I haven’t been keeping up this column as much as I’d like lately. I am getting married in three weeks and have a full time job, plus freelance is the reason why. But that said, let’s move on.
I was thinking of comics as a medium the other day, and while I’m sure plenty of others may have said this (I don’t know, I haven’t checked) comics are both bolstered and chained down by superheroes. Superheroes helped make and continue the medium for decades but in doing so, got labeled as (and stuck in) juvenile literature, both in the chronologic and perjorative sense of the word.
Many people today still think of comics as “kids stuff” especially baby boomers and older. Not everyone, but comics are still seen as juvenile escapism (read “superheroes”) by the majority of the American populace, especially those who never read a comic.
In order to survive as a business, comics must change the way they are perceived by the general population, while at the same time keeping their current readership happy. This is difficult to do because to put out other non-hero books costs money, and many of those books will likely lose money at least for a few years before the trend catches on, and a few more decades before it becomes acceptable to the general population. But the two major companies, Marvel and DC (DC more than Marvel) and many independents have been putting out non-hero books, just not enough.
Many people I meet in the comic industry who are trying to make it or just starting out have a hero idea. They ALL have a hero idea. Now, that is all well and good, but it struck me why in the world must everyone focus on heroes? Why not other genres? And the answer, so far as I can conceive it, is a self feeding one: heroes are popular in comics, the person wants to be a success (i.e. make lots of money) in comics, so they go with the most popular genre in the medium. But that’s a mistake because of what I’ve just mentioned: EVERYONE has a damn hero they’re trying to sell. As a reader, and as a creator, I’m more interested in other genres, other ideas. Those other ideas are the ones that would likely make you money if you get lucky with your timing but it just seems that not many people are trying it.
In recent years, mostly the last decade or so, comics have branched out into other genres, and have been, on a whole, successful. “Fables” has been going on for years and I’ve just heard will become a television series in the future, many horror-magic books (Swamp Thing, Constantine, Preacher) do well enough to keep on going, and of course the highly visible Stephen King comics did well.
But more than this, comics need to branch out into all the genres of writing. There are no straight out science fiction comics, like “Strange Adventures” or “From Beyond the Unknown” as there used to be decades ago, no soap opera comics like the romance genre or newspaper strips like “Apartment 3G” or “Mary Worth”, no real life adventure comics featuring real people with actual accomplishments like sports or exploration or inventions, and outside of “Strangers in Paradise” and select others not even just daily life drama comics. There has been a slight uptick in westerns recently, but nothing that would make a whole “movement” or anything. Of course there’s been the zombie craze lately, but that’s all it is, a craze, and one that will likely peter out before another year has gone by, if it hasn’t already, “Marvel Zombies” be damned. Leave it to Marvel to beat a dead horse, in this case a zombie horse, that has probably already eaten the brain of the executive beating it, who has that decided to keep on putting out the books until the well has more than run dry.
I have more to say on this, and I will, but later. I have a meeting now. Good luck folks.