Sunday, November 19, 2017

Comics as culture? Absolutely

How many times have we heard comics derided for being "kids' stuff", or "only comics"? But the fact is, less than a hundred years ago, comics were not only culture, they DOMINATED culture. And there's more to it than that.

But the quote prompting this came from the intro to Max Allan Collins' Seduction of the Innocent, the third of his comics and crime novels. And while the quote is false, the numbers are real:

The most popular entertainment medium of all, here in 1954. My city boasts twenty comics publishers putting out 600-something titles every month, selling eighty to one hundred million copies a week, reaching an audience larger than movies, TV, radio and magazines combined(they figure a comic book gets passed around or traded to six or more readers).

And lest you think I'm exaggerating, here's some numbers via Infogalactic on Action Comics 1, and a few later issues. Action Comics 1, had a printing of 200,000 issues. And sold out. Eventually, Action Comics would reach sales nearing 1,000,000 a month. That's one title. And over a decade before Dr. Wertham's tirade against comics.

Hey, let's see how Detective Comics did. In fact, I'll even go to post Wertham. 1960. Hmm. According to Comichron, using USPS required data(first year of requirement), Detective Comics(Batman) sold an average of 502,000 copies an issue. Not as much as say, early Action Comics, but this is still more than five times the top book from October 2017. Oh, and the best selling book that year(Uncle Scrooge) sold on average 1,040,543 copies an issue.

So if Alt*Hero and other projects do well, maybe we can reverse this tide of shrinking markets. Maybe we can open up people's imaginations better than movies do again. Maybe people will talk of heroes and romance and man's flawed nature. Maybe, but I really don't know.

Honestly, I have to wonder if the first real casualty of the culture war was comics. Stop people from reading about horrible things, so they don't fight against them. Stop tales of romance and heroism being popular, and sideline them to "kid's stuff".  Hide from the public just how horrible our worst acts are, and let people think that man is perfectible, so the anti-Christian agenda can be pushed, via "science".

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.


  1. Alfred
    It goes to show you how American comic book creators and hotly toity cultural gatekeepers are insular. In Europe they've ALWAYS been regarded as literature and have attracted very high quality creators.
    I've never heard even the most snobbish European cultural critic sneer at comics. In fact everyone has realized what powerful force-good and bad- in culture they

    1. The stick in the muds that pushed the comics code dealt a death blow to real variety for a long time. Fighting the thing as a whole front would have been far better.

  2. Pulp was the Culture until the Stick-in-the-Mud Hard SFs shamed people for reading it. Same with comics, which had their roots in the Pulps. The 80s tried to make the comics "for adults", and only dumbed them down and made them ripe for SJW takeovers.

    Alt-Hero is a beginning to take back the Pulp FUN of comics.