Rob, while I do believe the commerical comic book industry has problems, I think independant/self publishing authors can indeed get thier own niche for sucess. So it's not entirely hopeless. If I'm optomistic, I believe there might be a boom one of these days. I just don't see the medium vanishing anytime soon. And, well.. I don't like the idea of discouraging people from trying if that is what they truly do want.
Oh, the comic form itself is going to stick around for some time to come. People like the storytelling format and comics themselves aren't going anywhere anytime soon, they do too much no other medium can, at a reasonable budget. The conversion to digital as a proper full time and only business model, while bumpy, will eventually work itself out.
But the floppy printed on paper 32 pages comics of the last 70 years will be dead sooner rather than later. The biggest titles, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and such, coming from the big companies will hold out the longest, and continue as just collectibles for a while. But anything on a smaller less recognized scale than that will be gone in a few more years.
(And no, we can't just switch to the way manga does it, with 600 page weeklies at a super low price, the industry just isn't set up for it. Not in terms of paying, order numbers, printing volumes that big, or even producing that much material on a weekly basis, having that many teams synchronize their deadlines, and the assumption that the books have to be in color… and a multitude of other things.... American Industry simply can't produce the way manga does, there's a century of divergent process development and what people expect. We also can't just produce 1 or 2 high quality high page count books a year like the European system does... again, the market and sales system just aren't set up for it.)
But anyone that wants to get into it should know that there are 12-20 hour work days, 7 days a week, no holidays, sometimes months without pay, no guarantee that you'll actually work on projects you have any interest at all in, or that your dream projects will go anywhere, find any audience, or the time and energy for you to work on them. (the same goes for animators. For everyone that manages to work on something cool like Avatar, theres another animator that has to work on Dora the explorer, and then 20 more with no work at all)
Doing something as a hobby and for fun is fantastic. The days fly by in a rush when that's what you're doing, and sometimes those are the projects you get to work on that are pure joy and you can't wait to work on them. But that doesn't automatically mean every day, or even every month, is actually fun when its your JOB and you HAVE to work on certain things to pay rent. Its a real world lesson that takes several years to sink in, and the american comics industry is utter shit right now. (DC in the last year had to reboot ALL their titles and change them to number 1's to try and draw interest. ALL OF THEM. Think about that, and the kind of crazy desperation move that is.) The industry was lousy 10 years ago, and its abysmal now. It was amazing in the 80's and early 90's.
(And, given the ammount of variant covers starting to hit books once again to artificially inflate the numbers, we're about to hit another spectator boom and thats gonna really screw things up. Did the industry not learn from last time?)
As for independant publishers? That's an extremely, EXTREMELY hard road. In charge of earning all your money, paying bills (including rent, groceries, electricity and web space and such) creating content, advertising, conventions, creating enough capital to make merchandise like trade collections so that you can make actual money off the product, and a thousand others things no one considers in advance... You need at LEAST 2 or 3 people working full time in order to make it work as a business, it is just literally flat out impossible time and energy wise for one person to manage everything required to sustain an independant publishing as a profitable buisness.
Its doable. If you have the passion and talent and belief and the willingness to go without stuff. There's been a handful of webcomic authors who have met tremendous success, and others that while not hugely successful, eek out a living at it. But its very very hard, and you have to be incredibly professional about it... and it takes years to develop a fanbase. (And almsot every single webcomic that is currently big, was one of the first to hit, while there was little competition, around the year 2000... and has come out regularly on schedule every day, or 3 times a week, for all those years.)
Making a living during those years while cultivating a fanbase is even harder. So you have to do something part time while developing, and that saps your energy... and so on.
Not impossible. But really really hard. Most people don't think about that at all before jumping into it on a lark, and only start to realize just how much actual work it is, and how little reward after going at it for a while, and then very quickly give up and look into a real job.[/hide]
Also. There is a reason they're called "Starving artists". Its not a cute term. Its shorthand for "there is very little fame or success or money in this usually."