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Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Seven Ways to Save Comic Books!

Column by Steve Bennett

Published: 06/20/2012 02:13am

Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett looks at reasons more people don’t read comics.

Last week I commented on Tim Marchman's Wall Street Journal book review: "brutal, high profile condemnation of superhero comics as published by Marvel and DC" (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Better... But Still Not Good").  I wrote how I'd like to see the big publishers do market research with non-comic readers and had absolutely no plans to revisit the subject.  Then I got an unexpected response to that column.

Most likely some won't believe this, which is fine since even I find this strangely convenient, but in response to last week's column I received an email from a friend of over twenty years.  She's a female professional, a long time fan of The X-Files and Doctor Who who has never been what you'd called a regular comic book reader.  Sure, like several hundred thousand other people there was a time when she read Uncanny X-Men every month and, and as she's quick to point out, she still has her copies of Moonshadow.  But since then her only connection to the comic book industry has been... me.

She reads these columns though and after reading last week's felt compelled to write the following unsolicited response.  Given the suspect source I understand that this can't be considered proper market research, but it's better than nothing.

1.  I'd have to go out of my way (if I were to buy them in a shop).  I don't even know of a shop on this side of town (upper northeast) although I'm sure there must be one.  That's a whole trip in and of itself.
 
2.  They're expensive for however many pages there are, and they're over in a flash.  I can get a lot more mileage from a copy of Rolling Stone or even The Atlantic, and those are cheap if you subscribe.
 
3.  The stories (based on my most recent forays into collections, about 3-4 years ago) are... feeble and shallow.  Claremont was better than this.
 
4.  Nothing ever gets resolved.  Every issue's a cliffhanger.
 
5.  Pursuant to #3 and #4, you don't feel at the end of even a collection of 5 or 6 issues, that you have any return on your time investment.  I sometimes feel like I've been duped, because nothing's happened, and the overall "story" hasn’t progressed any.
 
6.  The art is increasingly manga-like, which I do not care for.  It's a style, and maybe I'm just the wrong generation, but I don't like it and think it's a cop-out to avoid learning real figure drawing and real depiction of expression.
 
7.  After a while (nearly 40 years in my case) you start to demand sophistication.  And why not?  Science fiction evolved from "gee whiz!" to something serious.  Why can't superhero comics?  SF is over a hundred years old and is nowhere near dead, and people still find new things to do with the colonization of Mars.  And yet, in the comics... stupid (dumbed-down) language, unconvincing personal problems, yet another stupid fight.
 
You can't please everybody, I know that, and maybe the core audience is 14 year old boys.  I don't know.  But if they're not enough, what would make the rest of us read?  I could tell you if you really want to know.
 
I think we all already "know" (anecdotally anyway), most readers of comic books aren't fourteen any more, but then, you have to wonder just how many actually are.  Especially given the number of DC New 52 titles devoted to sexy, rebellious super teens, and it's more than a little creepy thinking they're almost all being read by guys in their 20's and 30's.

As I keep saying, it's always nice when people take the time to comment on these things so I do want to thank Ed West for doing just that (see "Ed West on Big Two's Current Direction").  As a added bonus I agreed with most of his points, however when it came to number seven.

7)  I'm certain I'm not the only one who has noticed an agenda creeping into comic books, including, especially, the Big Two.  I'll get my politics and indoctrination elsewhere.  And people really resent that.

Believe it or not, I understand there are people who feel alienated by the inclusion of gay characters and storylines in comics who shouldn't automatically be dismissed as religious zealots and bigots.  But as much as some would like it otherwise, entertainment companies can't get too far ahead of public opinion if they want to stay in business.  So ultimately these are business decisions; the only reasons there's a gay Green Lantern at DC Comics is because someone fairly high up at Time-Warner did a risk/benefit analysis.  And the benefits outweighed the risks.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
 

 
 
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