The Story of The Great Comic Book Crash
How speculators and publishers caused the comic book industry to implode.
Every industry, particularly in entertainment, goes through its ups and downs. Motion pictures faced a slump when television became a staple in every home, and the coming of video games similarly affected television. Streaming services such as Netflix have all but destroyed video/ DVD rental stores and had a pretty big impact on sales of those items as well. Print media has been suffering for years due to the demand for people’s attention being pulled in so many different directions. However, not all forms of entertainment have suffered purely due to the introduction of new technology. Some did it to themselves.
In order for the story of the Great Comic Book Crash (™) of the 90’s to be told, some context of the industry at the time must be given. From their earliest beginnings in the 1930’s comics were bought for a dime, read, passed around to friends and then, eventually, discarded. It was never considered that they might have some kind of future value. So, landmark issues such as Action Comics #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15 were thrown away, or sold at boot sales, or given away to younger siblings. They were, in essence, lost.
Jump to the 1980s and comic books were experiencing something of a rejuvenation with releases such as Alan Moore’s Watchmen, DC’s epic Crisis on Infinite Earth, Marvel’s multi-media-spanning Secret Wars and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight. These titles were different, mature and had long-running creative teams that were able to tell deep, mythos-defining stories. All of this made not only comic fans take notice, but also those who may have not picked up a comic for years, if at all. Suddenly, comics were seen as a legitimate art form, with Watchmen and Dark Knight in particular being prime examples of how comics did not have to be “just for kids.” Even the mainstream media was talking about comics.
This all amounted to a new interest in comics and those readers who had moved away from the hobby but retained fond memories of it became interested again. Due to a healthy economy, these ex-readers came back into the fold and rather than just buy new comics, they also wished to revisit the memories of past years. At this time there was no such thing…