Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rethinking Yourself

So I'm sitting here thinking, "Why don't more people embrace webcomics? They're every bit as good -- and in some cases better -- than what gets published. And why don't more print publishers take advantage of the format? It'd certainly be cheaper."

A few years ago, I might have suggested that it was a fear of change. "I don't know what the new thing is, so I'll stick with what I already know." There's certainly some of that involved, but these days, I think it has more to do with habits. "I'm doing it this way because this is the way it's always been done."

This has really stood out for me over the past year or so. Between my divorce and the subsequent (but, unrelated) economic disaster, I've caught myself doing things many times that I was only doing out of habit.

Prime example: My ex-wife and I kept hand towels in the kitchen. At one point, she sat down and figured out the most aesthetically pleasing way (to her) to have them folded, since they were sitting out on the pie rack. Personally, I don't care all that much, but I continue folding them in the same way because that's just the way I've been doing it.

But relating to comics, much of my hesitation to really get into webcomics was simply that regular trips to my LCS was the way I'd always obtained my comic fix, and there was no real impetus for me to change. I enjoyed going to the shop and picking up whatever was in my pull file, and browsing the new comics on the wall. No need to change that.

But then came financial difficulties and, if I wanted to not lose my house, I had to stop buying comics. That didn't satiate my interest in comics, naturally, and I had to sit down and figure out ways to continue reading comics, despite not being able to afford buying them. It was only when I was really forced to re-think my comics habits that I really embraced webcomics for the first time.

I think 2009 is going to be a significant year because it's going to force people to change in any number of ways. There was a lot of political rhetoric about "change" for this year's new U.S. President, but there was some (unintentional) prophetic truth to the claim. I think a lot of issues are coming to a head more-or-less simultaneously and it's going to force a large number of people to rethink themselves.

"Do I really need to spend $30 every week on comics?"

"Do I really need to 400 channels on television?"

"Do I really need a cell phone and a land line?"

"Do I really need to buy something from Starbucks every day?"

And, sure, a lot of those questions that get asked and answered are going to be about superficial stuff, like how the towels get folded. But some of it is going to be more significant. And, while your rethinking which comic pamphlets you buy every month isn't terribly significant, it might be worth thinking about the aggregate repercussions. If 100 people rethink buying Detective Comics, that probably won't have a noticeable impact on anyone beyond those 100 people. But what if 100 people rethink buying something from a small-press indie publisher? That might be reflective of 20% of their readership! That might mean the difference between "getting by" and "going out of business."

Now I'm not saying that you should continue spending money on comics you can no longer afford, but I do think that, if you're in a position where you need to pare down you pull list, take a moment to reflect on your actual enjoyment of each book. Are you really continuing with a book because it's good, or are you just trying to make sure your 200+ run of issues doesn't have a hole in it? And, while that might sound like a loaded question, it isn't. If your goal is to have a complete run of Action Comics when you die, and you really don't care much about the story anyway, I don't see a problem with that. But, if you just like reading about the Fantastic Four, and you keep buying the book despite the fact that you don't recognize the FF that Mark Millar is writing, that's a signal that you're overdue for a rethink.

If often takes something big for us to really think through our repetitive actions. Change isn't easy, and that's why it often takes some outside force to get the ball rolling. Whether you're looking at the political landscape, or the newspaper business, or the economy, or the job market, or anything else, 2009 looks to be shaping up to be a year of change. And that change should help goad you into looking at your personal situation -- really looking at your personal situation -- and seeing if it makes sense to continue on with business as usual.

2 comments:

Matt K said...

"Get a new hook, Sean!"

;-)

Jojo Bizarro said...

Likewise, a lot of musicians are putting their music online as free MP3s, but they’re hardly competition for the stuff you find in record stores, and, like you mentioned about web comics, the online free variants are sometimes better than the purchased variants at the store. Of course, MP3 is popular moreso because it allows people to copy (not “steal”) their favorite copyrighted music for free.