Comics’ Greatest Conundrum

The companies say that they’re making every effort to reach a new audience and create a new generation of comic book readers. The retailers say they’re doing everything they can to get new readers, but that the companies aren’t doing enough. But really, when it comes down to it, I think it’s up to everyone to help this industry survive.

Yeah, including the readers.

I am a comic book fan. That’s what I am, first and foremost. I don’t write comics (let’s punctuate that with an eternally hopeful “yet”). I don’t sell comics. But y’know what I do? I read them. In fact, I read a lot of them. I have 22 unread trade paperbacks sitting on my bookshelf along with maybe 10 floppy issues from last week’s haul that I haven’t gotten to yet. The point I’m trying to make is that I love comic books. I think I’m addicted to stories, and comics are perfect because they’re stories that never end, not completely. If the comic book industry were to implode tomorrow, I don’t know what I would do.

I mean, really. I have no idea what I’d do.

Comic book readers aren’t typically your casual type. There’s a HUGE online fanbase, many of which don’t even actually go out and buy their comics, choosing instead to illegally download them (there’s a word for that, and we’re not going to go there right now). There are casual readers like my dad, for whom I pick up three or four books a month and he’s still behind even on those. There are readers who just read the comics for personal enjoyment, not caring a whole hell of a lot if the internet likes a story or not. You have your trade-waiters, folks who wait for everything to come out in a more solid, lasting format before they read the story. Oh, and you have the people who I’ll lovingly refer to as “comic book hipsters,” the guys who won’t read anything from the Big Two, consider Image Comics their “mainstream,” and are the only person in their comic shop ordering a copy of something from Radical Comics. There’s nothing wrong with being any of these people (except for the people who steal their comics downloading them, *cough*), and there’s the thing… they’ve all found their niche in the comic community. And there’s room for everyone in the comic community, believe me.

I mentioned in my last post that I was giving my Avenging Spider-Man #1 code to a friend who didn’t read comics. If he’s interested in keeping with the series, I’ll take him into the store when the second issue comes out. The point here is this:  If you love comic books, and you really, really want to keep comic books alive, then you need to introduce a friend to comics. And then, when you have that friend hooked on a comic, you should probably get another friend and hook them on another comic.

When my mom was angry that Jericho was canceled on television, I got her to start reading Devil’s Due/IDW’s Jericho: Season 3.

When I found out the guys at school enjoyed zombies, I brought up The Walking Dead and caught them all up on all of the TPBs in a week. They’re now regular readers.

When my roommate asked me why I yelled “Holy shit!” while reading a comic, I introduced him to Morning Glories, the comic I was holy-shitting. He now reads Morning Glories, The Walking Dead, and Deadpool monthly.

When my literature-major friend came with me to the comic book store, he got hooked on Scott Pilgrim. During freshman year, we got to hear the late Harvey Pekar give a talk about his life in the underground comic movement. Said friend picked up The Quitter there. I also had a class with him where we read the combined edition of Persepolis. Now, he re-reads the Scott Pilgrim books… well, a lot. He’s kind of obsessed. But I imagine that the next time Bryan Lee O’Malley comes out with something, he’ll be first in line.

My history major friend enjoys war. Yeah, I know. But that didn’t stop me from trying to hook him on DMZ. And he now routinely asks me to bring the books back to school with me.

After she heard about the DC relaunch, a friend asked me if I was picking up Batman. I wasn’t going to, but I did because she asked. I let her borrow it and she saw the list of the other New 52 titles. Now I pick up I, Vampire for her monthly.

This weekend, I was out with a Trekkie friend. We wandered around the comic shop for awhile, and he kept lingering on IDW’s new Star Trek ongoing. So I bought him the first two issues that are out, and he loved them. He’ll be picking it up monthly now.

There’s a point to all of this. If we want comic books to thrive, they need to keep picking up readers. We can’t keep going back and sucking money out of the people that are already reading comics. It’s a good way to cannibalize the industry. It’ll eat itself into oblivion. That’s not good for anyone. But as a reader, if I wanted All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes not to be canceled a little over halfway through the miniseries, I probably should have bought my war-loving friend a copy to get him interested in the title so that he could start buying himself a copy of it. If you were a huge fan of Herc, you should have shared your first issue or two with a friend and gotten them interested. That, or if you’re in it just to get comics to thrive as a whole, take them to a comic store. There is a comic out there for everyone. Everyone’s interested in something, and there is a comic out there for every interest. Hook them on a comic tailor-made for their interest.

If the comic industry fails tomorrow, it’s the readers who will be the most devastated. It’s also the readers who are doing the least to prevent the comic book industry’s collapse.

Let’s band together, do what we can to keep comics alive and healthy for a really long time to come.

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