Jim Crocker of Modern Myths in Northampton, Massachusetts saw the response from Allen N. Swords (see 'Allen N. Swords of Clemson University on Comics Content') to the column by Steve Bennett (see 'Confessions of a Comic Book Guy -- Giving People What They Don't Want'), and decries 'moralizing masquerading as market analysis:'
I was deeply grateful to read Professor Swords' eloquent and erudite response to Steve Bennett's opinion piece on comics content's supposed effect on sales.
I wanted to take a moment to reassure him that not all retailers long for the comics of today to be carbon copies of the comics they were reading as kids. Too many otherwise savy retailers (including people I deeply respect who have had tremendous success as retailers, like Joe and Buddy) can't seem to shake the notion that what they love about the comics they grew up with is what everyone else should love about the comics of today, and if that view isn't shared that there's something wrong. I have had tremendous success selling the full range of currently available comics, and have had a very different experience than Steve, Buddy, and Joe, in that some of the more morally complex comics currently being offered are selling very well for me, right alongside the less-nuanced 'good-n-evil' comics many of those same readers also enjoy as part of a well-balanced entertainment diet.
The vast majority of current comics readers are adults (which is good, but that's a topic for a different soapbox). Despite protestations by some retailers (or film critics, or book reviewers) that they 'know what the public wants,' I have found that those adults want to read about all the different things that adults read about, watch TV shows about, and make movies about. It has been my experience that such complaints about media rarely stem from serious demographic studies of large numbers of the target audience, but rather from the personal opinion of the person telling me what the public wants. If Steve can present a survey of ten thousand or so comic book readers, current and lapsed, across a variety of ages, genders, socioeconomic statuses and education levels that states that a significant majority of them are disappointed in the choices available to them AND that they believe there should be more comics of the type Steve is pining for, then it'll require conceding the point. Until then, we should remain skeptical of moralizing masquerading as market analysis.
At the end of the day, though, retailers who feel the public is truly being ill-served by the current crop of comics reflective of the real-world socio-political landscape have a number of options open to them: stop selling those comics they object to (which should be easy, since 'no one' wants them... Steven can send his unsold first printings of Villains United to me here in Northampton to start off on the right foot), create some comics that fill the need they see going unfilled, or put their money where their mouth is and fund a company to publish some comics by talented, popular creators of the kind they insist 'the public wants.' Given the fate of the last company to bet the bank on such books, Dreamwave, I urge caution. But if they do act on their convictions, I'll be right there to order those books and let the market prove me wrong.
Finally, Mr. Bennett may want to exercise some caution in wearing his political heart on his sleeve. Comparing the current crop of superheroes to 'UN Peacekeepers' and assuming that every reader will read that as a negative is the kind of thing that casts his observations of the marketplace into the area of partisan punditry, which, I presume, is one of the new-fangled media trends we are in agreement there is too much of.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.