When I first met Miguel Cima, he told me he wanted to make rock stars out of comics folk. Seeing as the affable Cima used to work in the music industry, it wasnâ€™t a surprising comparison.
It was at Jim Hanleyâ€™s Universe just a few weeks ago, for a screening of his documentary Dig Comics, with a panel discussion following.
Dig Comics is Cimaâ€™s attempt at a cutting-edge documentary that preaches the wonders of comics, and how we need to get them into the hands of the uninitiated. To convey this, he talks to a few comics talents â€“ Scott Shaw, Dame Dâ€™Arcy, and Jeph Loeb â€“ about the diminishing presence of comics, comic shop owners, gives a well-studied review of comicsâ€™ sales decline over the past few decades, and in contrast to other countriesâ€™, and even goes on the street to get comics in the hands of non-readers. The thirty-minute documentary Miguel has painstakingly put together is like a â€œpilotâ€ towards a longer and more ambitious version to come, with him as an approachable and fun-loving host, with just a tinge of self-deprecation that makes him feel like an old pal. Dig Comics is ambitious, positive, and full of pep.
Cimaâ€™s passion towards comics is genuine and hopeful; however, the thirty-minute proto-form of the documentary only focused on ways to get people hooked on single issues and trade paperbacks, and to make the current marketplace survive.
One of the things we talked about during the panel were the presence of trade paperbacks and graphic novels in bookstores, as well as the rise of the digital comic (panelist Tom Brevoort of Marvel Comics: â€œWebcomics are the future.â€). Currently, webcomics are being produced by everyone from up-and-coming cartoonists to industry vets, and also have a huge presence on Marvelâ€™s website. Whatâ€™s lacking are standardized viewing methods as well as a set electronic distribution, both of which will probably happen once the fabled and almost mythological iPod tablet goes on the market.
By this time next year, Diamond may be feeling the weight of electronic comicsâ€™ competition, taking a huge bite out of their single-issue sales in an already dwindling direct marketplace, as folks give up their $3 to $4 single issue habit for a cheaper subscription-based approach. Comic shops will unfortunately feel the change, as well, and the smart ones will adapt towards becoming trade paperback and graphic novel stores with a selection of single-issue sales.
Dig Comics doesnâ€™t tap into any of this in the half-hour proto-version; if Miguel chooses to touch on the phenomenon in his expanded version, heâ€™ll also cover more bases, but may find himself documenting the comics industry as it goes through an astounding metamorphosis
I, for one, am anxious to see the ultimate version of his documentary. The comics industry in America is more accepted than itâ€™s ever been, but it still needs more cheerleaders like Miguel Cima.