Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Quality Implosion

A Graphic Look at Trends in Publishing

While researching the Companion, I found it necessary to make certain charts to help me identify trends in the publishing history. I did this for many different sets of data, like the anthology issues, the individual features, and in this instance the series themselves. This also helped me read all the comics in a chronological fashion: month-by-month instead of title-by-title.

Click to view in a new window.
This kind of graphic representation brings to light certain "sea changes" that occurred and allowed me to connect real world events with the actual print runs of the comics. I had intended for this chart to occupy a two-page spread in the book, but that was not to be!

Two major things come into view at a glance...

First, you can see the tapering off of the original anthology series, and with them, the super-heroes. Though it should still be noted that Quality kept publishing about as many super-heroes as DC did, with a few in the lead (Blackhawk, Plastic Man, Spirit and Doll Man), and other also-rans (Quicksilver, Human Bomb).

The other "dinosaur die-off" visible here is the "Quality Implosion": when the company over-invested in romance comics, and then when Busy Arnold split from the Register and Tribune, almost all of the new titles were canceled after only about one year. What's this? I have exclusive—and extensive—details about their split in the book! Of course one might consider the company's end as a sort of "implosion," too, but that was prompted mostly by changes in distribution (the same problem as Timely/Marvel's).

I've got lots more where this came from. I even have a database of Golden Age heroes that allows me to track debut issues and dates. I have added in pulp, radio and comic strip heroes, too, to give it that extra dimension. I think I'll make a graphic of that too!

Another one that I intend to post is my comparison of super-hero debuts across the major publishing companies.

COMING SOON! I interviewed Mark Evanier all about his experience in writing Blackhawk from 1982-84. In the process, I learned more about the Plastic Man cartoon!


  1. Wow, wonderful job Mike!
    I hope you'll be showing more of your graphs for us.


  2. I would love to, yes! As I mentioned, there are a few more that I made just to keep myself oriented during the research.