One of these is the first comic book I ever bought (twenty-nine years ago), the other is the most recent comic book I’ve purchased (a week ago). Clearly, over the course of the majority of my life, my tastes have changed somewhat. Nevertheless, for the majority of the twenty-nine years that have passed between my first comic and my most recent I have been an avid reader and purchaser of comic books - there have been a few dry spells, but never longer than a couple years between purchases, and always reading even when not buying.
Image Comics’ publisher Eric Stephenson recently went on record stating “TRANSFORMERS comics will never be the real thing,” and, “Those comics are for fans that love the real thing so much, they want more - but there’s the important thing to understand: They don’t want more comics - they just want more of the thing they love.” (you can read his whole speech here.)
What a shame it is to have the publisher of some fine books (including my most recent purchase - and, in fact, the majority of my current subscriptions) insult people’s intelligence and belittle the work of the creators that go into these books that do, in fact, draw new comic book readers into the fray (and the bulk of Stephenson’s speech was about the need to bring more readers to comics!).
If it weren’t for my five-year-old love of Transformers, I would not have pulled that comic book of the spinner rack of the convenience store in Tahsis, B.C. back in 1985 - which itself led to my spending 90% of whatever monies I had on comic books through to junior high - which, I might add, included all the initial comics released from Image Comics, pre-Stephenson - some of which, let’s admit, were absolute shit! And also very super hero focused (another thing he slams in the above linked speech). The point is, while Transformers provided the initial draw, I didn’t want only more of that one thing - I fell in love with an incredible medium, still on the fringes often dismissed as “funny books” - despite not necessarily being funny. I have been, and will continue to be, a lifelong comics fan because of a licensed property (which I read through clear until the end of it’s Marvel Comics run). This fandom includes some stunning original series with no superheroes in sight, but also includes superheros - especially Batman & Spider-Man, two of my first and still favourite.
There is something for everyone in comic books. No matter what your interests or commitment to the medium might be. This is exactly how it should be. If you’ve not read any comic books ever, you should be able to find one that draws you in - and that gateway could well be a licensed property. Or superheroes. Or they could be the furthest thing from your interest - and that’s fine too! Either way, you should be encouraged to find something, ANYTHING, you like and pick it up. You never know where it might lead you! And more readers of more comics is a good thing for both the industry and the readers.
The best way to NOT draw new readers into comic shops, however, is by having one of the predominant publishers of the current industry curmudgeonly belittle the things he does not like, and the people that do like those things in the process. It’s bitter and unwelcoming. And generally poor form.
(*…and to those of you curious to discover the world of comics, please do not write-off creators of the comics Eric Stephenson publishes for any reason relating to his curmudgeonly comments - Image does indeed publish some damn fine books that are well worth reading. Just don’t listen to the old dog barking in the corner.)