Friday, August 26, 2011

Twilight of the super-heroes?

Since the mid 1980s, comic books have become more sophisticated (although it can be argued that many have become sophmoric and pretentious), reflecting the influx of creators who were weaned on them, as well as the maturing audience. While publishers like Archie and Harvey kept their characters more or less timeless, Marvel and DC took the approach of having their heroes grow and change with the times.

While this certainly lead to exciting, thought-provoking work, it ended up alienating the core audience that super-hero comic books should have been directed at: kids. Instead of continuing to appeal to successive generations of young readers, the suits at Marvel and DC focused on appeasing the fans that started reading decades before.

As a result, super-hero comic books have dwindled to a tiny niche market, with repetitive gimmicks and decompressed storylines milking the wallets of the few readers (and occassional speculator) who manage to find a given issue at some specialty store.

I recently stumbled across colorful drawings I did as a teen; I created a bunch of generic super-heroes and villains, all quite lame (but cool to my adolescent eyes, of course). As I got older, my ideas began to evolve outside of the super-hero genre, or trying to find a new spin on the conventions of traditional super-heroes. Instinctively, I geared my concepts toward younger readers, not because it was a hot demographic, but because comic books and kids are a natural fit.

I admire folk who produce 'graphic novels', with avant-garde artwork and intense, adult themes; that being said, they're not really my cup of tea, and I'd rather produce work that will appeal to my own kids.

Super-hero comic books have mutated very far from the innocence of the first issue of Action Comics in 1938. I figure that if you read a comic book and are hung up on why the hero doesn't trip on his cape, then perhaps you've outgrown the genre. I still find charm in super-heroes, specifically the notion that folk choose to do good simply because it's the right thing to do, not on account of some deep and 'realistic' motivation.

Hopefully my love of the medium in general, and super-heroes in particular, will shine through in the concepts I try to get published. Although I've become pessimistic about the survival of the medium, I hope people will flock to comics born from a distinct admiration and respect for the magic possible from the genre.

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