Are comics “steeped in years of arcane mythology”?

A book review by Tim Marchman for the Wall Street Journal that barely mentions the book has attracted a lot of attention from the comic internet, leading with the following.

If no cultural barrier prevents a public that clearly loves its superheroes from picking up a new “Avengers” comic, why don’t more people do so? The main reasons are obvious: It is for sale not in a real bookstore but in a specialty shop, and it is clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology.

I had to include the article’s accompanying image by Mark Zingarelli, as it sums the article up nicely. I encourage everyone to give it a thorough read and chime in below.

Marchman makes a strong case for what’s wrong in today’s comic mainstream, but what can we really expect from a generation of creators who are really fanboys? While there may not be any innovation in mainstream superhero comics, is anyone looking for change? Don’t we pick up Captain America or Superman because we know what to expect?

The article ends with this statement.

The superhero comic has for decades been the fixed point around which this vital American art has revolved. It may be exhausted, but it deserves better than to be reduced to a parody of a parody of itself.

Scott VanderPloeg
Scott VanderPloeg

Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at AE Index and eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans.

Articles: 1231


  1. I went to the link and read the WSJ article. I guess the whole point is why don’t comic books sell more considering many of the movies are based on them.I will apologize beforehand about my sporadic ramblings but I’ll put my two cents here. I always associated comic books with B-movies, spaghetti westerns, late night horror hosts, muscle cars and heavy metal music. You know, the things that are so bad, they’re good. I don’t think having specialty shops deter people from picking comics up. You can find almost anything with the internet. Even if your in a small town without a comic store, the internet brings the rest of the world to you.

    Growing up reading comics I was always interested in the artwork. The stories were pretty lame back then. Over the last two years I have been reading some comics and the stories now are too hard to follow-bad guys are now good guys, good guys are now bad guys, etc. The stories are more complex and confusing. I guess for me there is no happy medium.

    Kids today have more distractions-video games, computers, smart phones, etc. My generation may have been the last generation to play baseball in the street, go to the dime store, get some comics and a drink. The low selling stats for comics reminds me of the music business. Years ago a band could sell a million copies which was great. Today, if you sell 100,000 on a new release that is considered great. Why the decrease? Do people rip off comics like they do music? Do the artists avoid the big companies? Maybe independent comics, like independent music labels sell less but make more money per comic? Are there too many comic book companies? Are there too many comic titles? Getting back to the music analogy, if you study music, it’s the same chords over and over except the younger generation doesn’t realize that before Creed there was a Led Zeppelin. The big music companies just rehash the same music but put a different person in front of the music. A person with shiny teeth, ripped jeans and a great looking tattoo. The comic industry could have rehashed Superman stories saving a woman from a burning building but they catered to the fans who were tired of reading the same ‘ol story again and again. If they did that, we would be writing comments about a story that talks about how boring comics are because they are so redundant. I believe the difference in the generations is to blame for the decline in comic sales. Kids today are not into things we were into when we were young. Society changes. In another 50 years, kids may be into something entirely new.

  2. I found the abuse of established brands to sell more titles to be a huge turnoff for me when I first started getting back into comics a year ago:

    If I wanted to read “X-Men”, I had to weave my way through “Astonishing”, “Uncanny”, “Wolverine & The X-Men”, “X-Men”, “X-Men: First Class,” “Ultimate X-Men”, “New X-Men”, “New Mutants”, “X-Factor”, “X-Force”, etc. etc. What the f***? You’re telling me on the off-chance I decide to give your product a try, I gotta do research first? F*** that, I’ll just play video games.

  3. Good article, thanks for pointing it out. The Lee/Kirby silver age stories are still superb today, and most current stories really are pathetically bad. There is good stuff out there – Brandon Graham’s Prophet is entirely original and excellent, and DC’s new Animal Man was quite good for a while – but Marvel and DC are not doing themselves any favors at all these days – they sell to a very narrow market, lack ambition and originality and just fail to tell interesting stories or use interesting art. Also comics are just ridiculously expensive – $4 is too much for a few pages that will probably be mediocre and predictable. Make ’em cheaper and sell ’em everywhere.

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