Lately, there have been a proliferation of Australian comics being published and marketed locally via a range of crowd-funded sites. And, really, it's quite easy to see why. As I found out the (financially) hard way with Oi Oi Oi! -- there is no future in publishing and releasing comics the 'traditional' way via local Australian newsstands. Newspaper circulations are dropping, as more people obtain their news via the immediacy of television and, even more so, other social media platforms. As a result, newsagents are slowly going out of business. The only comics found there these days (in Australia, at any rate) are reprints of Mad magazine, occasionally 2000 A.D., and The Phantom, the latter of which is surviving because the publisher has - at last - acknowledged that there is a talent pool of local artists and writers willing to contribute to the character, and there still remains a loyal readership. For how long, though?
There is certainly a lot to like about the ability to market a comic book via crowd-funded sites. At the present time, it seems to suit most participants. Set-up costs for writer-artist-self-publishers are relatively small, and there appears to be a dedicated consumer base willing to support and successfully fund most campaigns of late. And while Comicoz was one of the earlier pioneers of the crowd-funding model to fund some of its high-quality comic-related books within this country (and with plans to soon market some new books through this method), I'm increasingly concerned that this particular marketplace is slowly becoming saturated with comic product, local and international. With the increasing number of publishers entering the market, there will need to be an increasing quality of product (and incentives) to attract potential readers, and I fear that there remains a limited or even decreasing number of potential supporters of the medium.
One of the problems is that I don't believe the reader-base is expanding. Comics are not the entertainment staple that they were when I was younger. As a result, there are less and less younger people knowing how to read comics. The big two comic book publishers (DC and Marvel) seem more intent on focusing their efforts on catering to collectors, with their various covers of the same issue. The other side of this, is that there is an increased diversity of product (that is, not mere superhero comics). Although this diversity seems to be the province of the smaller publishers, enthusiastically entering the market to create perhaps the biggest range of comic available to readers since the advent of the direct-market system.
Another problem (locally, at least) seems to be the ever-present scourge of COVID-19. From lockdowns to people losing regular work, people are finding money tight. While the government paints a rosy picture that the economy is going to bounce-back once "we get to the other side", I fear that the many small businesses, the local comic shop retailers who support the comic medium, will struggle to stay afloat. Compounding this concern, is the recent decision by Marvel and DC (and other publishers) to leave Diamond Distributors. While I have no problem with an increased competition within the marketplace, I wonder if there will be smaller discounts offered by the new distributor, Penguin Random House, thus putting a bigger squeeze on the local comic book store. From the major publisher's perspective, it increases the visibility of their product (and hopefully sales), and perhaps makes the comic medium (particularly the graphic novel) more aligned with literature -- which is something the industry has long wished for.
...acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to elders past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all First Australian peoples.
Over the past decade (2011 - 2020) Nat has self-published ten comic-related books and was Publisher-Editor of Oi Oi Oi! - the last nationally-distributed comic book of original comics stories to appear on Australian newsstands. He edited Inkspot, the journal of the Australian Cartoonists Association for 14 issues from late 2015 to 2019 and is a current member of the ACA's Committee. In his spare time, he is a husband, a father (to six) and grandfather (to fourteen), and works in the Psychiatric Emergency Centre in Queensland's largest public hospital.
Comicoz is Nat Karmichael's publishing imprint. Nat is committed to preserving a permanent collection of Australian comic and comic strips. He feels that there is a need to recognise comics' contribution to and depiction of Australian culture.