Hey guys. Just kind of wondering in print here, curious if any of you might have some insight I lack. Why aren't more people fans of comics? That's the question, plain and simple. We report on four different types of media here at Player Affinity: video games (for multiple latforms), films, television, and comics. Now, I'll tell you up front that this is not going to be a heavily researched article. We're taking a ride on the supposition express. Having said that, when I run a search on [internet search engine of your choice here] for "video game/movie/television news" I get back between one hundred million and three hundred million hits. When I search "comic book news" the results don't even break forty million. I'm not a mathematician, but to me, that makes a statement.
So why are comics falling behind in the "having people care about it" category? Are they doing something wrong or was the medium doomed from the start? Well, let's take a look at the competitors.
Movies have been around the longest, dating back to the 1880's or thereabouts. At the time, ithere was nothing quite like it, a brand new visual medium. Obviously, things have evolved quite a bit since then. Now we have special effects, celebrity casting, re-makes, re-releases, even pornography, if we really want to look at this from all angles. Films have become big business. At this point, they've even adapted nearly every comic book under the sun in a quest for new intellectual property. However, comics can do all these things too. Visual effects are only limited by the skill of the artist. While there is nowhere near the glamour held for celebrities to be found in comics, I also have a hard time thinking of anyone in my world who does not know of Batman or Spider-Man. DC's massive new reboot of their 52 core titles is as ambitious as any Hollywood re-make. Hell, comics can even make pornography. Still, how many people are going to track down the comic book when they can go see the movie?
Television came along after films and, while it's never been taken as seriously as its elder media-sibling, it has plenty of devotion. The biggest success of television, to my mind, is its ease of access. A lot of people have a television set today and even those that do not could find one fairly easily in public locations. Now we have television shows on the internet, as well. It's becoming easier and easier for viewers to keep up with their favorite shows and follow the characters they love through various adventures and scenarios. You know, almost like a comic book. Comics have been adapted here too, but, with very few exceptions, these adaptations have all been targeted towards children and teenagers. Unlike in films however, ads tend to break up the story of television shows/comic books. That is, of course, unless you buy the DVD/trade paperback. So, yeah, maybe it's the ads.
Video games are the most recent competitors for our time and coin. For good or ill, there are a lot of similarities between comics and games. Most prominently, it should be noted that both have possessed a stigma that they are fringe medias for the longest time. That is to say, they are entertainment mediums that have been seen to exist on the fringes of accepted norms. While they are not distinctly apart from film and television and even fiction as escapist entertainment, games and comics have often existed as the staple of a geek/nerd/loser/alternative culture. It's violent. It's sexual. It's juvenile. It's subverting the youth. These are all criticisms that have been unfairly leveled at both comics and games.
However, video games have grown in a couple ways. In one regard, games have grown in controversy. More than once, they have been cited as the impetus for murder. The slightest depictions of sex have been regarded as news-worthy. Just recently, California tried to make the sale of a Mature-rated video game to a minor an offense punishable by law. On the other hand, games have also become vastly more acceptable in the public conscious. Browser games are wildly successful and nearly everyone with a phone capable of playing it has Angry Birds. The relatively recent introduction of motion controls has opened up a much wider audience for the "I don't consider myself a gamer, but I do enjoy swinging my arms around all fun-fun-silly-willy" crowd. Even outside the casual market, multi-player shooters and sports titles have developed a massive fan base, solely for the experience of online competition and cooperation. Today, there is still something of a stigma held against the video game devotee, but the shame and fear-mongering that was previously more widespread is now held by only the extremely myopic. By comparison, the controversy of comics sort of died away. People just stopped talking about them.
And it seems we're back to where we started. Why aren't more people fans of comics? Video games have certainly shown that the stigma held against a medium can be overcome. The huge popularity of films based on comic books shows that there is definitely an interest in the stories.
Could it simply be a matter of lacking access? It has to be mentioned that there is no corporate chain of comic book stores, as there are for our other offerings. Those small, privately-owned comic shops can certainly be more difficult to find than a Best Buy. Sure, you can find comics in book stores, but I've yet to find one with a selection that rivals that of a dedicated comic shop. Of course, the internet has certainly made it easier to acquire comics, but the same is true for television, movies, and games. Honestly, online comic services just do not compete with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Steam. Not yet, at least. Is it because comics are a solo activity? Video games only really attained a more commercially-acceptable status when it started opening itself up to allowing people to play together on a massive scale. From World of Warcraft to Call of Duty to Farmville, the appeal is in allowing people to interact with one another. You can take a date to a film or go with friends. You can gather the family together to watch a favorite show. Sure, you can share a comic book with someone, but it certainly does not have the same social aspect. Of course, the same can be said of any kind of literature, but the novel, the manuscript, and the poem is far more firmly rooted in our culture than comics. Maybe the social appeal is just too insurmountable a challenge for comics to overcome.
Then again, perhaps it is just the comics industry that is struggling. The internet has made independent publication of comics absurdly easy. There is no shortage of comics, from single panels to brief strips to full adventures, being published independently online and made free to view. Some of the more popular ones have even grown enough to become professional and support their authors through advertising, merchandising, and fan support, such as Penny Arcade, xkcd, Dinosaur Comics, and MS Paint Adventures. In this sense, comics may actually be having a second Renaissance, of sorts. Still, indie success is not mainstream success. Obviously, it doesn't have to be, but that's not the topic we're trying to address here.
Like I said at the start, this is all supposition on my part. I am merely sharing what I think I know. This is not supported by research. It's not science. This is my opinion and a question to which I'd sincerely like an answer. Does anyone know why more people are not fans of comics? Are you a fan of comics? Is there anything comics can do to achieve the same mainstream appeal that other forms of media have attained? Should they? Why is Japan able to achieve success with multiple magazine publications containing only serialized comics? How are they able to achieve an annual convention built solely around distributing fan and amateur created comic books? Could these practices work in the West? Why don't I know about any comic book series that are currently being published in Europe? Why are comics the least prominent part of Comic-Con?
This is a conversation I am really interested in having. If you think you have the answers, I certainly have the questions. I know why I love comics, but why do you? Why don't you? Let me know in the comments below.