Comic-Con Documentary Director Morgan Spurlock Forecasts a Digital Future
When asked why he didn't put himself directly into his recently-released Comic-Con documentary, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, last Saturday night in Portland, Ore., director Morgan Spurlock joked that he wanted people to actually like it. The often often polarizing figure behind Super Size Me and 30 Days TV series wasn't all humor during the post-screening Q&A, however, and shared some of his favorite comic picks, along with serious insights into where he thinks the comic book business may be headed. In suitable Spurlock fashion, not everyone will be completely comfortable with what he had to say.One of the first questions asked during the Q&A came from a fan who wanted to know which comics Spurlock likes. The director explained that Spider-Man's comical appearances on The Electric Company got him interested in the character's comic stories as a kid, which led to further reading that's lasted into his adulthood. Unfortunately, he thinks an unspecified filmmaker may not do one of his favorite comics justice when it gets turned into a live action Hollywood film.
"My Mom started getting me Spider-Man comics which really got me into reading X-men comics and Thor comics and Avengers comics. I loved Plastic Man as a kid -- I LOVED Plastic Man, for some f*cking reason, I don't know why. And I loved the terrible cartoon of Plastic Man (the 1979-1981 The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show) and I wanted to make Plastic Man into a live action movie and Bruce Campbell would have been the perfect guy, but now he's a little too old--he does have the chin that would make the best Plastic Man. What I love recently is DMZ, I love Irredeemable, I love Incorruptible. Y: The Last Man was fantastic, um, it's going to get ruined by somebody I know. Irredeemable, Incorruptible I love that whole series. I wrote the forward to Make Waid's anthology for that book [Definitive Irredeemable Hardcover Vol. 1] just because I was blown away by the whole thing."
When asked about the shifting focus of Comic-Con from a comic show to a multimedia show, Spurlock acknowledged the changing landscape before transitioning into sharing his take on where the mainstream comic book industry itself is headed:
"Comic books aren't dying, comic books as a paper art form is dying. Just like books are dying. The reason Borders is shutting down and Barnes & Noble [stores] are shutting down is because nobody buys books, you know. I buy them for my Kindle, I download them to my iPad. I buy more comics now off of comiXology than I ever have because I don't even have to go to the store. I can literally download them straight to my iPad and never leave my house -- never put on a pair of pants. It's like the greatest thing ever. And so for me, I think that it's still a very much alive art form, it's just transitioning into something else. And what's going to be interesting is to see what happens to these kind of paper comics. I think that what will happen is they will still print them but they will become an infinitely smaller run. They will become limited editions that they can print. You'll buy a comic book and it'll be like one of 500 or one of 1000. It'll be a very limited run so that it really does become a collectible even to the people who buy it. That's what I think will start happening with print comic books. And then the [comics] that are already in print will just I think get more valuable to the people who ultimately want them. You know there was that whole conversation about baseball cards were like going away because nobody's buying baseball cards anymore. This is just the next generation of people to start doing that. Unless you're a collector and you're passing that on to your kid, kids aren't going and buying comic books. My son and I read the comic books that I have, but then when we fly on a plane I'm not carrying like a stack of 15 comic books, I'm reading them on my iPad. It's going to be interesting to see what happens in the next few years. I think there will be this really spectacular push towards limited edition comics for real collectors."
Depending on who you talk to, Spurlock's prediction about print runs (of single issues, presumably) will register as impending, impossible or perhaps a little of both. Same-day digital distribution is still an imperfect reality at best, and print runs at the scale (and potentially price point) he's forecasting might not prove viable for shop owners, Diamond or mainstream publishers. If all things were equal, readers could make a case-by-case buying decision depending on whether they wanted to purchase something digitally or in print. Of course, things aren't equal, so the balance between those buying digital out of convenience vs. those seeking a physical collectible may indeed influence the market to a more dramatic extent in the future.