“There are too many words in this and not enough pictures,” cried one student.
“Gosh, there are like no words in this. My imagination is not at all challenged,” cried another.
At first glance, these could be very accurate portrayals of college opinions, but these are just straw men. Though these reductive opinions are silly, the sentiment behind them suggests that a medium containing literary and visual elements would fill a void. Instead, this medium — with comic books being one of the more popular formats — carries a stigma of either being for children, or for adults who aren’t very respectable. This prejudice is eroding — graphic novels can now be seen in traditional bookstores — though not quickly enough.
Without mainstream support and with the languishing print industry (the Trinitonian aside, right guys?), publishers have to try to appeal to their readers by using gimmicks, innovation and talent.
The New 52 is DC Comics’ initiative to draw new and old readers alike. Their entire line of monthly comics was cancelled. Some were rebooted, some were axed, new series started and some old ones revived. In total, 52 different series were released, all first issues. The history of the different universes and characters were made to be more modern and approachable. Critically, the revamp was well-received by reviewers and fans. There are some duds in the new lineup, but overall, the new art, characters, storylines and talent have breathed life into DC’s familiar lineup. The “Batman” series has never been stronger, while weaker series like “Wonder Woman” have been rejuvenated. Even the previously floundering series “Aquaman” has been made into a respectable and beloved series.
Even before the acquisition of Marvel Comics by Walt Disney Company, Marvel had the largest market share of the comic book industry and the movie industry but even they felt the pressure to draw more readers. The “Avengers vs. X-Men,” Marvel’s big crossover event, concluded in 2012, resulting in massive changes in the comic universe. Marvel used this opportunity to return to issue No. 1 on almost all of their ongoing series. This reboot isn’t as defining as the DC one because it introduces a lot of new things, but it’s mostly a continuation. The most notable series to read are “The Superior Spider-Man,” ”Young Avengers” and “All-New X-Men.”
The most interesting aspect of the comic industry is the part that doesn’t deal with spandex-wearing superheroes. The writers and artists of traditional superheroes do plenty of interesting things, but a lot of the innovation and maturity come from smaller publishers.
Vertigo may be an imprint of DC but they are focused on original and creator-owned stories. Neil Gaiman is writing a new story to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his seminal series, “Sandman.” It was part of the “British Invasion” in comics that saw a move away from superheroes and into mature and intelligent stories.
Image Comics owns the publishing rights to Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead.” It is, and has been for a while, the best-selling comic book series. “The Walking Dead” is still going strong even though it’s spread to every other medium — and it has just as dark and violent. Another notable series is “Saga” by Brian K. Vaughan; his other works include “Y: The Last Man” and “Runaways.” Some may feel alienated by intergalactic intrigue and drama, but there’s also “Chew” for those who want something more normal and mundane. It’s the story of an FDA agent who solves crimes by eating things and people to get an impression of their past.