Too Many Long Boxes!

End of Summer

The Coveted Demographic Speaks

by Lee Spriggs

My name is Lee and I'm 16 years old. I've been reading comics since I was six or so. I started out with the shorts in Disney Adventures (I'm sure some of you remember that) and from there I moved on to Marvel comics. I wasn't reading very many from about the age of 9 until the last 2 or 3 years. I was reading Marvel comics and I found myself becoming increasingly dissatisfied with them for a variety of reasons.

My main gripe? I had no idea what was going on most of the time. The writing and artistry was good for the most part, but the continuity was impossible to follow unless one bought expensive (for my meager allowance at the time) tomes of history. This was especially true of X-Men and Spiderman, which were my two favorite books. So I was beginning to think of quitting reading comic books once and for all.

Then my brother (who was the biggest buyer of graphic novels and tomes) brought home something new. The collected issues of the relaunch of the JLA (after Rock Of Ages). I read this and reread it and found myself entranced by the characters. I was of course familiar with both Superman and Batman from their TV shows and their media saturation. Aquaman was featured on Batman once (the animated series) and some of the rest were familiar to me from Superfriends.

The next time I went to my local comic store, I picked up some of the new issues of the JLA. I was intimidated by the number of comics in the Superman and Batman sections so I stayed away from those for the time being. I bought those, along with my usual anime (Dragonball and DBZ) and Marvel purchases and my comic book habits were never the same again. I'll spare you all of the boring details, but suffice to say my reading list has become quite large now.

Whenever I get the chance, I pick up JLA, JSA, Green Lantern, The Spectre, and Martian Manhunter. From time to time, I have bought Hourman (before it was canceled), Legends of the Dark Knight, Legends of the DCU, Flash, Harley Quinn (a bizarre read, but often amusing), Secret Files, Impulse, and others. I also read whatever my brother brings home, which is often from either Marvel or other companies. Some of these are: Dragonball, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Spawn: The Undead, Witchblade, Iron Man, the occasional Spiderman book, Eat Man (before that was canned), and other bizarre and eclectic comics. So I try to stay well read.

Now before I'm attacked by some of the older members of the community, let me say I've read extensively about story lines I couldn't find and I buy collections all the time. My most recent purchase was Batman: Return of the Dark Knight, which I found to be one of the most well-written stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I just ordered Crisis on Infinite Earths. My comic store has bargain boxes, where they throw about a hundred back issues into a box and sell it for 20 bucks and I've bought quite a few of them. I've found some of the Death in the Family comics in there, the infamous KooeyKooeyKooey saga as well as other reads from that era (Deconstructo anyone? How about Destiny's Hand?)

I've yet to find some of the other gems that have been featured in Fanzing (or in Starman: Sins of the Father's case, buy them) but I'm slowly accumulating a collection. The reason I do this is because I legitimately care about all of the characters, unlike in Marvel's case. I like finding out all of the continuity because it fleshes out all of the characters in my mind, even though many of them are fairly well explained in their own books. But all of this isn't my real reason for writing in.

My main reason for writing is that I am in that coveted demographic that comic book publishers strive for - a 16 year old male with money to spend on comics. I've read all of the comments on how to revitalize the industry and I agree with them for the most part. But, however, others find it hard to understand the stigma that reading comics has among my peers.

I like to consider myself more open-minded than a lot of people my age (I'm listening to a mix of the Clash, Radiohead, Tricky, Sneaker Pimps, Beatles, Doors, and assorted other smaller bands) but I still have not found another person who loves comics in the same way I do. In part, this is due to difficulty in voicing my own opinion on the matter. Comics are increasingly being looked at as mindless filler for pre-teens or the domain of the creepy overweight guy in the neighborhood. These prejudices are hard to overcome even by me, as the only people I see regularly at the comic store are college students or older guys who don't seem to.....well....socially fit, for lack of a better term.


While it's true that many of my peers read significantly less than kids used to (the only book one of my friends has read in the last 6 months is a book about computer hacking), I don't think that the alternatives to reading could beat something like comic books. I know for a fact that we follow the comics in the paper and comic books are the natural extension to that. However, this does not mean that people make that connection.

First, there is the aforementioned stigma to comic books, then there is the issue of cost. Would you rather buy a 2.50 comic or skip out on buying a few of em and go to the movies? Advertisement, as mentioned in Michael Hutchison's article about the revitalization of the industry, is necessary, but cost and image are the two main problems, as I see it. Yes, image ties in to advertisement, but the two do not always overlap. In fact, cost has more to do with image than advertisement.

The fundamental problem is that people my age don't think comics are worth it. I could go on and on about how many times I've read excellent (in my opinion) story arcs, such as Circle of Fire (in Green Lantern) and Injustice for All (in JSA) but that doesn't make a difference. The issue is instant gratification (such as a movie) versus enjoyment over time, which is what one gets with comic books.

Additionally, as mentioned, comics are (somewhat) educational and thought provoking. Heck, the Spectre has even got me questioning my own theological beliefs. That's how much they can touch me. I was profoundly moved by the "death" of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns and the death of Aquaman in the recent Our Worlds At War saga.

My point is that there needs to be more of an emphasis in the mainstream on how comics aren't "stupid entertainment" and that there is a lot more than that to be derived from one's $2.50. I don't know if that's the answer, but that's how I see things at this point. I know I'll continue buying my usual books until they're canceled. And I know that many of you feel the same way.

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