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Changing media over the last decade

About this time of year people typically post things about what they’ve done over the last year, or even the last decade. I thought about it, but decided not to do that. I could list some of the TV and films I’ve watched but there’s too much and picking out favourites is difficult. Instead I’m going to write about how I think the different mediums have changed over the last ten years and my rambling thoughts on it all.

TV and Film

The short version is we are in a golden age of entertainment. In the last 10 years I’ve watched some of the most engaging TV shows of my life. I’ve seen films that have amazing spectacular visuals, that make it worthwhile seeing on a big screen with surround sound in a giant room. Those films are just not the same on a TV at home no matter how big the screen, it can’t compare and for that and other reasons I think cinemas will always be around. Games (computer and console) have also leapt forward, with new consoles with better graphics, three dimensional characters with interesting relationships and there again more thoughtful  and intricate stories as well as lots of explosions and FPS which I also enjoy. I’ve recently been replaying Half Life 2 again and it’s been lots of fun. Sales of some console games leave films in the dust because they are so popular and have such a huge following around the world.

Games

I think MMORPGs are not dead, not exactly, but I think their heyday has definitely passed when 20 million subscribers was the norm. I can be engaged by a game for a few hours but sometimes I just want to play something for 20-3o minutes and not have to pay a monthly fee to do it. Maybe a new MMORPG will come out and hook me again but I doubt it as I’ve not played WoW in years and prefer to dip in and out of other things, or play a game until it is finished and then move on to the next rather than constantly be stuck in the second act of something that has no end. People play a lot more games on their phones and ten years ago this didn’t exist. I see more of that in the future and more free games with micro-transactions.

Books

I don’t think a lot has changed other than to say there’s a lot more to choose from as well. In the SFF arena, the number of books being published each year has increased so there are always books I’ve missed, authors I’m vaguely aware of that are popular and favourites among some readers, and other authors I’ve just not heard of before. People will be aghast and say you’ve not heard of X?? But that’s just because there’s too much of everything to stay up to date. And, people are constantly battling for attention on social media so the flood of information never stops 24×7 which means you can blink and miss it.

So because of all of this I’ve had to become more selective. Some TV shows I was previously watching out of loyalty but not really enjoying, I’ve dropped and don’t miss them. Social media has changed a lot in ten years. Widening it to include stuff like YouTube, as that feeds into what people watch, there’s definitely been a shift. I have some friends with children who only watch YouTube, or 90% of their content comes from YouTube as they consider that TV and their celebs are people on Twitch channels or YouTube personalities. I’ve found myself watching more in the last 2 years, following people I previously knew from elsewhere (sports people, TV stars and a couple of celebs) who have gone on on to develop their own channels. I also follow channels about hobbies I’m interested in but I’m not interested in watching someone else play games. I’d rather be doing it myself.

Comics

I think comics is the least well adjusted medium for 2020 and beyond. Waiting a month between single issues, especially on ongoing series with no definitive end, isn’t something that can continue. It’s too slow, it’s old fashioned, it doesn’t work any more and the number of Wednesday Warriors gets smaller every year. Even with the best writers and artists I’m just not reading as many ongoing titles. I’ve shifted to a digital trial and if it is good I’ll get it in trade. If it’s a mini series or similar I might read it all digitally or trade wait. DC has had a bit of shift, creating Black Label with top creators producing shorter series, as well as launching DC Ink and DC Zoom for younger readers and I think that’s a great step in the right direction but more needs to be done to bring in a lot more younger readers and, more importantly, keep them reading year on year. The temporary boost of big named creators, or a new issue 1 on a big title doesn’t work long term, and I still think a significant change needs to be made.

In comparison to DC, Marvel seem to have just given up on attracting younger readers. They license most of their biggest characters to other publishers to write stories for kids and the YA audience. A lot of young people know Marvel and DC characters from animation, games, movies and even TV shows, but not the comics themselves which is a huge shame. I think many people in suits in Hollywood still view comic books as nothing more than cheap R and D. The glory days of Image comics and even the Kirkman Manifesto are gone. Bar a couple of huge successes like the Walking Dead, Image comics isn’t what it used to be. Also making a decent living just on creator owned titles isn’t possible any more. There are always exceptions but many creators work in multiple mediums, across Big2 books and their own in order to make a living.

