Comic Book Daily

52Q | #59: Superhero and comics fans

Back by popular demand, Comic Book Daily asks the question and the crew (and special guests) give their answers. Tip of the hat goes to Scott VanderPloeg for this week’s question.

Spotted this quote last week.

There are two types of fans: superhero fans and comics fans. The problem is that most superhero fans mistakenly believe they’re comics fans.

This week’s 52Q: your take on the above.

Alex Tomaszewski

This guy can say whatever he wants about Superhero fans vs Comic book fans. But the bottom line is the superhero comic is a sub genre of comic books, period. But the tweet reads comics, and I understand comics in the traditional sense to be comic strips of the likes of Garfield, Family Circus, etc. So what exactly does he mean?

So, in this reading, superhero fans are in fact not comic strip fans. How often do we seen comic strips featuring non-satirical superhero`s. The answer is we do not. Superhero`s are too epic to land in the daily funnies.

Superhero`s are however a staple of comic book culture.

People love comic books because there are so many genres, it`s like movies. But to say that because you pick up Batman or X-Men on a weekly or monthly basis that you are not a comic book fan is doing the whole industry a disservice. You`re basically saying a large portion of your readers are posers. No better than kids who wear thick, black framed glasses, but have 20-20 vision just to `look cool`.

Often superhero comic books are the gateway for children into a whole world of comic books from the educational to the strange. Most of us opened our first comic book because we liked the idea that there could be someone with super powers and then we branched out from there on our own personal discoveries, finding new writers, new story`s, new characters, no nessecarily based in superhero communities.

If comic book fans don`t like the way Big Bang Theory typecast comic book fans, then that`s fine. We`re not all a superhero loving, green latern tee-shirt wearing group of nerds. But some of us are. In an industry that needs all the help it can get, it behooves us to categorize fans, instead of celebrating them.

I think what Doane is missing is that superhero fans go to the comic book store or online and purchase Marvel and DC Superhero titles, stimulating the industry so that off shoots of those titles (eg. Vertigo) and independent publishers have a chance to get there material out there. Once the fans are in the stores, supporting the material, does it matter why kind of story they choose.

Kevin Boyd

My gut reaction is that the author is a snob, pure and simple… but on reflection, I’d say there is a germ of truth there.

I don’t think that the are mutually exclusive designations as the author seems to be implying. Comics fans can, and do, like superhero comics – which are just a sub-genre within the larger medium, and many superhero fans can (and do) like other types of comics. I’d go so far as to say that most comics fans started out as readers of superhero comics, even the most snobbish comics elitist probably has an issue of X-Men, Spider-Man or Batman hidden in their sordid past.

My experience is that a person who enjoys a well done comic is willing to try other well done comics, or follow a creator from superhero comics that they respect to another genre.

However, some people do just like superheroes, and that love of a specific type of adventure hero transcends the medium itself and can expand into a love of superheroes in other media — films, television, cartoon, games and other merchandise. They follow the comics because that is the primary source of story for the characters they like, not necessarily because they like the medium of comics…

Chris Howard

But I think there is a point there about, in North America anyways, comics being largely defined as Superheroes. And I’m thinking in terms of comic books, strips are funny animals in the newspaper.

Scott VanderPloeg

Why can’t superhero fans be those people who enjoy comic movies, buy Superman lunchboxes and never pick up a comic in their lives?  They’re superhero fans and therefore exert an influence on the comic market yet don’t aid in the comic book market.

Alexa: If I learned anything at FanExpo it is that the comic book industry does have a role in the movies that are made. At one of the Marvel panels just this year the writers were talking about connecting with writers on the Iron Man, Thor and Avengers films to ensure that the characters had some kinda of continuity. So even as a Superhero fan there is a connection to the comic book industry. If you buy a Superman lunchbox your acknowledging a long line of comic book history. So whether you read the comics or not, as a superhero fan you have opted into that discourse. But you may not be a comic book fan and this can work both ways. You can not compare.

By and large superhero fans who may not have picked up a comic book or set foot in a comic book shop raise awareness. That long lineage you knowledge when you take your kid to see Thor or Spiderman may in the long run aid the comic book industry because now your kid knows who Spiderman is. They feel more comfortable stepping into a comic book shop because they know when to look for, the door is open to enjoy that part of comics, whether you choose it or not. You cant tell me that the Superhero movies and Superman lunchboxes do not aid the comic book market, because there are rights and financial issues that I am sure all flow back to the comic book industry.

The thing with twitter is, its very easy to tweet something that you think is smart, but comes of as ridiculous because of lack of context. Maybe next time the writer should write a blog instead of tweet a few characters to make clear what the statement is really saying.

