Why do superheroes dominate the comics industry?

Discussion in 'Misc. Comics' started by Elijya, Apr 20, 2006.

  1. Elijya Registered

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    Why do you think that is, honestly?

    Almost every other medium - movies, books, stage, music - has a pretty equal balance between the popularity of their different genres, but comics are so overwhelmed by just one. Probably 85% of the market deals with typical superhoeres, and alot of the other 15% is something else that is fantasy but not superheros. They exploded in the late 30s and 40s, and there was a brief time in the late 40s and 50s where War, Romance, Western, and Horror comics dominated, but that's pretty much it.

    I've always figured that the reason stories in the fantasy genre (which superheroes are a sub division of) controlled the industry was that the medium can do it so cost effectively. It takes the same effort to draw 22 pages of two people talking as it does to draw 22 pages of spaceships dueling and planets exploding, so why not? But then, why almost all the time?

    Movies were always limited by their budgets, and still are, although not as much as they used to be. But couldn't the same be said for books? Books aren't restricted by budget either, and we see a far amount of fantasy in that medium, but it didn't conquer it.

    Out of curiosity, as a comics reader, how likely are you to read a comic with no superheroes in it, or one with no fantasy elements in it? Probably not very likely. Even the best read of us here only do so occassionally, or in small proportion to the fantasy books we read. Although, admittedly, limited availability of non-fantasy stories likely factors into that.

    But then compare that to the movies you see. Do you ONLY go out to see crazy action/sci-fi/horror movies like Independence Day, Mission Impossible, Lord of the Rings, The MAtrix, Jurrassic Park, Star Wars, or any of the comic adaptations? No, in all likelyhood, you also see films like Million Dollar Baby, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Saving Private Ryan, Wedding Crashers, Gone with the Wind, American Beauty, Casablanca, etc., don't you?

    So how come the tastes of the general COMIC reading public isn't as varied as the movie or book industry?
     
  2. TheCorpulent1 SHAZAM!

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    Because comics and superheroes are inextricably tied to each other. The general public thinks of superheroes when they think of comics. If members of the general public get into comics, it's usually through superhero comics from their parents or that they just pick up themselves, since they're easily the most accessible and readily available, then they either keep reading the superhero comics or they branch out into other genres or, like most longtime comic readers, they do both. Those who don't get into comics probably don't because of the stigma associated with superheroes, with maybe just a slight awareness of the fact that there are other genres in comics. Superheroes and comic books are synonymous to the vast majority of people. If every single person who got into movies or any other medium got into it because of one specific genre, I imagine those media would be dominated by that genre as well.
     
  3. Lackey Registered

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    Along the lines of what Corp said... when superheroes begin to appear in comic books beginning with Superman, it was extremely successful. So the industry continued with what worked. Just look at the way reality shows have exploded on television - more reality shows continue to be produced because they get high ratings.

    I think there's a lot of reasons why this happened... for one, the artistic and printing limits of comics in the past gave the superhero genre an advantage. Superheroes in bright solid colors, unique costumes makes them easily recognizable, and easy to draw and print. If you're dealing with a bunch of regular people in normal clothes, it's harder to make distinctions between them. You could also say that, in the past, no other medium could handle superheroes as well as the comic book medium. All the action and amazing feats wouldn't transfer well into another medium until recently with the advances in special effects/cgi.

    I think more and more we're seeing comics outside the superhero genre and writers and artists learning that the medium had much more possibilities, but old habits die hard and it's going to take a while for there to be a balance.
     
  4. Killgore Registered

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    Ummm, TheCorpulent1 and Lackey, you're missing the point of Elijya's question. You're taking the dominance of superhero comics for granted. In Japan, manga has traditionally covered all genres. There’s Josei (chick flick) for the ladies, Kodomo for the kiddies, Seinen for the big boys, Shojo for the tweenager girls, and Shonen for the teenage boys. They cover genres such as sports, romance, action, crime, drama, suspense, horror, sci-fi and nary a spandex-clad-forty-extra-muscles-in-his-thighs superhero. So superhero comics are NOT the dominant genre out of necessity. It has to do with marketing. Marvel and DC just pimped their product better than the Western, War, Sci-Fi, Archie and Jughead folk. They pimped it so hard in the sixties that they equated the word comic with the word superhero.
     
  5. Sandman138 Registered

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    I'm actually doing a term paper on this. My argument is that the comics code created a kind of hegemony within the fan culture to the point where comics and superheros are thought of as being almost inseperable, not only to those outside the sub-culture, but to those who are initiated to it. EC comics were incredibly subversive in their prime, and they were also some of the hottest sellers on the rack. It wasn't untill the congressional investigations forced publishers to institute "standards of decency" wherein authority figures could not be shown in any kind of a bad light that super heros became the full on mainstay they are today. This was due in large part to superheros fitting in to the structure of black and white morality so well; heros were always upright and good, and villians pure evil. Although by the mid eighties these standards had become obsolete, they had already indocrinated a generation of fans into their structure. So comics outside of this realm of absolutes can seem to go against the "nature" of comics even though there is no objective reason for this kind of judgement.
     
  6. Sandman138 Registered

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    In terms of comics with no super heros in them, I'm a big fan of the comix scene in San Fransisco. R. and Maxon Crumb, and Dori Seda, while outside of San Fransisco, I like Pekar a lot. Chris Ware is my favorite comics artist around and Jimmy Corrigan is my favorite comic (while it makes referance to superheros in terms of a young boy's fantasies, it is only to show how much his adult life has not worked out). Meanwhile Daniel Clowes has also proven to be an amazing writer and artist and I'm a big fan of Art Speigleman. While these artists are sometimes surreal, they deal with mostly "ordinary" dramas and "ordinary" people.
     