What’s next?

I think out of all of the mediums, TV is adapting the quickest to keep up with the times. More paid subscription services are popping up every day. People will begin to swap around, chasing TV shows they like the look of, cancelling one and moving to another for a few months at a time. There’s so much diverse content out there. If you can’t find several shows that you enjoy then you’re just not looking hard enough.

There seems to be a bit of a shift with films. There are few small films being made and by that I mean 20-50 million dollar movies that are not part of a massive franchise. Watching those films at the cinema are few and far between, or you are blink and miss it with one week at the cinema and then the next day they appear on Netflix or Amazon. So there is a place for them to be made, but I think some should still be viewed on a big screen and just won’t get a chance. I don’t think every single film at the cinema will be a franchise of some kind but I think that wave will continue for a while.

E-sports will continue to grow until it starts appearing on more mainstream TV channels. Social media ‘stars’ are also on the rise and I think that will keep going. We’ve now reached the point where some TV shows feature them in order to try and attract a new audience, even on the BBC. Previously such institutions would have ignored such people but the number of followers they command means more crossovers in the future.

Books. They’re a weird one in some ways. I think we’ll see more adaptations, partly because platforms are desperate for content and there are already a dozen or more SFF TV shows in the works based on big series (LOTR, Wheel of Time, Witcher, Kingkiller, GoT prequel, Expanse, Wildcards etc) and I think there will be more going forward. If this then makes people go back and start reading the books between TV series then it’s a win win situation.

For me comics is the biggest unknown and where it goes is the most difficult to predict. I’ll be keeping a close eye on it and I have some ideas of my own but we’ll see. I couldn’t have predicted some of the shifts we’ve seen since 2000 in terms of media development and I think the next ten years are going to be even more unpredictable.

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Filed under Books, Films, Games, TV, Writing

CBO – The Relaunch

Last month, Scott, my co-host, and I did a soft relaunch of our podcast, Comic Book Outsiders, for a third time. We’ve been going for over seven years now, and this is more of a refresh than a total relaunch. We’ve got a new theme tune, which is more relaxed and chilled out than previous intros, to reflect our approach, but we’re still going to be producing similar content, just on a more regular basis.

As well as doing CBO once a month, we’re also going to add a new podcast to the network. As soon as I can say more about this I will. I think it’s something different, and quite new, which is increasingly difficult to find with podcasts these days. When we started there were not that many around, and we had to explain to people what a podcast was! Technology moves so quickly it’s hard to believe. I’ve seen 2 year old children swiping tablet screens and knowing how to turn them on and off.

Anyway, back on podcasting. Also on our network, I co-host Bags of Action, a monthly podcast about action movies, where Pete Rogers and I cackle as we dissect modern and classic action films. We’ve just completed a three part Salute to Swayze, and are now moving into a trilogy dedicated to Arnie. We always have fun recording it. This was the initial requirement Scott and I had, and that if it ever stopped being fun and started to feel like a job we’d stop doing it. We came close a couple of times over the seven years, which is why our output and schedule varied at times .

Since we started Comic Book Outsiders our plan has always been to highlight hidden gems and spotlight comics, books, films and TV shows that deserve more attention. Over the years we’ve spoken to some amazing comic book artists and writers, novelists, film directors and people whose work cross several mediums. This is absolutely the best thing about doing the podcast. Talking to amazing people who are out there creating amazing content.

Our approach remains the same, as we both have quite eclectic tastes, and my comic reading horizons have definitely broadened over the last fifteen years. We do enjoy mainstream media and will discuss it, like some of the best films but I’m constantly challenging myself and Scott to step outside our comfort zones.

In the first episode of our relaunch, we had a Challenge Scott section, a semi-regular slot where I pitch Scott three comic books and try to get him interested enough to pick up at least one of them. Further down the line we then discuss the comic book. Last episode I pitched Letter 44 from Oni Press, The Fuse from Image comics, and Southern Bastards from Image comics. In the end Scott went with SB, because it sounded the furthest out of his comfort zone and the story intrigued him. I think it will be a really interesting discussion which we’ll be having as part of the January episode. So if you want to get involved, have read any of the three mentioned, and have an opinion on SB, then get in touch.

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