Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to The Panel and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from Alan Larken and is as follows:-

“Is the Superhero really on the way out?”

Mike Bullock Writes:

As long as there are humans who want to reach beyond their mundane lives, Superheroes will always have a place in our collective psyche. With that being said, I’d love to see a balance struck, where Superheroes don’t have such a stranglehold on the American comic market.

I’d love to see the scene return to the days where there were just as many horror, pulp, sci-fi, thriller and fantasy comics as there are superhero books. Unfortunately, that opinion seems to be in the minority.

Mike Bullock is a writer and co-creator of Image Comics’ Lions, Tigers and Bears. Bullock’s second book, The Gimoles, debuted in July of ’05. In addition to his comic writing, Bullock is also the promotion agent and President of Runemaster Studios, Inc. When he isn’t creating or writing his own material, Bullock acts as editor for numerous comic projects. Bullock is currently writing several new books for various publishers, including Lions, Tigers and Bears Volume II.

Kev F Sutherland :

I wish.

Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.

Sean O’Reilly:

I don’t think so but it’s definitely been an explored avenue. It’s tough to come up with something completely original and that’s making it tough to view the Superhero in new lights. As well the shift has been less Superhero, and more heroes who are super.

Sean Patrick O’Reilly is Editor-in-Chief of Arcana Studios, and the writer of their book, Kade.

James E. Lyle (a.k.a. Doodle):

Not from what I’ve seen in the “trenches”. (Trenches here is defined as the “grubby” parts of Artist Alley at any number of US comics shows. I’ve been participating in them for a number of years now, and honestly they are the show for me). The lads and lasses (I’ve picked up a small set of “Britishisms” from last night’s viewing of Wallace and Gromit’s feature film, but if you’d prefer I’d stop, please don’t hesitate to let me know), anyway, the lads and lasses in Artist Alley are almost all great fans of the Superhero. There’s always a disgruntled person here and there griping about how Superheroes have ruined comics, but let’s face facts, we love the critters! Spandex and all.

While I recognize that fact, I’m glad to see that there are those out there still willing to try something different. I applaud the folks who are trying to bring something different to the art form. Kudos to you all.

But again, I must step onto my soapbox and loudly announce: “Content! Content! CONTENT!” The problem with Superhero sales is not that the Superhero is losing to the burgeoning crowd of alternative voices, but that the entire industry is plagued with the same problem of not giving the public what it wants.

Not more graphic violence. Not more deviant sexual behaviour. Not more disrespect for morality. What the general public wants, by and large, are comics that not only respect their intelligence (and I believe that the industry has shown that it CAN make intelligent comics) but comics that also respect the world view of the general public.

Why should I shell out $3 to have my faith belittled by a character that is obstensively supposed to be the protagonist? I’d do better to save up that same money and buy a collection of comics from the 60s that at least paid lip service to what I hold dear. Or perhaps I should buy a few good reading copies of those same comics from a back issue dealer, and not further line the pockets of a publishing company that simply doesn’t get the fact that they are putting out a lot of mediocre trash and paying for it by reprinting the “good stuff” from the past.

Now, I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be other voices out there that disagree with me. But until the industry in general gets past the whole “UN-inventing” the hero in the mainstream books, and the whole “near-porno” attitude in the “adult” divisions of the various publishing houses, they’re going to keep losing sales.

The newspapers are experiencing a similar general downturn in sales, and have been blaming it on the Internet for the past 10 years. Never once taking seriously the statistical data that says that the public isn’t buying newspapers simply because they’re sick and tired of being lied/pandered to by a bunch of journalists who’ve lost sight of what journalism is about.

I submit to you that comics creators and publishers have lost sight of what comics are supposed to be about. I know, they don’t have to be about Superheroes but considering the content of many that are out there, the “hero” tag has been lost a long time ago.

Give us heroes again! Super, ordinary, cowboys (and girls), funny animal, whatever but make sure they’re HEROES, not villains in disguise.

James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the “missing” Paul Gulacy T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.

Tony Lee Writes:

I really don’t think so. I do however think that people are realizing finally that there is a more mainstream area for the graphic genre, one that doesn’t have the ‘geeky’ stigma of ‘superhero’.

The biggest problems for ‘superhero’ comics is that the more original work is coming out in a lot more digest or OGN (original graphic novel) format. This means that a lot more people have developed a more ‘wait for the trade’ mentality – which isn’t so bad for publishers waiting for a back – end profit (as the trade sales will add to it), but can be murder for books that rely on a monthly regular purchase rate.

And superhero books are the prime genre in this area. I know, we have the vertigos and the Dark Horses and suchlike – but primarily it is indeed a ‘superhero’ term.

