Do comic books matter?

Do comic books matter?

Have you seen X-Men Dark Phoenix yet? This is a comics blog and you presumably have at least a passing interest in comic books so I’m going to guess your answer is ‘yes’. Was the cinema packed out when you went? Even though it’s not the greatest in the series people will still turn up because it’s the X-Men, so safe to assume another answer in the positive. OK, one more – can you guess how many of the people you saw the movie with would have ever read an X-Men comic? In the beautiful old cinema I watched it in I looked around, saw about a hundred or so people and I reckon the chances are reasonable that I would have been one of the few who had. So does it matter?

We live in a world saturated with comic books and characters. Marvel Studios is pumping out endless superhero movies, the genre has never been hotter and the movies are, for the most part, excellent. DC are unquestionably playing catch up but I’d class most of their recent offerings as at the very least watchable (Batman vs Superman maybe not so much, but even that dud was saved by the Wonder Woman cameo at the end!) Other comic publishers are following suite with movies of their own, showcasing their own character portfolios with varying degrees of success.

Turn on the TV and the same, channels are filled with adaptations of every cool comic book series under the sun. Like your superheroes online? No problem, the internet has got you covered. Superhero clothes? I am writing this whilst wearing a very cool pair of Flash socks, so that’s that question answered!

Do comic book socks matter??
Do comic book socks matter??

Iron-man, The Hulk, Batman, Superman, all of these fabulous characters are enjoying new leases of life. No longer loved just by a sub section of society tagged as geeks (wear it with pride!) but instead it seems everyone is on board. You can be a fan of comics without being an outcast these days, it seems.

So do we need comics anymore? With comic book characters such an omnipresent part of the culture these days do we need those little floppy books? Here’s five reasons that says yes, we definitely do!

If we don’t buy comic books, we lose comic book shops

I can – and most probably will – write an article on why comic shops themselves still matter hugely. For now, let’s just all agree that they do. Hugely. You can buy trades anywhere, right the way up to Amazon. It’s worth the big boys getting involved when trades go for 20 or 30 dollars. What Amazon and the rest are not going to bother with is selling you a 2.99 comic book. That is the realm of your comic book store.

Whether a local bricks and mortar store or their online store, when you buy a comic book from one of these guys it keeps them in business for a little while longer. Comic book shops have been going out of business at an alarming rate in recent years. See this article at The Guardian website, for example, to explain same of the reasons why.  Comic books are their niche, the one product they sell with little competition, the thing that keeps them going.

Pinocchio Discounts, Brooklyn

Local comic shops are a place you can hop into, talk to other fans, the people behind the counter who are just as geeky as you. Local comic shops are places you can browse the latest titles, find something new. These are the guys and gals who have to guess which of the 1000 titles each month to pre-order so that when you walk in asking for Captain Obscuro #1, they have a copy for you. And of course once you are through the door buying a comic, you can maybe buy something else there as well. Comic books are the key. So keep on buying them and you avoid your LCS closing down and becoming a Starbucks. Once you lose it, you won’t get it back.

Comics are where the new ideas are born

Movie studios are hugely risk averse. And fair enough as well, current reports say that Fox is facing an eye watering hit on X-Men Dark Phoenix. Whatever the final figure proves to be, it will not be pretty. And that is with a well-known set of characters, a loyal fan base and several movies worth of momentum. So why would they ever take a punt on anything new if they didn’t have to?

Movie studios are not going to make a movie about a brand new character, they want safe bets. So nothing new will come from them. Can you imagine 20th Century Fox or Sony or anyone else betting $58 million on say a Deadpool movie without 25 years of fandom to work off?

You want how much now??

Potentially a TV studio, with a smaller budget, could do something but the main place new and original ideas are going to come from is comic books. Production costs are minimal, therefore risks are minimal as well. Come up with a cool new character that you think will set the world on fire and you can either pitch it to a publisher or even publish it yourself. And yes, I know it’s not quite as simple as that!

My point is that comic books are the crucible in which every single one of the things we see in these movies and TV shows and socks are born. Some characters will die of quickly, with little fuss. Others will capture people’s imagination, they will grow and change and evolve and in eighty years time be the new Captain America or Batman. And all of this starts in comics.

Comic books can be shared

I started off reading comics when I was about eight. My uncle had a stack of DC Comics Presents, The Brave and The Bold, 100 page specials with stories about Adam Strange and The Creeper and others. I picked them up, started reading and I became a fan for life. Fast forward nearly forty years and you can download comics straight to your iPad. That’s great but how is the next generation of readers going to get involved in the hobby? Your comics are presented beautifully and certainly take up no space on your bookshelves but no-one can see them. No-one can ask who that guy with the yellow skin and red hair is. A PIN locks your stories away.

You can share comic books. And I’m not taking about with a click or a double tap, but they can be handed around. Left on a table for someone else to look at. Taken to a local hospital for the kids there to read. That’s how the next generation of fans will be born.

As an extra point the Luddite in me thinks there is something of value in keeping your comics offline. Their format can’t ever change, or get corrupted, or no longer be compatible with a piece of hardware or software. If a company goes bust you don’t lose your entire collection overnight.

Comic book variant covers

Now I’m very much aware that the subject of comic book variant covers can spark off heated arguments. There are pros and cons with variant covers and a lot of valid arguments on both sides. Personally I’m a huge fan of them (you may have noticed!) as they are fun, something different and another reason to walk into a comic book store. You can’t get a variant cover when you download a comic to your tablet! Also these variant covers (and standard covers as well) are works of art. They can range from comical to breath-taking and we need to admire and cherish them. Surely I’m not the only person who enjoys walking in into a comic shop and just soaking up the view. It’s an art gallery!

A comic book variant cover. There are others..!
A comic book variant cover. There are others..!

Comic books have history

This final reason why comic books matter is a little harder to quantify but personally I think this is one of the most important. Comic books have history. Buy a comic book and you are a part of something bigger. In an age where a phone can be out of date as soon as it leaves the shop and by the time you can afford a 4K TV everyone has moved on to 8K I feel something with a bit of permanence matters. Captain America was punching Hitler on the nose 80 years ago and he’s doing the same to the bad guys now. Buy a comic book and you are a part of something, part of a tradition of storytelling that has thrilled four generations and if we look after it properly, another four generations or more. That surely has to be worth achieving?

 

OK, so those are my five reasons. If you can think of any others, or if you agree/disagree with mine, leave a comment below! I would love to know what you think. Are floppies worth saving? Or are they going the way of the dodo?