Blogger Siphen.0 recently wrote about the future of comics, as he sees it. Essentially, he argues that comics' future is dependent on educating the new generation of comics readers about the great superheroes of yesteryear since they only know about these characters from TV and film representations. And while I feel that this is a little shortsighted, he accurately observes that superhero comics have only changed subtly in hopes of maintaining readership: everything from the basic new costume design to entire reboots of a universe. And sure, this may earn a few new readers every generation, but in general, they're only reaching out to the same audience without giving anyone else a reason to read the original works.
Coincidentally, my students also wrote about the future of comics last week. And they have some different ideas about the future of comics. Charisse wrote an excellent summary of the key points in the introduction of Scott McCloud's Reinventing Comics:
Just because a person may not only want to make a change, but also strive to make that change does not mean a change will come to life. Scott McCloud gave light to a new view on comics in his book Understanding Comics that was published in 1993. McCloud left the debate open to new ideas and criticism, but unfortunately no one took the bait. Being the "comic loyalist" that McCloud is he just could not let this debate go cold, which is why he created Reinventing Comics just seven short years after publishing Understanding Comics. McCloud still believes comics will have their come back, but it will also take a lot of work. McCloud states that the two biggest threats comics are facing is loss of new talent and loss of new readers. Comic artists certainly don't get paid enough. With all the new technology that has come out, reading time has been pushed aside for video games and television. With all this taken into consideration, comics still have hope in the twelve revolutions, which are comics as literature, comics as art, creators' rights, industry innovation, public perception, institutional scrutiny, gender balance, minority representation, diversity of genre, digital production, digital delivery, and finally, digital comics.
Hard copies of comics are hard to come by because they do not make enough profit on their own and the majority of people no longer read purely for pleasure. What McCloud suggests is to give comics a new appeal. If comics were to strike a broader audience, with a diverse spectrum of styles and subject matter, as McCloud puts it, then perhaps people would look at comics as a past-time worth returning to. Comics big problem is that they have only moved forward which leaves behind great work from the past and only a couple genres at a time to work with. McCloud suggests that instead of moving forward comics must move outward so as to intertwine the future, past, and present, and that will lead comics to better diversity and a better public perception. These twelve revolutions McCloud has given in turn gives comics twelve directions to grow.
McCloud maintains that although comics may never reach the popularity of film, they are still important to “diversifying our perception of our world.” Numerous modes of perceiving our world are necessary to better understand it. Comics can’t fear change. Comics’ artists need to acknowledge their medium’s past but they must also allow their work to evolve. McCloud uses the metaphor of a chess piece to explain this concept; in order to take up a new location, the old one must first be abandoned. Comics, however, do not need to move forward from their current position, they need to grow from it! McCloud asserts that comics have the potential to appeal to everyone, but they need to become a more diverse art form, incorporating more genres and more styles than ever before in order to achieve this.
One main point from McCloud’s first book, Understanding Comics, that the author expands on is the idea that comics can be for anyone. More than ten years after the publication of his first book, the author still maintains that comics can appeal to anyone. However, he believes a few changes need to take place before this can be achieved. He states that it is even more important now that comics artists broaden the genres employed in comics, and they must also incorporate new techniques and art styles. Comics need to be about more than superheroes! I thought that McCloud’s chess metaphor was a really effective way of explaining how he envisions how comics should evolve to begin realizing their potential. I agree that comics’ artists shouldn’t completely forget their medium’s past, but they also need to evolve to help their art mature and progress.
Finally, Doug looks at McCloud's "Big World" chapter about the importance of diversity in comics to a happy ending for all:
The topic of expanding comics is prevalent throughout McCloud’s first book Understanding Comics. There have been minorities in America just as long as there have been comics but for some reason the industry is not interested in them. Ironically, for an industry that claims to be so accepting of new ideas for comics and stories, and a fan base that is made up a lot of nerds that are alike in the fact that they are most likely outcasts from typical society, they seem to be a very classic and stubborn American franchise in the fact that they are not open to minorities getting their chances at equal opportunities of creating comics.If comics were more accepting, then Stan Lee's girlfriend wouldn't have felt so left out and would have had her own comics to read and maybe even her own comics to write. But because there's seemingly no place for girls or other minorities in comics, she dumped him. Though because of their break up he created some of his most famous characters. There are pros and cons to everything. but an art and form of expression shouldn't be so subjugated.
Questions? Quibbles? Controversies?