BAM! POW! WHOOSH! SPLAT!
Comic books make heroic return to popularity
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 16:10
Whether you claim to be a geek, nerd, fanboy/fangirl, anime enthusiast, comic book collector, D & D dungeon crawler, or Skyrimdragon slayer, it seems that these common elements of geek culture are finally making their way to the forefront of what is considered to be popular culture.
Comic books and graphic novels have seen a particularly dramatic increase in fame with the help of Marvel and DC’s growing crop of movies and TV shows based on some of their most iconic superheroes.
Marvel has been the guiding light for the rise of comic book popularity, starting with its first feature film based on one of its characters, “Blade” (1998). Although the film received mostly negative reviews from critics, it was followed by a multitude of successful successors, such as the “X-Men” franchise, “Iron Man,” and of course “The Avengers” (2012), which is the third highest grossing film of all time, with $1.5 billion worldwide.
DC has somewhat faltered behind the success of Marvel, but with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and the recent reboot of Superman in the “Man of Steel” (2013), DC is beginning to see success in their movies as well.
It’s not hard to see the appeal of these shows; who doesn’t love watching hot, athletic women and men fighting crime with the use of superhuman abilities and gadgets, all in the name of truth, justice, and sometimes chimichangas?
Luke Edwards, a 2012 ASU graduate of Cabot, has been reading comics since the sixth grade, when he began reading a Daredevil comic. Daredevil is a Marvel character who loses his sight in a chemical accident, but gains amazing heightened senses as a result.
“It was way too dark and over my head at the time, so I never revisited that series,” Edwards said.
After moving on from Daredevil, Edwards progressed on to other heroes and said Batman is his favorite superhero.
“Frank Miller’s ‘Batman: Year One’ and ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ are my absolute favorites,” he said. “The story arc and the dark past of Bruce Wayne hooked me when I was in middle school.”
Edwards said the movies have done good things for some comics, but bad things for others. He said depending on how well the movie was received, the movies have helped some comics become more widely known.
Victoria Doss, a senior biology major of Benton, agrees the movies and TV shows have done great things for comics.
“I think this is because the stigma surrounding comic books has been thrown to the curb, and it is now more of a culture wide hobby,” Doss said.
Doss has been reading comics since she was a little girl, and remembers “Batman and Robin” as the first comic she ever read.
“I grew up around boys and video games, so when I wanted to read something, comics were familiar territory.”
Both Edwards and Doss also said comics are still considered a geek hobby, but it has become more acceptable to be a geek nowadays.
“Geek culture has become somewhat popular, with shows like ‘Dr. Who,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’ and people like Chris Hardwick having talk shows and a website/blog about (geek) things,” Edwards said.
AMC has become a hub of geek culture recently with its recent slew of original programming. “The Walking Dead,” currently one of the most popular shows on the television network AMC, takes its source material from the monthly Image Comics series of the same name, which was first issued in 2003.
AMC also has the reality show “Comic Book Men,” which is a series about a comic book store in Red Bank, N.J., owned by screenwriter, actor and director Kevin Smith.
Charles Craig, owner of local comic book store The Rogue’s Gallery, has seen an increase in sales of “The Walking Dead” in part due to the popularity of the TV show.
“The movies haven’t really affected our sales of comics, but the TV shows based on series tend to sell a lot more,” Craig said.
Craig also believes that comics aren’t just for younger readers; he gets a mix of both older and younger people in his store.
“We also get a lot of college students in the store. Classes starting back at ASU really affect our sales.”
But it’s not just the proletariat masses participating in the comic phenomenon; the bourgeois class, the celebrities, are also making comic books the chic thing to read.
Nicolas Cagem, star of the Marvel film “Ghost Rider,” named his son Kal-El, after the Kryptonian birth name of Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman. Samuel L. Jackson was S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury in several Marvel films and has his own comic pull list.
And who could forget comedian Patton Oswalt’s filibuster monologue in “Parks and Recreation” about the plot for “Star Wars: Episode VII,” with its inclusion of Thanos’ infinity gauntlet and a battle between an X-Wing and the Quinjet? Oswalt also has an extensive career in comic book writing, and has written pieces for Batman and the Justice League of America series.
With the planned releases of several more Marvel and DC films in the coming years, comics and their franchises are on the path to becoming one of the biggest industries in America. As for Doss and Edwards, they share the opinion that comics are growing in popularity.
“I believe they will increase in popularity for a little while longer, but like any other phase, it will slowly resume its previous status as just a geek hobby,” Doss said.