by Beau Smith
A lot of people, including myself, have requested more “Family Friendly” stories in mainstream superhero comic books in the last few years. We’re being heard, but we’re not getting it.
My personal opinion on why we as readers aren’t getting it is because those in editorial and creative charge aren’t interested. I believe that they’re only interested in what entertains them as age 25-55 year old males. That age and gender group is still the majority of who reads and buys comic books as well as publishes and creates them. The female readership has increased in the last few decades, but nowhere near what it should and could be. Female readers and potential readers are still being ignored, for the most part, by those in charge of mainstream superhero comics.
Female readers aren’t the only ones being short changed. Young kids and teenagers are also being left out as well. Please note that I’m not talking about what is perceived as “Kiddy Comics” or “Romance” comics; I’m talking about broad appeal stories that entertain a much wider audience. All one has to do is to look at what movie makers did with Lord Of The Rings. They appealed to all ages and gender groups, as did the Harry Potter films. Remember the crowd that you saw those films with and more than likely it was a wide ranging audience. You can even look at recent superhero movies such as The Avengers and Batman: The Dark Knight Rises and see that those movies, based tightly on mainstream superheroes, were huge hits with everybody.
Mainstream superhero comics used to be able to do this. Just take the time to read or reread the first 100 issues of The Fantastic Four or Amazing Spider-Man from the 1960s (I’d suggest the less expensive route of the Marvel Essentials). What you’ll find are incredible, all ages, all gender stories and characters that still stand tall today. Too many of today’s superhero comics are aimed at such a small group of readers, it’s no wonder comic sales continue to stay small while genre films expand. The filmmakers are taking the original timeless stories and characters and expanding on them without leaving viewers behind or out. Why can’t comic books do the same?
They can if they quit looking out the small window and step outside and really look at the really big picture.
I’m not saying that most in comics are bad writers. No, that’s not the problem. The problem is that they are only writing for themselves and not for everyone. Publishers seem to be afraid to step out of the decades old, narrowing rut and reach out to a path where there are more passengers to take on a broader journey.
Comic book publishers owe it to potential and current readers to make the family grow. The current way of creating mainstream superhero comics can’t be the torch that is passed on to the next generation of creators. If it is, it won’t be long before that torch is snuffed out. I truly believe that. In 15 to 20 years, many of today’s creators and readers will be gone and quite possibly so will a huge percentage of interest in comics. Technology is changing the presentation of comic books and they way they are told and consumed. We can no longer accept and continue to make mainstream superhero comics a niche genre.
We need them to grow. We need them to become family again.
The Flying Fist Ranch