But i *like* super-hero comics!
I like comic books. Everybody knows that. I think its blending of static art and words allows for unique types of expression, and i think the medium is definitely not given the respect it deserves in the larger world of literature. I have enjoyed many different stories, in many different genres, that have been published in comic book form.
But the enthusiasm you see on this site and elsewhere from me around comic books really deals very specifically with super-hero comics, more specifically Marvel super-hero comics. I love reading about a bunch of wackos with crazy powers in crazy outfits beating the hell out of each other, and more importantly, i love the idea of the shared universe that's been going on for decades - all these interconnecting story arcs that are part of a giant ongoing epic. That's something fairly unique. And of course within the Marvel Universe there are tons of sub-genres - you've got Dr. Strange, X-Men, Punisher, Runaways, etc.; all very different types of stories.
So, for me, if the rest of the comic book industry had to die in order to keep my Marvel fix going, so be it! But i don't think that's in any danger of happening. Between comic strips, manga, DC's Vertigo, and all the indies, there are plenty of non-superhero stories available in comic form, and even if all the current publishers suddenly went out of business, i think the medium itself is strong enough that it would regrow. I don't see a crisis in the American comic industry due to the dominance of Marvel and DC.
Other people have different opinions, of course. I suspect that these are people that have "outgrown" super-heroes (which is fine) and have some favorite comics that they feel the world needs to know about, but the glut of super-hero books somehow prevents them from getting out there.
I know how they feel. There's plenty of bands that i love, for example, that i think ought to be more popular and i do bemoan the fact that radio stations and MTV mainly play pop drivel. I've never actually met someone who loved Britany Spears* that would be devastated if i replaced her spot on the radio with Can or something, but now i know how they would probably feel if i did:
A Future for Comics -- It is my long-held belief that the direct market network of mostly superhero-oriented comic book stores is headed for extinction. The reason it is passing into history is because it excludes new readers and embraces only an existing "fanbase," willfully ignoring the fact that comics as a vital, living artform are so much more than superheroes. At the same time, a minority of shops within the direct market are reaching out to a broader audience for comics, one nurtured by mainstream media coverage like comics receive on National Public Radio or in print publications like Time Magazine. The question is, will the truly full-service comic book stores that point the way to the future serve as an example to the majority of stores currently dependent on Diamond's weekly shipments of superhero titles? Or will the backward, pro-superhero (but ultimately anti-comics) policies of such stores destroy the direct market before a transition can be made to a viable graphic novel-dominant marketplace that serves all comics readers?
First, i'm a little stunned by his raw condescension and the dismissal of the entire super-hero genre, as if nothing within that catetgory could possibly be any good.
I'm also not clear on why he feels that comic stores need to carry the sort of content that he is looking for. He makes a very convincing case that the non-superhero genres are thriving and growing outside of the direct market - look at his argument over how sales analyses that only use info from Diamond are useless. Manga seems hugely popular in places like Borders, based on the amount of shelf space they devote to it - why do we need that replicated in comic shops as well? Meanwhile, i need access to tons of back issues because the back-story of the Marvel Universe is important to me. If you replaced all those boxes with trades that people could get elsewhere, no one would have any need to go to these stores. He needs to think of comic book shops as serving a specialty market - sort of like a CD store that focuses on jazz music.
And i'm a little confused by his apocalyptic vision - if us dumb super-hero fans are only a "minority of comics readers who value the sub-genre of superhero adventure fiction more than they value the artform of comics", then what is he worried about? This majority of sophisticated non-superhero comic book fans must be getting their books somewhere already. Why does he care if the direct market shops go out of business?
I'm not saying he doesn't make some good points. He's right that some comic book stores are operated by people that have no business running a business, but that's really neither here nor there regarding his larger argument (although isn't it interesting that he trashes super-hero comics for being 'corporate' and yet his description of what a good comic store should look like sounds a lot closer to Walmart than a Mom 'n' Pop? (except "They will operate their business in accordance with local, state and federal laws, including labour and employment laws.
Update: ADD takes a thrashing in the comments section here. Many of my points are made much more eloquently there.
By fnord12 | June 14, 2007, 2:46 PM | Comics
Where'd Woody go?