Beauology 101: Comic Books: Group Therapy

The Man Who Would Be King-Your Host-Beau Smith

The Man Who Would Be King-Your Host-Beau Smith

by Beau Smith

We all want the same thing out of mainstream superhero comics, yet we don’t. Recently, I had some really interesting talks with a group of very diverse comic book readers and collectors of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. It was one of those “perfect storm” moments where everything just fell in place.

Group Therapy DC Style-Got A Problem With That?

Group Therapy DC Style-Got A Problem With That?

The conversations started out as they all do when talking about comic books, and in this case mainstream superhero comics; everyone said what they thought they were supposed to say or what sounded like the right thing to spout out.

I laid back and listened, observed, and read between the lines. It was interesting.

The common bond was that everyone was, and has always been, drawn to the basic good guys vs. bad guys, heroic acts of sacrifice, and justice part. That was the backbone in this anatomy of a superhero reader. After that, the different branches started to sprout out.

"A child of the '80s"

“A child of the ’80s”

The other part of the common bond was the fact that all of these people still had the basic DNA of when they first started reading comics. A couple of the folks there that were of my age group had their core 1960s Marvel remembrances as their foundation. Others a little younger were carrying the Chris Claremont/John Byrne era of the X-Men with them. The next younger group, both men and women, were founded in the 1990s with the Image Comics explosion. Refreshingly, there were some that were raised in the Indy Comic scene of the 2000s and their slant on mainstream superheroes reflected just that.

Please note that in the group, all parties are current comic book readers and buyers; some print, some digital, and some both. They order online, through the mail, and in comic book retail stores.

It was interesting to hear what each person was getting out of mainstream superhero comics and what they weren’t.

The Boom From The Baby Boomers. The Amazing Spider-Man #33

The Boom From The Baby Boomers. The Amazing Spider-Man #33

The Baby Boomer Readers/Collectors spent the most money on new comic books, even though they also had the most complaints. What they liked was that there are so many comic books to choose from and the printing quality is top notch. They also liked the fact there is so much superhero related merchandise to be had. This comes from a time in the ‘60s and ‘70s when comic book merchandise was considered kid stuff and not really sellable because kids didn’t have money; adults did. So, similar to kids that grew up in the depression, now as adults, the Boomers buy a lot of the things they wish they could’ve when they were kids.

The things they don’t like are the cover price of monthly comic books. They don’t like the constant events and long for more stand-alone stories that aren’t bogged down with past continuity. They like continuity, but it seems that they like it in their back issues and collections of books from their childhood. A contrasting point is that they seem to continue to buy comic books and heroes that they liked when they were younger, but don’t like or enjoy now. I pressed this asking “why do it?” Their answer, after some hard pulling, was “I hope the character will become the way I remembered it.”



The Indy Comic readers that did the reverse and discovered mainstream superheroes later in life were drawn in through the little bought, but critically acclaimed, Vertigo line. They said they wanted more prose-like superhero books. They enjoy the powers and the origins, but they wanted what they feel is a more adult conversation in their books with super powers.

Like the Boomers, they complained about the price of monthly books. They spend the bulk of their comic book money on collections and graphic novels. They also said they are more than willing to give new writers a chance with aseries, unlike what the ‘90s Image-based readers wanted.

The Indy Comic Readers also were big backers of the current flood of superhero TV series, more so than the big screen superhero movies. They likened it to having three dimensional graphic novels on the TV screen that they could binge. They also didn’t seem to need the mandatory series of action and fights in their comics like that of the other groups. A few in this group mentioned that they are also pre-down on the upcoming Captain Marvel film because they are afraid it will be too action based when it could be a really serious character driven film—with super powers. We’ll see how that plays out.

“We were Image Comics, You Were Not.”

“We were Image Comics, You Were Not.”

The raised-on Image Comics group seemed very adamant about action in their mainstream superhero comics. They mentioned that they really like the path that DC Comics has taken with more constant action, less heavy stories. In fact, they admitted that they didn’t think the basic line of DC comics had very good storytelling, but they enjoyed the art and the characters in continuous action. They really seem to be art driven and had no apologies for it. Unlike the Indy Comic readers, they found the film versions of the mainstream superheroes much more enjoyable than the TV series. There was less complaining about the cover price of monthly comic books here. Most mentioned they prefer to buy single issues as to trade paperbacks.

Needless to say, it was an enjoyable and eye-opening afternoon spent. I was happy to see that the whole group really enjoyed getting into a huge discussion as the time wound down. They all embraced their inner kid and were very animated and excited about just talking about characters and quoting famous and obscure dialogue from comics, films, and TV shows that they have watched. Best part was that a few of them even traded comics. Just like I used to do on my porch in the Summertime.

That was a great way to end an interesting day.

No great discoveries were made that afternoon. There were no fistfights, talks of politics, or celebrity gossip. It was just about comic books from a group of folks who, in a truly diverse way, really loved….comic books.

Keep reading and keep talking.

Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch

Find me on Instagram and Twitter at @BeauSmithRanch



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