Flashback - My Thoughts from 2002 on Superheroes being mainstream

***This was spurred on by some of the anti-superhero talk in the Crossgen discussion. It is also in response to all of the anti-superhero talk in this forum. I find it kind of funny that there is so much anti-superhero feelings when Warren Ellis has created Planetary and Authority, written Stormwatch, and been involved in various other superhero projects.****

Superheroes do have broad mainstream appeal. Look at the success of movies like Batman & Spider-Man and TV shows like Smallville. What did better, the movie adaptation of Tank Girl, From Hell, Mask, or Spider-Man.

The problem with the mainstream and comics is not superheroes. My non-comic book friends don't like the medium. They'll go and shell out $8 to watch a Spider-Man movie, but they won't buy a comic book or graphic novel.

The hatred, within certain comic circles, of superheroes seems kind of silly. People are free to like what they like and shouldn't be looked down on because of it. The elitist attitude of many on this board is very disturbing and is the reason, I feel, that many people stay away from comics. They are declared ignorant by the elitist comic reader for what they enjoy. Most people don't like being viewed as inferior by others.

I can see it now. A person is intrigued by the Spider-Man movie and visits a comic shop to buy a Spider-Man comic, but some superhero hating retailer or customer tries to convince them that they should be reading some better comic rather than the one they want to buy. Whether other comics are "better" or not is not the point, as a retailer, we just want to give the consumer what he/she wants and lead them on to areas of more enjoyment. We want someone to leave happy and come back for more. This usually happens by giving them what they want, not by trying to convince they want what we like.

This came up in a Smallville thread I posted in a while ago. I criticized the fact that DC didn't have anything that was Smallville related in the comic book medium. Others suggested I should try to get the people that come into our store into other titles that are similar. If someone wants Smallville; that's what they should be able to have. FYI, I will try to sell them something else since we do not have Smallville comics, but Smallville comics would be the easiest and the most appropriate push.

The movie industry has its finger on the pulse of what is popular in America. Within the movie industry, we can observe the same elitist attitude. The elitist movie crowd tears down the popular movies and all the people who enjoy them. However right their opinions may be, it is not the best attitude for the industry. They proclaim that people are not intellectual if they don't enjoy the obscure movies that they enjoy. The movie medium has reached a point where it can tear one another down and still survive. The comic industry is not there yet.

What are the comics that we are trying to promote as more appealing to the mainstream? Think about this. We think Vertigo is mainstream. I definitely don't. Movies of the Vertigo nature and style don't do all to well in the mainstream movie world. They're relegated to a few copies at the local Blockbuster and usually way below top 10 sales at the box office after the first week. Not at all what I would consider mainstream.

Comics need to reevaluate themselves. But I feel that what the elitist says is appealing to the mainstream really isn't. Rather, those comics would be appealing to their elitist movie buddies, not mainstream at all.

Do we really want to be mainstream? Do we want to have to produce crap like Independence Day, Titanic, Free Willy, and the such. Do we want to see an enormous influx of adaptations of movies, novels, and anything else that is popular? Here is what is popular in the box office (top 10 list from ew.com) right now: Minority Report, Lilo and Stitch, Scooby-Doo, The Bourne Identity, The Sum of All Fears, Windtalkers, Juwanna Mann, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Star Wars: Episode II, and Spider-Man. Do we want to have all this in comics? Will it make us better? As a retailer, I would like it because it would make sales much better. I already sell a lot of crap that I don't enjoy. As a fan, it would allow more stuff that I enjoy to be created. But we need to really know what we are saying when we want to be mainstream. We're saying, "Give us our Independence Day. Give us many unnecessary sequels that will make lots of money. Give us crappy love stories. Give us adaptations that lack of creativity but have broad appeal." And in all that crap, the elitist would have more comics to enjoy. And I bet they would still have a "better than thou" attitude, but we would be big enough to ignore them.

Superheroes are appealing to the mainstream, and the comic industry needs to figure out a way to bring the mainstream into the comic medium if it is to prosper. This would also be more beneficial to the elitist comic reader who hates superheroes because more money in the industry would mean more side projects and creator-owned projects.

We are all free to enjoy and read what we want. And I wish we all had the freedom to be free from ridicule for enjoying and reading what we want.


These were my thoughts that I posted on comiccon.com after that post was removed from the now infamous Warren Ellis forum.

Marcia, one of the moderators made this reply and then canceled the thread.

36707.2 in reply to 36707.1

"Give us our Independence Day. Give us many unnecessary sequels that will make lots of money. Give us crappy love stories. Give us adaptations that lack of creativity but have broad appeal."

You already have all that. Congratulations. You have what you want. What are you whinging about?

Marcia (Editor In Chief - Sequential Tart Webzine)
Sequential Tart Message Board
...if I thought the band were mad, I was then introduced to Tony Potts, the director of this bloody mess. He was sitting in a wicker basket on the floor, wrapped in a white sheet with a Christmas stocking on one foot. When I asked him why he was holding a mandolin, he screeched "Satan!", and hit me on the shins with it.

My reply to that post:

I thought I had posted a comment worth discussion, but it got shot down. I feel it was shot down because the person disagrees. If otherwise, then I am sorry. Rather than discuss, she just prohibited future posting. All I want is a discussion on the matter. "Why aren't comics mainstream?" and "Are superheroes really not mainstream?" are two subjects I thought worth discussion. If you felt my comments were so ignorant, then why would you prohibit people from posting and ripping me apart. My initial writing was in 36702.1

My reply to her comments in 36702.2 were the following:

If we have all of the things that the movie world has, then isn't the medium that is not popular?

I don't know of any comic that I would recommend to someone who loved You've Got Mail. I'm not a big fan of that movie, but what I was saying is that is mainstream whether you like it or not. If comics want to be mainstream, then they need to have crap like that.

The comic book adaptations that come to my mind are some Anne Rice novels, Hitchiker's Guide, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. I know the Transformers and G.I. Joe are some of the bestselling comics in our stores. They might be crap, but so are many of the movies that keep the movie industry open. We're located in malls so we encounter non-comic readers regularly.

The only gratuitous sequel I can think of is Dark Knight Strikes Back. If you can think of more, then please say them? I understand that the current comic book structure doesn't lead itself to sequels. That was what I was getting at.

I hope this doesn't get the prohibitted posting label, but if it does I won't let the door hit my @$$ on the way out. All I want is for the comic book industry to be successful. If a discussion on why comics aren't mainstream followed by our actions won't bring us there, then what will? And what do we mean by mainstream? And if the Warren Ellis forum isn't an appropriate place for this discussion, the where is?