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Matt Price’s Word Balloons column celebrates 10th anniversary

by Matthew Price Modified: April 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm •  Published: February 4, 2011
The 2000 film "X-Men," co-starring James Marsden, was among the inspirations for Matt Price's Word Balloons column in the pages of The Oklahoman
The 2000 film "X-Men," co-starring James Marsden, was among the inspirations for Matt Price's Word Balloons column in the pages of The Oklahoman

WORD BALLOONS

Every Friday for the past 10 years, readers have been able to find out about the world of comic books in the pages of The Oklahoman.

After starting at The Oklahoman in November 2000, my column about comic books, “Word Balloons,” was approved by Entertainment Editor Gene Triplett and began Feb. 2, 2001 — my birthday. While a lot has changed in newspapers over the past decade, one thing that’s remained constant is this weekly dose of comic book news and commentary.

Comic book sales were starting to come out of the slump they’d been in through the late 1990s, and graphic novels were becoming more a part of the accepted parlance. Perhaps most notably for this column, the “X-Men” movie had been a hit. Bryan Singer’s adaptation of Marvel’s mutant comic book had become the ninth highest-grossing film of 2000. “Spider-Man,” to be directed by Sam Raimi, had started filming just a few weeks before, with few suspecting it would go on to make more than $800 million dollars worldwide in 2002. This success opened the floodgates for comic-book films, with dozens more hitting the silver screen throughout the decade.

Changes happened not only in the multiplexes, but in the bookstores, too. Graphic novels were one of the fastest-growing categories in bookstores throughout the decade, and sales to comic shops trended upward from 2001 through 2009. According to Comichron.com, yearly sales of the top 300 comics and top trade paperbacks to comic shops went up from $207.49 million in 2001 to $335.47 million in 2009. The graphic novel growth in comic shops was even more pronounced, from $20.51 million in 2001 to $77.65 million in 2009, again according to Comichron.com.

Comic book and graphic novel creators such as Craig Thompson, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman and even Oklahoma’s own Sterling Gates went from little-known to highly regarded over the course of the decade. Mike Mignola, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Mark Millar and others saw creations that sprang from their imaginations become multimedia bonanzas.

This explosive growth of the comics field led to a comics podcast on NewsOK — now a video, co-hosted by Kyle Roberts. Alan Herzberger, now our digital managing editor, worked on the initiative to create my blog, Nerdage, in 2007. It’s now among NewsOK’s most popular.

And although trends can by cyclical, it doesn’t look like there will be any shortage of comics-related stories to come in the years ahead. Comics continue to create rich source material for motion pictures, of course, but more importantly, innovative and trailblazing stories continue to be created with the synthesis of writing and art.

- By Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman

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by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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