The Crotchety Old Man Has Spoken: Why Are Comic Books Going Extinct? (updated from 2011)
You want to know how the comic book business is doing?
Of course you don’t.
Because, odds are, you don’t care. But, there are a lot of people out there, who don’t work in the industry, who do care. They’ve collected comic books for years and don’t know what they would do if that were to stop, not suddenly, just forever.
The state of comic books is this…
I have two kids; one is eleven, the other is six. They love superheroes. They watch the old eps of Justice League Unlimited. They love Avatar: The Last Airbender. They love any Spider-Man cartoon I show them. And, they become incredibly focused whenever anything related to Batman, live action ofr cartoon, is on. The Incredibles is their favorite Pixar movie. They both have characters on DC Universe Online. My kids love superheroes.
My kids will not read comic books. And that, my friends, is the sad state of comic books today.
I have an entire room, an office of sorts, but more of a library, filled with comic books, graphic novels, manga, and art books. My kids flip through the art books, actually read the manga, but don’t touch the comics.
One day, I took ten comic books, a mix of their favorite characters, and presented them to my kids in an effort to a) get them reading while school was out for summer, and b) lead into a family trip, exploring our local comic book stores in the area (we moved from LA to IE where there are practically no comic book stores), and hopeful turn DC’s new relaunch into a family event. My eleven-year-old gave it five minutes of attention before being pulled elsewhere. My six-year-old is too young to know the importance of humoring your parents and ignored them immediately, begging for the Nintendo DS. This continued for twenty minutes, with me resorting to bribery to get them to read comics for a week, earn points, and collect rewards at the end of a week. Nothing; they were not interested.
I see comic books and cigarettes in the same conundrum; their customers, the people who’ve bought their products for years, can’t live without them, are dying off and there’s little to no new interest. Difference is, smoking is more versatile. Smoking can help you lose weight. Smoking can relax you, or help keep you warm on a cold night. Smoking is a social tool that draws people to you or allows you to fit in easier. And, while some of these things are also true about comic books, it’s not significant enough to matter. You can’t go to a party, know no one, pull out a copy of Superman, say, “I’m going outside for a read,” and have two or three people follow you. People still smoke on television. People smoke in movies. They smoke in video games, cartoons, manga, novels, and in comic books. Hell, I started smoking (again) thanks to the British comic book invasion of the 90’s. Comic books don’t have that kind of exposure. They’re not converting anyone.
My kids are more likely to be smokers than comic book readers!
So, the current consumer base for comic books is dying off, literally, with little to no newcomers running into stores. Not after the latest comic book movie. Not after the new cartoon series premiers. No one wants to read comics books.
Perhaps all the exposure comic books have now has worked against it? Why read Captain America when you can play the game? Why read Spider-Man when you can watch the animated series and feature film. Hell, there are people who separate a character, its media variations, and choose which they prefer. I knew a fella who loved Superman, but only the movies, and only the Christopher Reeve movies. He didn’t read the comics, didn’t have any interest in the television shows or cartoons, just the Christopher Reeves movies.
I sometimes think the state of comics was better when superheroes were harder to find. There was a time, twenty – thirty years ago, when the only comic book related thing on television was “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.” I remember being a kid and riding my bike a mile to the nearest liquor store to buy my copies of the “Longshot” mini-series, my first exposure to Art Adams. And, the convenient store across the street from that, sold the Uncanny X-Men and X-Factor. When my friends saw where and how far I was riding, they wanted to know where I was going and why. They tagged along, and we all started reading comics and trading with one another. As a teen, I still had to ride my bike an hour from my house to buy from the sports card shop; I bought my first copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles there. Comic books were harder to get, you saw them less, and when you pulled one out people took interest. No one gives a shit now. Not even kids… Kids?! Instead, we have grown men and women reading stories meant for kids, that kids won’t read, about men and women in capes, tights, fighting villains in clown make-up, and this is what they do after work when their kids are at home.
You know, I used to like going to nude bars, until I realized nine out of ten strippers think the men that go there are losers too stupid not to hand over their hard earned money for just a look at a woman’s body. I saw how pathetic I was, and how bitchy the women were, but mostly I gained more respect for the money I made and decided not to just give it away. Funny thing is I started seeing comic books the same way.
Cigarette smokers get cancer and die, or realize their lives are in danger and stop.
Comic book readers do the same; we die, or come to our senses…
Man, do I want a cigarette.
The Experience Is Everything!