these numbers – which include record numbers for graphic novels, the book market officially surpassing comic shops in terms of size, and digital download sales doing the step back portion of its dance once again – move from just happy, great news to narrative ammunition. Good news can’t just be good news, it has to be an opportunity to dunk on others, which is spectacularly weird. But hey, again, good news is good news, and it was incredible to see how every channel was up – even single issue comic sales! – in 2019, especially in a record setting way.

One thing that’s worth mentioning about this report that’s an even better thing: as Miller admits in next week’s episode of Off Panel, this number isn’t the guaranteed maximum. It’s a minimum of performance for the comics industry within the U.S. and Canada. There are all kinds of components missing here – digital subscription services like Marvel Unlimited and ComiXology Unlimited, Webtoon revenue, certain levels of crowdfunding, and who knows what else – and if included, they would lead to this record number being even higher. They just can’t be included because that data isn’t publicly available. So it’s even better than it seems. $1.21 is just the base, not the max.

It was a great year, and that was tremendously important because 2020 simply had to be a bad one for pandemic reasons. It ensured everyone was in as healthy of a place as possible when this whole thing started, because if it wasn’t, everyone would be in much worse shape than they already are. That’s good! We’ll get to all that and more in my chat with Miller, which is very much worth a listen if you’re into the deep nerd and industry stuff.

2. So Many, Standing Up

One morning this week, I was awakened to a message on my phone with a link to So Many of Us, a website of unknown nature. Curious as to what it was, I clicked and found a stunning website put together by more than 60 women and nonbinary individuals who…well, here’s their words: “We are a collective of people who have been targeted and manipulated by Warren Ellis, author.” The website catalogs much of what happened between these individuals and Ellis, talking about the span of time they happened in, and getting into a slew of testimonials that are heartbreaking and staggering.

It’s all essential reading, with the understanding that it’s also a hard read, even if it is necessary. The work put together by this group in such a short span of time is incredible, as these individuals found each other, collaborated together, and created an incredibly effective website loaded with important information throughout, and all in just a couple weeks. All while providing others like them a lifeboat if they’ve been going through similar things. And that’s a crucial note, as is this one from the site itself:

“To be clear, our aim is not to see Warren Ellis punished, we are here to look forward. We believe it is important to amplify awareness of a pattern to change the culture of complicity. Emotional abuse, despite not being criminalized in many places, should be recognized as a real and lasting violation. We tell these stories so that anyone can recognize the dangerous nature of this type of behavior and protect themselves and others.”

It’s remarkable work, and tragically necessary work as well. People who are going through emotional abuse may not even be aware of it, and these types of things can be immensely valuable and eye-opening to those people, even if it’s hard as hell to go through.

It was a big week for assorted follow up on everything that came out over the last few weeks, as Asher Elbein wrote a remarkably robust breakdown of the history of bad behavior and inaction related to it in comics for The Daily Beast, connecting it to the financial uncertainty that comes with a comics career, while Sam Thielman wrote about Ellis for The Guardian, even speaking with Ellis for the piece. Within it, notable Warren Ellis Forum member Kelly Sue DeConnick commented on the situation, which led to Chip Zdarsky and Kieron Gillen doing the same via their respective newsletters.

It was, in a lot of ways, more opening of the floodgates, but in some ways it was almost more cathartic than what preceded it, an addendum that amounted to “now how do we move on from here and what else are we facing?” Tremendous work by all of those behind So Many of Us, as well as Elbein and Thielman in putting their respective pieces together.

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