4-Color Philosophy: Why Comics Rule The World

As someone who grew up reading and collecting comic books and worshiping the characters that fill their pages, it’s odd, yet surreal to see these characters quite literally everywhere we look. Superhero comics have reached far and beyond the stereotyped demographic of pre-pubescent boys who don’t dare talk to non fans about their obsession for fear of ridicule. Today the likes of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Batman and The Avengers have all become juggernauts across all various forms of media. This occurrence while interesting is not in any way, shape, or form random. There are several big reasons that have become a catalyst for this popularity. I, for one, think it’s a great thing.

First and foremost, the internet and it’s ability to be used for the rapid spreading of information is definitely a key reason for this growth. The world is becoming increasingly smaller and for comics that means promotion is endless. In the year 2013, there are trailers for trailers of films. When Marvel Studios, Fox, Sony, or Warner Bros. want to promote a film, they can push it out to any number of comics-specific sites, free to use social media sites, video hosting sites, and television ads, in addition to the old ways of actually printing advertisements in comics, putting out physical promotional material, and showing previews before other films. These days, more people in more places are exposed to or informed of these characters and their worlds months and in some cases years before they reach the big or small screen. Movies and television aren’t the only ways that our heroes have made it outside of print. Video games are a huge part of the expansion as well. The advancements in gaming have taken story telling to such a high pseudo-realistic level that comic book characters in many ways are made for. Games like the Arkham Asylum Series, DC Universe Online, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and all the other properties that are made with care cash in on an industry that has grown to revenue levels beyond that of movies. The big two (DC and Marvel) also make great efforts to put out piles and piles of toys, collectible statues, clothing, posters, and other various collectibles as well. Film, games, and toys aside, comics themselves have become infinitely more accessible for everyone due to the many ways they are able to make it into the hands of readers. Digital apps like Comixology and Marvel Unlimited have made it almost instantaneous for anyone with an internet connection to read virtually any comic they think of with the swipe of a finger. Relaunch initiatives like DC’s The New 52 and Marvel Now have given new or lapsed readers a fresh start to jump into the stories. Graphic novels, and trade paperbacks give readers a chance to go back to the classics and catch up, or read self contained, finite stories. These physical outlets have seemingly brought back the local comic shop and many are thriving the way they were in the early to mid nineties. Conventions have gone from mall lobbies with a handful of tables of long boxes and action figures to giant week long celebrations of all of the aforementioned outlets under one massive roof. If you have eyes in the front of your head then it’s likely that every single day you don’t have to try hard to see at least one if not several of your favorite heroes and villains in several of these places. To me that is great news.



Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy mash-up for the X-Men: Days of Future Past promo poster.

Comics and comic fandom, much like the rest of the world, have become a melting pot. 13 year old white males aren’t the only ones reading comics, civil rights and the modern perception of people of every color, religion, gender, and upbringing have made huge advances and comics have grown right along with them. It is at the point that literally anyone can crack open a comic and see someone that represents them in the same pages as Captain America, Batman, and Wolverine. It has recently been announced that very notable mantles like Robin, and Ms. Marvel will be taken over by a black man and a Muslim girl very soon, joining the world of comics where a version of Spider-Man is a Hispanic and black kid and there are LGBT members in the Bat-family and the X-men. The diversity represented in the books is slowly yet surely making it’s way into film and television (though it has a long way to go to catch up) and that just means that the fandom from here is only going to grow.



The new Ms. Marvel represents a strong female lead that also (while it doesn’t define her) happens to be a Muslim.

Something for everyone:
Not only is there a character to represent almost every person in comics, but there is also a genre to suit everyone’s personal interest in the type of story they want to read. Superheroes are great, but there’s so much more! Tales of horror, suspense, espionage, romance, science fiction, and just everyday life are all easy to come by with minimal searching. Writers working on superhero books at Marvel and DC are writing insanely different styled comics at Image, Vertigo, IDW, and Dark Horse. The days of capes and utility belts aren’t necessarily over, but they are far from the only options. Many of these comics also push the boundaries of subject matter that would never be depicted in comic books 15 or 20 years ago. Mature subject matter, sexual themes, extreme violence, language, and overall adult content is written and drawn into many books and for the most part is not only to push the boundaries of censorship, but to also further the story telling. This often times makes for more substantial feeling stories that we connect to on a high level. There are cases of gratuitous and un-artistic uses of these themes in comics, but they are few and far apart. Comics like Saga, Locke and Key, Sex Criminals, and Y The Last Man are all intended for adults and all have a high standard that raises the bar of story telling in a genre that can express occurances that would be hard to capture in any other medium. There are, of course comics that are geared toward children and books that aim to please and be approiate for all ages. Comics like, Superman Adventures, Regular Show, and Captain Ultimate do a great job of not talking down to the reader as if they are all young children, but of telling great stories while being appropiate for readers of all ages. This expands readership beyond limited demographics and makes it easy to turn anyone onto comics because there is something out there for everyone.



Saga is definitely for mature readers while Captain Ultimate is appropriate and fun for all ages.

With the increase in popularity of comics, also comes an increase in the talent of the people writing and drawing comics. Comics authors and artists have developed over the years. These days the talent isn’t necessarily higher quality than it was years ago, there’s just more of it. There are several young creators that have become a huge deal in recent years, Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Matt Fraction, Joshua Fialkov, and Charles Soule have revitalized a good portion of the characters of the DC and Marvel universes. Artist like Chris Samnee, Andrea Sorrentino, David Aja, and Fiona Staples have developed very unique and distinctive styles to their drawing and often times experiment with panel and page layout in a different and exciting way. There is also a big draw of writers and creative minds from other media to comics. Film makers like Kevin Smith, novelist like Stephen King, and Orson Scott Card (despite controversy) and fine artists like Alex Ross have all been involved in creating several comics in recent years. As I stated before, I feel a big reason for this is that comics allow creators a unique medium that allows them to express their ideas in a way that books, films, and television don’t necessarily cater to.



A candid photo of writer Jeff Lemire at a convention signing.


It’s a great time to be a comic nerd. There is no sign of slowing any time soon for the obsession that many of us had growing up. The more people that are exposed to comics, the more longevity and quality they will have in the future. It’s our duty as fans to help spread the word as enablers of our hobby. Comics are starting to rule the world and maybe, just maybe if we play a part in it they’ll take us along for the ride!