Recent comic book series from mainstream publishers designed to appeal to older readers haven’t done as well as hoped. Just because we have more folks reading comic books beyond the age of 17 doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to read past the age of 35 or 40, or with the same passion and enthusiasm. We also don’t know that a younger generation will continue to read comics on-line or with the same fidelity their grandparents displayed in following them in the newspaper. Comics is in uncharted territory reader-wise, and an economic downturn may hasten some trends rather while reversing others. Don’t be surprised by the suddenness of some outcomes.
¶ We’re not sure who Michael Petersen is but his very long essay A Question of Accessibility: Studying Pathology and Archaeology (Warren Ellis, Superheroes) is one of the most thoughtful overviews of how comics fit into current culture (at least as seen from the cultural standpoint of the kind of people who read — or once read — alternative papers) we’ve seen in a long time:
For a period in the late 90’s, comics had what they called a “widescreen” movement. If film uses the term “comic book movie” to refer to overblown superhero blockbusters that rely upon recognition more than they do consistent narrative or emotional depth, there’s some small level of irony to the idea that comics use the term “widescreen” to refer to books that are all bombastic, over-the-top action to the detriment of everything else; cool explosion visuals in place of the moralism of Golden Age DC Comics or the tortured family stories of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. If all comic books are going to be Chris Claremont’s “X-Men” books, then all films will be Michael Bay’s action movies.