Ed Campbell

I had an answer all written up, until Scott sent his follow up question. Which fan is the original quote referencing? Is the original quote about someone who enjoys Super Heroes, but has never cracked open a comic book. Or is the quote about someone who reads super hero comics and how they are not a true fan because they haven’t experienced every form of the comic book medium.

If the quote is about super hero comic fans not being a true comic book fan, then that is a ridiculous statement. If you read a comic book, you are a comic book fan. I don’t care what the content is. Whether you read super hero stuff, manga or crime comics, it doesn’t matter. You are a comic book fan.

Fans of super hero movies and merchandise, who’ve never read a comic book are not comic book fans. They are fans of superheroes. It is difficult to compare the two, because while the characters have originated from the comics, they have evolved into a different entity.

Brent Chittenden

Much like our esteemed Mr. Boyd, I think the quote is a bit snobbish and not entirely correct.

Are there fans out there that will only buy superhero comics and nothing else?

Yes.

But I would also state that there are many people who buy comics of different varieties. Myself for instance. My buy list for the year includes Secret Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Grant Morrisons’s Batman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer which are all basiclly super hero comics but I’ve also bought Criminal, The Outfit, Star Wars, Walking Dead and others that are not super hero fare at all. And I don’t think I’m alone in that buying category.

So which fan am I?

It’s like saying “There are two type of music fans. Those who listen to rock music and those who listen to music. The problem is that most rock fans mistakenly think believe they are music fans.”

Sounds really dumb when you put it into that context doesn’t it?

Alexa: Or saying – “There are two types of movie fans. Those who watch independent films and those who watch big budget films. The problem is that most independent film fans mistakenly think believe they are movie fans.”

We need rock fans and music fans. We need independent film fans and big budget film fans. And we need comic book fans as well as superhero fans.

Its all circular.

Laura Thomas

This is all kinds of dumb. I know a lot of people who are super hero fans and self admittedly are not comic fans. I know a lot of comic fans who refuse to read super hero stuff. Comics are a medium. You wouldn’t say this about movie fans in comparison to superhero fans, and there are enough superhero movies out there.

I could probably go on, but at the same time it’s too stupid a quote and makes no sense. Sounds like someone was trying their hardest to be pretentious.

Shelley Smarz

I think that this is just another rehashing of the superiority/inferiority complex that a lot of sequential arts fans have (used to represent the medium, since superhero and comics are used to describe subtypes/content). For some fans, it’s a nice little way of labelling the massive a chip on their shoulders because their texts are dismissed as low-brow, unworthy, childish, whatever. For others, it’s a symbol of being a hipster douchebag. Much like Brent’s analogy of the big popcorn movie fan versus the indie film fan (e.g., “I just saw this super obscure indie film; you probably haven’t heard of it yet”), there’s this pseudo-division between fans of the medium, based on content or genre or whether fluffy bunnies wrote it.

Now, I’m generalizing here, but superhero fans tend to have a bit of an inferiority complex and graphic novel/”high brow” comic fans tend to have a bit of a superiority complex. Or, at least that’s the popular perception. The whole thing is discursive and echoes the high culture/low culture divide; one group are “fans” while the others are aficionados. You can’t pretend that this division isn’t there. But, at the same time, does it really matter? We’re all fans of sequential art (which is also a loaded term) but there’s this interesting power differential that plays out in the fandom (where comics fans don’t want to be associated with superhero fans and where superhero fans don’t want to be associated with comics fans). Yet, I’ve met plenty of pretentious and hipster-ish douchebag superhero comic fans and I’ve met a lot of down to earth, just really dig the medium graphic novel/comics fans who haven’t made the foray into superheroes, for one reason or another. I think everyone has.

Daniel Champion

I read everything… Shakespeare, Biographies, Beatrix Potter, erotica, poetry, graffiti, screenplays, lyrics, twitter feeds, news stories, quotations, speeches, kids books, non-fiction, ancient translations… and of course Comic Books. Superheroes are said to have ‘hijacked the medium’ in the late 1930’s early 40’s and are now synonymous with comic book culture/nerdary the world over… like it or not – you say “Comics” you see Superheroes.

Reading the Quote as collection of words (without any context or inside info) – It sounds as though the author is either proud of his love of comics and is disappointed in the lazy-bum ‘part-time fans’ whom only watch the movies/play the games – or he’s exclusively into comics that don’t contain any Superheroes… and where’s the fun in that?! Why limit your love of StoryArt to one pocket of the medium?

This person needs to chill out (in either case) – and embrace the interest in his great love – from people whom probably don’t know much about it.