In my column this month, I waxed philosophical and talked about an idealistic comic industry based on strong stories and diversity throughout the marketplace in the stores and online. It’s a beautiful concept and although it warms my heart, it’s definitely not the reality at this stage. So beyond the sequential paradise that I’ve envisioned, let’s start down the road that can lead us to that brighter place, shall we?
Let’s start with the basics. How can you, as an individual, help to expand the comic market and enlighten others about the potential of the medium? In order to answer that, we have to take a further step back and understand your own reading habits.
Take an honest look at what comics you read and ask yourself some simple questions:
- What types of stories or genres do I enjoy?
- Which creators do I follow?
- What do I find appealing about the comics that I read?
Hopefully, you’re going to find answers that go beyond "pure nostalgia". Don’t get me wrong, I pick up an issue of Batman and enjoy seeing Jim Lee doing monthly art again, too, but the nostalgia it brings isn’t the only thing bringing me into the comic book store or making me click through webcomics. I’m drawn towards comics online like "Same Difference" because of the simple slice-of-life characters that hit home for me. I buy Blade of the Immortal each month because I love the captivating artwork and feudal Japanese story. Look at your own reading habits and look for patterns. This will equip you for introducing comics to other people.
Your parents probably don’t read comics. Your friends might, but many of them have probably given it up for other pursuits. What kind of stories or movies do they enjoy? What sorts of genres seem to interest them? Once you can pinpoint that, you can ease them into comics far more effectively than just trying to shove your favorites in their face.
Web comics are ideal for this kind of introduction, because so much of the material is at their fingertips and almost all of them are free, or at least have free samples. Web surfing is so prevalent that people are always looking for new webpages to bookmark and explore if they’re worthwhile. Go out of your way to drop your friends and family an e-mail, a personalized one. Tailor the web comics you choose to their sensibilities and you may be able to surprise them with something new and entertaining. If you can start them on the path, it’s much easier to make the push to the comic book store and show them similar products on the shelves or other web comics you’ve discovered. Don’t overload them with titles, continuity or complicated explanations. A simple link or two that’s well targeted can be far more effective than a flood of information.
Keep in mind that outside of a comic loving audience, superheroes are pretty silly stuff. I personally avoid giving people superhero stories for their first comic read. The built in prejudices are harsh and overwhelming. Throw them off guard with fantasy, mystery, crime or drama and you may be surprised at how well it can grab them. There’s a reason why the Japanese have manga for sports, political drama and war epics in addition to the typical genres. It’s the same reason why manga is far more acceptable in the east and everyone from adults to children are reading comics.
If you can get your family or friends reading just one comic and come back for more, the curse is going to be broken. Suddenly, comics aren’t "just for kids"; and you’ve got the potential to broaden the audience. If one of them recommends a title to their friends, it’ll just keep growing and encompass people that you may never have imagined enjoying comics. Start small and go for quality over quantity.