Monday, May 05, 2003

Comic Books - for Geeks Only?

This article about comic book culture and the recent failure of comics to attract children as readers is a mixed bag. Renshaw has some accurate insights into why kids aren't picking up the comic book habit. However, the article is chock full of the standard stereotypes about comic book readers, right up to and including the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. Apparently, the author visited one comic shop, one time, and decided, "wow, all those stereotypes are true!" (This, despite the fact that two of the avid comic book readers he interviewed are women.)

I agree that it's unfortunate that comic publishers aren't producing more child-friendly comics, but I can't really lament a trend that brought us The Sandman, The Invisibles, and Planetary. There's room for adult material and kiddie stuff - why should be have to choose one or the other? My kids somehow find comics to read at our local comic shop - they each have a subscription to one comic and frequently pick up others. Many of the super hero titles that once would have been appropriate for kids have upped the sex and violence (and I have to monitor my kids' purchases fairly carefully because of this), but there are still plenty of titles specifically geared for kids (i.e. The Power Puff Girls and Scooby Doo). I think Renshaw's nostalgia for the comics he read as a kid is affecting his perspective on this (also, he doesn't really seem to have taken the time to familiarize himself with the new, more adult lines, so it's hardly a fair comparison).

But, Renshaw is onto something when he talks about the obsession with narrative that fuels comic book readers. This quote, especially, is dead on: "I begin to recognize something else familiar about that comic book fan 'accent,' because I’ve heard that same manner in theater people. The members of both groups probably weren’t the Big Men on Campus or the prom queens, but they were people whose fascination with storytelling transformed them. The hands, the diction, the voice—they’re all part of continuing that conversation about intoxicating narrative."


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