The SECOND biggest problem, is that the original graphic novels I mentioned are just that – ORIGINAL. You can have the most genre-splitting tale in an OGN and people will buy it because of it’s diversity. Charles Burns. Dan Schaffer. Dave Simms. All have split genres and made cult names for themselves in a non-superhero area.

With a superhero comic – barring a retcon or a re-vamp, the same things happen day in, day out. You can’t fuck with the status quo. You can’t kill Superduperman’s high school sweetheart – even though she’s kidnapped for the 567th time. You can’t suddenly have him melt off villains faces. You MAY be able to kill off a sidekick if you’re REAL lucky – but usually? It’s kinda frowned upon.

It’s a pair of creative handcuffs that only the best writers can get around without making the stories sound overused. And yes, events like INFINITE CRISIS and HOUSE OF M do well to revitalize – but at the end of the day? A comic is only as good as it’s writer and source material.

So is the superhero on the way out? No. Not as long as the superhero gets well researched, well written stories that are more and a two dimensional ‘phoned in’ effort.

Are inadequate Superhero WRITERS on the way out?

I f**king HOPE so.

Tony Lee was born in West London, UK in 1970. Informed by a teacher that he had a comic book style of writing, (a comment meant more as an insult), Tony decided that one day he would write for comics. Check out more at http://www.tonylee.co.uk

Bart Thompson:

I don’t think so. The industry is just showing that there is room for more things than JUST superheroes. That’s like saying because there are so many crime and medical dramas coming out that sitcoms and talk shows are on the way out. If you mean out of favor with most people, it’s possible… I doubt it, but it could happen. But totally gone like the EC horror comics, the romance comics, or westerns… nah. Not going to happen.

Now is a very good time for comics as a whole… people are branching out and not limiting themselves to just one thing anymore. Superheroes are fun, but there is so much more out there to be read and to work on.

Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics, creator of Vampires Unlimited, the Metamutoids, ChiSai, and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies while the publisher of Myriad from Approbation and writer/creator of Blood, Shells, & Roses coming soon from Arcana Studios!

Vince Moore:

The Superhero is not more on the way out than the Romance heroine, the Magical Girl, or the Hard-boiled Detective are. If some people are bored with the superhero, maybe it’s because the creators are bored themselves and therefore are creating boring superhero stories. The same way we get dull TV shows or bad novels in any other genre.

Do what you love, people, and don’t do something just to make money or because someone else is successful with it. Otherwise you’re dooming yourself to failure.

Vince Moore is the editor for DarkStorm Studios, a comics company started by Kevin Grevioux of Underworld fame.

Egg Embry Writes:

No. Since there has been literature, the “superhero” has always been here in one form or another. The Greek god Zeus would assume a “secret identity” to move among men and women. Yet he possessed amazing superpowers that he would use to… sorta right wrongs. And all of that was written thousands of years ago. Today we have Superman or Spider-Man still working that side of the street. If an analog to the modern superhero can be found back then, why would this year or century or millennium be special enough to end them?

Egg Embry is an editor on DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES for Arcana Studio. Currently, his writing appears in Ronin-Studio’s tsunami relief book, HOPE #1.

Donna Barr:

For its itty-bitty niche market? Probably not. Like Pony-Boys and Leather-girls and any other little niche market, the fans remain.

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!

Jesse Leon McCann:

No, they’re really not. It’s the non-superhero comics that are still having a hard time gaining a foothold with the readership, more’s the pity. Just look at the top 300 comics and top 100 Trade Paperbacks for September– it’s spandex-driven all the way.

Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He’s currently editing the fifth Simpsons TV Episode Guide and writing comic stories for Bongo Comics, DC Comics’ Looney Tunes and Cartoon Network Block Party, and Smiles for Diversity’s Scrapyard Detectives #3.

Vito Delsante:

Nah. Just changing his costume a bit.

But it is a fair question. I think that superhero comics will always be around, but I think you’ll see more personal stories to compete with the high-brow comics. The best example would be Steve Seagle’s IT’S A BIRD.

Vito Delsante’s creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Mike Lilly (Vampirella: Revelations), is now in development with Speakeasy Comics and will hit stands in June of 2006. He has worked with DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and others.

Don’t forget the LIVE! event taking place this Sunday at the UK’s Comic Expo (http://www.comicexpo.biz). Come down and put your questions the live panellists that include Tony Lee, Jack Lawrence, Daly Osiyemi, Pat Sullivan and Lee “Budgie” Barnett!

3pm on the Sunday! If you can make it email me a question now!

Be there or be square… as the hip kids say!

The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great isn’t it – James

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