Last week, we asked readers to submit their suggestions of recession proof industries in comic books. Congratulations to our winner, Will, who proposed that cosmetic surgeons, especially for superheroes:
Many heroes don't have healing factors or invulnerability, but are not hideously scarred, missing teeth, suffering from signs of poor setting of bone, etc. Clearly, off panel, they are spending a great deal of time (and money) getting cosmetic surgery or dentistry done to keep things looking good. [...] The booming cosmetic surgery business will also explain why heroes look so different book to book. Adding to all of this, in recessions, crime normally goes up, meaning more fights and more need for cosmetic surgery for both heroes and villains.The particularly fascinating thing about this answer is the distinction between comic book universes and real Earth. That is, on real Earth dips in the economy tend to diminish utilization of cosmetic services. In fact, according to a New York Times article in December 2008, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that 62% of surgeons responded that they had performed fewer procedures in the first half of the year compared with the same time in 2007. In addition, the Mentor Corporation--an implant manufacturer--reported that the number of implants sold had decreased 5% in the three months leading up to September 26th from the same time the previous year. Finally, the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery's Economic Impact Survey revealed that approximately 80% of cosmetic surgery practices in the United States were impacted by the recession and that surgeons reported a 50% drop in patients in the third quarter of 2008.
Another reason this is interesting is that although people are tightening their belts during times of economic troubles, there is reason to believe that the "vanity" business can usually be fairly successful. Intuitively, an argument can be made that if people are losing jobs and becoming more insecure, they might want to indulge in services that enhance their appearances and thus boost their self-esteem. If this phenomenon is occurring in the United States, the evidence suggests that it does not seem to be offsetting the reduction in spending on plastic surgery accompanied with the downturn.
In comic books, however, this does not have to be the case. Indeed, humans would cut their use of cosmetic and luxurious services just as they do in real life, but evidence through the books seem to suggest otherwise for the metahuman population. Anybody who has consistently read a comic book must have at one point thought, "I wonder how this guy gets beat up so many times only to look unblemished the next issue." Will proposes that the answer is lots and lots of cosmetic surgery.
This is not an unreasonable theory. After all, not all superheroes have billions of dollars in assets and a trained combat medic for a Butler. Not all mutants have a healing factor or quick access to the Beast for support. Even if they did have access to medical personnel, I doubt that Alfred is also trained in combat cosmetics. And despite his astonishing wealth of medical knowledge and his ability to invent a time machine notwithstanding, I have a feeling that the Beast doesn't know the first thing about an abdominoplasty.
It can be argued that the superhero/supervillain utilization of cosmetics is not enough to offset the decrease in use by regular humans. After all, a 50% drop in patients in the third quarter of 2008 is quite a bit. However, the metahuman population is constantly expanding and most of them do not have their own titles. Secondly, as Will pointed out, recessions tend to be associated with an increase in specific types of crimes, including robbery and burglary (which is something we have discussed here). If superheroes are on the rise and if the recession is drawing out more criminals, then it is certainly conceivable that the increase in utilization by these superheroes is enough to deem the industry "recession-proof."
And it better be. No one likes an ugly superhero.
Again, thank you very much for your comments, everyone. Will, please e-mail us at ecocomics dot blog at gmail dot com with your address and top 5 choices of graphic novels/comic books under $20.