  7. Lackey Registered

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    There's the answer right there, excellent post :up:


    The comics code didn't even come to mind when I was thinking about this before. It would also explain the different path the comics industry took in other countries.
     
  8. Elijya Registered

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    I've heard people comment before how it's unfortunate that the comics industry censored itself just as the counter-culture movement was begining to arrise. If that hadn't happened, they might have fit right in. Sure, guys like Crumb joined in, but that was later, and on an unfortunately small scale to what it might have been
     
  9. TheCorpulent1 SHAZAM!

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    There are still lots and lots of counter-culture comics out there, though. They're just not the mainstream. Of course, they're not the mainstream in most other media, either; hence counter-culture.
     
  10. rjb182 Jedi Gnat

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    Whenever one genre comes to dominate a medium, there's almost always an economic reason for it:

    Reality shows have become a big deal on TV because they're way cheaper than scripted shows, and it turns out just as many people will watch them.

    Big sci-fi, action flicks dominate the box office because it's a lowest common denominator thing-- everybody has different tastes in heavy drama or might not like that sort of thing at all, but almost everyone can get at least a chuckle out of Will Smith or Tom Cruise fighting aliens. Even though they may recogize it's (in some cases) not as GOOD, it's still the most efficient way of getting large numbers of people to take a flier on the film. (After all, Hollywood only cares that you bought the ticket-- not whether you enjoyed yourself.)

    So I'm sure the answer to the comic thing does lie in the economic/cultural reasons defined above, and I'd probably add another:

    Like it or not, comics are a somewhat condensed medium. You have 22 pages to tell your story-- even if you continue a storyline for six issues, you probably still have less space than a novel. So anyone who wants to tell a complex story is probably more likely to tell it in print.

    Superheros, meanwhile, are fairly straightforward-- even the ones with complicated history like the X-Men, most of the PLOTS boil down to "Colossus punches the bad guy really hard."

    I don't mean that as a criticism-- it's an impact thing. It's like the difference between TV news and reading a newspaper. The journalists involved in the former might be just as dedicated, but they have much less time for any one story, so they stick to what can be done comfortably in that space.
     
  11. Sandman138 Registered

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    What I find almost more interesting is that MAD escaped being censored by "upgrading" to magazine status, as if simply not calling itself a comic elevated the content to something beyond censorship and child's fare.
     
  12. yenaled 3X2(9YZ)4A

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    What everyone has said already I agree with but also in my eyes I think Superheros are done best in comics. They don't work great in books and they don't work great in film (there has been some times when they have). But serial fiction is the best things for Superheroes both TV would be a good medium for Superheroes but it is far too expensive to do properly especially because it doesn't appeal to a huge amount of people. Where in comics it can be done relativly cheaply, have the images that captivate people and reach a good audience who want it.
     
  13. Teela Guest

    On the flip side, why do you suppose that comic strips rarely ever focus on super-heroes?
     
  14. Dwarf lord Spirit in the Night

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    To answer Elijya's last question. I'm very likely to read a comic with very little in the way of Superheroes and fantasy. Well, maybe not so much the fantasy, but I can deffinantly read a comic not involving superheroes. In fact, I've become a bit disillusioned by superheroes as a whole. Too much hype, too many crossovers, not enough substance. Give me a good Vertigo book any day.
     
  15. Sandman138 Registered

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    I'd disagree with this. Read Jimmy Corrigan, Maus, Sandman, A Contract With God, or Strangers In Paradise and try and tell me that they don't have as much depth as more traditional literature. Sequential art can pack just as much depth into its stories as written narrative, maybe more since the semiotic nature of comics allows for mimetic and diegetic means of informing, while literature tends to be limited to the diegetic by the nature of the written word.
     
  16. TheCorpulent1 SHAZAM!

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    I'm hesitant to read stories with very little in the way of superheroes or fantasy, myself. Ironically, I look at comics that don't feature superheroes and think they're monotonous. It's totally illogical, I know, but I suppose I consider superheroes synonymous with comics, too.

    Of course, I tend to intentionally ignore counter-culture stuff in general. It probably goes back to my intense hatred of avant garde art.

    What was I talking about again?
     
  17. Xofenroht The Mad Moreno

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    I'm a fan of creative vision. If someone may execute a non-fiction/fantastical-less story with skill and almost poetic grace, I'll most definitely enjoy it. I say story because a story encompasses all. It goes beyond books, it engulfs television, films, music, etc.
    Fantasy/Horror captures my attention because it allows you to see things you've never seen before. I skip over non-fiction titles, because most of my favorite authors write fiction/fantasy/horror.
    Superheroes dominate the comicbook industry because Superheroes sell. Most of those with knowledge and love of non-superhero titles are well read enough to move beyond the public image of the comicbook medium (Superheroes) due to their comfort and general interest in the concept of storytelling. This is not to suggest that superhero-enthusiasts are illiteratre, it just suggests that they have a comfort level they aren't comfortable with leaving.
     
  18. TheCorpulent1 SHAZAM!

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    I've actually gotten into nonfiction books more than anything else lately. Maybe that's why I'm not willing to try as many non-superhero indie comics anymore. On the other hand, good art will almost always make me give a story a shot. I read Blankets on a whim after seeing it in my college library because of Thompson's emotive art and I was very glad I did.
     

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