Animator Mark Mayerson comments on the current state of computer generated animation, and compares it to how he views the current state of the comics industry:
The films are starting to blend together. Two recent features both used the hoary old gag of a character being mistaken for a god. Was it The Wild and Ice Age 2? I swear I can’t remember.
We had A Bug’s Life and Antz and now The Ant Bully. We had Finding Nemo and Shark Tale. We had Madagascar and The Wild. And we’re due for a plague of rats. There’s Ratatouille, Flushed Away, Rats Amore and One Rat Short.
When you take the genre conventions and add settings or subject matter that have already been done, you’re in danger of boring the audience.
Something very interesting happened in the comics field that may relate to what’s going on in animation. From the 1960′s onwards, comics fans argued for longer, more serious works. While Marvel and DC, the two main companies, did adapt to a degree, they stuck with superheroes and continued to market to their established fan base.
Cartoonists finally took matters into their own hands and started doing personal work that broke out of genre conventions. Between the importation of Manga and mainstream publisher interest in the graphic novel, Marvel and DC have been reduced to minor players in terms of sales and artistic importance.
Personally, I think that calling Marvel and DC minor players in almost any sense – even artistic importance – is a misreading of the industry, and thinking that they are minor players in terms of sales a massive mistake. More after the jump.
In his comments section, Mayerson gets taken to task, and offers this explanation for his take:
Companies like Marvel and DC are making far more money on movie revenues and licensing than they are on comics. That’s the economic model they’re built on. In terms of gross dollars for comics sales, they’ve fallen behind manga and in terms of prestige, they’ve fallen behind independent graphic novels.
While it helps understanding where he’s coming from, I still think that he’s wrong in drawing the conclusions that he’s coming up with. Ignoring the mainstream media coverage of DC and Marvel stunts like lesbian Batwoman and unmasked Spider-Man – I’d bet that the man in the street knows more about those characters than Jimmy Corrigan, although I leave it to you to decide how sad that is – DC at least publishes “prestige” projects, whether it be Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina, Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor or the new Gilbert Hernandez graphic novel, Sloth (Marvel is also getting away from the idea that prestige means getting a big name to do one of their existing superhero characters – although Jonathan Lethem on Omega is still pretty impressive – with things like Richard Corben’s Edgar Allen Poe book). And while ICv2 backs up manga’s dominance of the bookstore market, DC and Marvel still rule the direct market which, while niche, is still sizable. I’d try to work out how the direct market and bookstore market compare, but smarter men than I have already tried that one and come up with the answer “dunno, we’re comparing apples to oranges”.