Comics Workbook

An online magazine for Comic Book Makers

Tastes Change

A lot of the younger comics readers who I see at Copacetic or at shows often don’t want to be bothered with comics history or something new and “adult” like Chris Ware or Joe Sacco. And they don’t like superheroes either. And they don’t like Los Bros Hernandez because there are too many girls in bikinis every issue. They want to discover something new or claim something new for their own rather than cling to a specific history that is already written out for them. And so they leave Clowes and Sacco to the mainstream press and don’t really chime in when the topic on a comics blog is “Ditko.”

And who can blame them? There’s a real disconnect. I can extol the virtues of back issues and comics history until I’m blue in the face, but the truth is that comics is growing beyond its own familiar borders. It’s so fractured now that we don’t have to all be conversant in all the current releases and hot topics or ancient history. I feel like I meet people who are new comics readers all the time – and when I ask them what they like, they invariably say, in one form or another, “all kinds of things.” They like Sin City and they like Ghost World. They like Naruto and they like Barefoot Gen. They might like Kirby but probably not, cuz they don’t like superheroes. They’ll look at the Ditko horror story in an old Charlton but they won’t buy the old comic. They will buy the horror reprint book with Ditko stories in it, tho’. There’s a disconnect – they didn’t grow up on comics – and they only want to buy “books.” And hey! That’s okay.

I guess I’m just trying to wrestle with my own feelings about the way things are changing within comics. The whole “embarrassment of riches” aspect of what’s available and of what’s being published these days is something that we all are contending with. It is hard to keep up with all the great books – new ones and reprints. Maybe the reprints are squeezing the new books out of the discussion sometimes. Who knows? Maybe the core fans of established creators like Lynda Barry and Dan Clowes and Los Bros Hernandez don’t read or write blog / twitter comments much. Who knows?

The “embarrassment of riches” argument makes me think a little bit of indie film and the whole American jazz scene. Remember when there were a ton of indie movies in theaters and Hollywood was banking on the next Tarantino? Well, that’s over, right? Hollywood’s fractured and there are probably more filmmakers than ever crowding out each other for a screen in NYC or LA. That sort of feels a little like comics these days. Lots of new work and a limited direct connect to the fans. The old channels for distro are drying up and folks are scrambling trying to find online solutions. I have no idea what’s going on in indie film these days, do you? Is it me or was that just part of the “general consensus” attitude of the pre-internet ‘90s? I feel like I talked about Tarantino and Jarmusch and Wong Kar-wai with total strangers on the BART train all the time back then. Sort of like I talk comics with total strangers these days. It’s in the air. But for how long? Forgive me for being melodramatic. It’s just that I remember when the shit hit the fan during “comics golden ages” of the recent past—like in ’87, in ’96, and in ’08—and the whole industry went south. Fast. When I hear the “it’s a Golden Age” talk I start playing my Duck and Cover training video.

I’m saying we should be happy we argue and have a fractured, fucked up scene and try to foster it to stay fucked up. Jazz musicians and fans used to argue bitterly about how bebop was bullshit and that the New Orleans tradition was the best. Now most of those guys are dead and there’s no one who replaces them really. The musicians change styles, the fans change tastes, they get older and it all fades. I mean, think about it: jazz was the most popular art form in America sixty years ago and now it is just gone. Gone! There are financial foundations for the art form just to keep it alive. Finding a guy to argue jazz with these days is like looking for parts for a ’29 Ford Roadster. I don’t want comics to necessarily to be like it was in the old days but I do want that feeling of revering certain comics and certain creators in a way that this current ham-radio blogosphere doesn’t allow. Discussions in person or in letters columns were easier to navigate. You could say “Fuck You” to someone’s face in the comics shop and then the next minute be talking with them avidly about a Batman movie. Things don’t seem to play out that way on the interweb. I feel like sometimes I wanna crawl through fiber-optic cables and strangle people and that’s no good. But I do think it’s good that we all have these different opinions and tastes. It’s fucked up but it means we’re still alive.

Okay, okay, lemme try and reel this back in a little bit. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when I have to “sell” Love and Rockets to a new reader when I work at the comics shop. It is hard to remember a time when I thought Los Bros.’ star would dim in the hearts of new fans. But I just do just my best Bill Boichel impression and explain that it’s like The Beatles, insomuch as they changed everything. “Well, I never liked The Beatles,” said the twenty-year-old college sophomore. And as a retailer or a guy working for a retailer, what am I supposed to say to that? Basically, I have to say, well why don’t you check out this Akira or this All Star Superman. What do you think I say? I can only try and meet them halfway. Tastes change.

-Frank Santoro

  1. crinklesnsmudges reblogged this from comicsworkbook and added:
    Has the confusing fecundity of North American comics culture in 2013 been on your mind at all recently? If so, check out...
  2. disciplinegeorgejurard reblogged this from comicsworkbook and added:
    A great piece by Frank Santoro.
  3. feitall reblogged this from comicsworkbook
  4. nieljacoby reblogged this from comicsworkbook
  5. niincomics reblogged this from comicsworkbook
  6. cmbeckett reblogged this from comicsworkbook and added:
    Frank talking sense. It’s sad to me, as well, that people have to be sold on L&R, but what are you gonna do? -chris