Batman Isn’t a Comic Anymore?

In “Why Comics Are Doomed,” I argued that for comics to survive, we need to stop marketing them as “children’s entertainment.” We need to position comics as entertainment for adults.

Here’s proof why. In the newspaper, there are “movie capsules” that encapsulate the movie. Here, dear friends, is the description for:

“The Dark Knight”
Batman isn’t a comic book anymore. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes and engrossing tragedy. It creates characters we care about. That’s because of the performances, because of the direction, because of the writing, and because of the superlative technical quality of the entire production. The key performance in the movie is by the late Heath Ledger, as the Joker.

The first sentence reveals a preconceived notion shared by many people. They expect comics to be campy, mindless entertainment for kids.

The second sentence goes  further when it notes it is “a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes and engrossing tragedy.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t Batman always been an engrossing tragedy? Not every issue, sure, but some of them, right?

To this writer, “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man” are simply grown up versions of comics. Storytelling flukes created by sophisticated master filmmakers. Nothing in traditional comic books can come close.

For all of you 40-year-old virgins, this is how many people think about comics.

How many people saw “The Dark Knight” and then went to the comic book store to buy Detective Comics? Probably not many, since the assumption is that the movie is for adults…and the comic books are for the kids.

If we keep marketing comics as children’s entertainment, the medium is doomed. Even Hollywood cant save us from ourselves.

6 thoughts on “Batman Isn’t a Comic Anymore?

  1. I think all of us old codgers (25-55+)agree with Buddy that we are thrilled that “our” medium is no longer just for kiddies. We have finally outgrown the nearly eternal childhood forced upon us by Dr. Wertham and the castrating CCA. It is incredibly rewarding when other adults sidle up to to you and ask things like: “You’re into comics, what’s the story with this Watchmen thing they’re talking about?” or “But if Frank Miller’s Daredevil comics inspired the movie why was it so bad that I wanted God to take my eyes?”

    BUT, just because comics are no longer just for kids (and, in fact, in their original newspaper incarnations over a century ago, they weren’t intended to be), does not mean that the little critters should be ignored. There are very few “cool” comics marketed towards youngsters (Chris Eliopoulos’ Franklin Richards comics being one of the few exceptions). We cannot forget that habits are ingrained at an early age. There are a multitude of TV shows and films geared towards children. As a result, those children will still have an interest in TV and movies as teens and adults. But, we have allowed computers and videogames to co-opt the attention of Generation Z (or whatever they’re called).

    We need to reinforce the idea that this is now a mass entertainment medium and ensure that there are a variety of comics available for a variety of ages and demographics. Otherwise we run the risk that regardless of the current surge in interest among studio execs looking for the next “big thing”, the medium will die with us, and our long neglected wives will pad our caskets with the four color pamphlets that vied for their attention.

  2. Let me add a scarier observation: Even kids don’t know about comics, it seems. When my daughter Katie was in 8th grade — this was almost 6 years ago — I did Parents Day at her school and talked about my business as a comicbook agent and writer. Except for my daughter and 2 of her fireends in that class who had been to our home, NOT ONE OTHER KID there had ever held a comic book in his/her hands.

    “Wow! There’s an X-Men comic book, too?” They new X-Men from the [first] movie, from the game, from the cartoon. Other comics were a revelation.

    Quite a difference from when I grew up, in this same town, where there were two places in walking distance that carried comics — one carried practically everything — and within a 10-minute drive were at least three other places with well-stocked comics racks and shelves. Now there’s nothing in my town or even downtown. Someone’s got to drive to another STATE to buy some comics (Pennsylvania or Ohio have places within an hour’s drive.) Comics are clearly no longer an impulse item or an easy-to-fulfill habit. From what I’ve experienced, CHILDREN FOR THE MOST PART CAN’T EVEN GET TO THE PLACES THAT HAVE COMICS.

    Imagine you’re 9, or 12, or 14. How easy is it for you to get a full complement of comics in walking distance if you want them? Growing up, I could get Marvel, DC, Archie, Charlton, Gold Key, Warren, Classics Illustrated, Harvey, and Fawcett (for Dennis the Menace). Where today can the kids walk from grade school or high school in your town to get an equivalent selection?

    Heck, for the rest of 8th grade, my daughter made money selling extra comics, mainly to the boys, out of her locker! It was the only place they knew to get these comic books they’d been exposed to.

    So right now I’m not worried much about whether comics are perceived as children’s fare, or adult fare, or both. I just want as many appropriate comics as possible to be AVAILABLE to the kids. They don’t even know they might WANT them if they can’t even FIND them. No desire = no habit = no purchases = no collection = no readers.

    — David

  3. My comments echo David’s in the previous comment. I’m not in the comic business. My observation is as the “average” adult consumer. When I was growing up we had a corner store across the street from school. That’s where I’d go to get mine. Where do kids go today? Are you serious about having to cross state lines to get them? I don’t think they’re carried in the bookstores at the malls? If so, I haven’t noticed. That’s certainly a marketing issue for the industry–prominent placement. Or just placement.

    On another front, I have 10 and 8 year old girls and I don’t know how the industry writes for and markets to girls? I guess if they can’t find them to buy them, how would I know? But, I know what I see them exposed to today–American Girl, Hannah Montana, Webkins, etc. There’s a great opportunity to recapture these lost markets.

    – Nick

  4. I honestly don’t think comics are marketed so much to kids anymore. I loved comics when I was young, but gave up on them back around the mid ’80s. Along with the higher prices, I thought the writers and artists started to take themselves too seriously, and I just couldn’t relate anymore. I also didn’t like it when they switched from newsprint to higher quality paper, because it changed the look of the artwork so much. Back around 1978, as others have said, a kid could walk into a convenience store on the way home from school (as I often did) and buy four comic books for a dollar. Comics now are harder to find and much more expensive.

  5. Yes and no.

    I read that at the San Diego Comic Con, there was a debate about whether single comic issues (now called “floppies”, supposedly….cute) are dying. While graphic novels are trades and hardcovers are enjoying good exposure and rising sales, they say the floppies are struggling.

    Ya know what? Fine. Fuck ’em.

    The business is changing. If this is how it’s changing, i’m all for it. And, I think this is HOW they are gearing books toward the adults and young adults; they get rid of the flimsy, disposable single issues and replace them with nice looking, well-made, built-for-storing-on-a-bookshelf trades and hardcovers. This can work, if done right. So far it IS being done right. Let’s give it time.

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