Ever since the comics boom in the early 1990s, the local comics market has gone through its ups and downs (e.g. shops opening and closing, the effects of the Asian Financial Crisis, changes in story / art quality, emergence of the trade paperback market.) Regardless, I believe that the key factor that drives the market is (and will always largely be) interest in the medium as a form of leisure.
On an important related note, how comics compare against other forms of leisure (e.g. video games) will matter too. Comics are meant to entertain. Accordingly, questions like who they entertain and how they entertain matter. In this light, here are three opinions that I have on the near future of the comics market here in Singapore:
(i) Serious collectors will run solo and turn to the inter-net much more for the collecting needs
Some would say that this has already happened a long time ago but I think there is still much potential for more, especially in terms of newer serious collectors. The first reason is simply a matter of supply. Not many people are holding those rare and desirable Silver Age comics locally and even fewer are giving them up for sale. If you are dedicated and want to finish that Amazing Spider-man run, then looking overseas (and especially via the internet) is the only way to go. The second reason is the general trend toward online shopping. Back when I started buying online in the early part of the millennium, online shopping for comics involved looking through large text files of comic lists and trying to uncover gems for decent prices. eBay was around but the volume was not there as it is today. The options and ease today are so much better. While online shopping won’t displace local businesses, it will surely compete for their dollar. Lastly, the internet is the most viable way to tap on the CGC comics market that appeals to serious collectors since there is no (inexpensive) avenue to grade their comics locally.
(ii) It will become harder to attract new regular collectors / readers
This works on two levels: (i) younger readers (i.e. teenagers) and (ii) new adult readers. The teenage demographic in the comics market has dried up over the years in Singapore. In my opinion, the main reason for this is a decreased interest in read-ing as a whole as a form of leisure. Naturally, rising comic prices and increased competition for entertain-ment (e.g. gaming, technology) have mattered as well. For new adult readers, while the development of the trade paperback market has been largely positive for the local market, it has also made it easier for potential newer collectors and readers to step away and be more selective over what to read and collect. In other words, the commitment required to be a regular collector / reader is no longer there. This is not necessarily a bad thing and comic companies know this (hence the expansion of the trade paperback market). It also means more episodic releases meant to tap on a short but incredibly high interest in a subject (e.g. new titles / miniseries / one-shots released in conjunction with a movie).
(iii) The middle ground will disappear
This is a corollary of the two earlier opinions. The market will dichotomise between the serious collectors who will turn up to pick up their pull lists weekly and complete their collecting tar-gets, and the a sizable passive reading / collecting base with a greater interest in trade paperbacks. You will either be a committed collector or a passive reader. This can already be seen somewhat in the decreased interest in the general back issue market where taking the effort to complete a back issue run is either meaningless or too painful (or expensive). Trade paperbacks will probably go the same way eventually but they will at least be more movable if necessary.