This week’s question comes from Ratt who actually subscribes to the view that ‘superheroes’ aren’t a genre, or even a sub-genre but he has simplified his views to make the question easier. The question is:
“Do you think that superheroes will remain the dominant genre of (American mainstream) comic books in the next decade or so? And if not, what other genre do you expect will challenge their dominance or supplant them entirely?”
Rick Shea: “I believe that super-heroes will remain the dominant genre, as comic books are the only place you can regularly find Superman, Batman and most of the other super-heroes we love, aside from the occasional movie or TV show. However, more books like Y, the Last Man, Fables, Sandman, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and so many more are getting new people into comic books and into stores. Until these outnumber the many fans of old school super-hero entertainment, I think the genre will remain fairly dominant. But the door is definitely open to more open-minded customers willing to check out stuff other than super-heroes as well, and other genres will continue to grow in popularity.”
Alan Grant: “I’m not sure that superheroes are the dominant genre of American mainstream comic books right now, so who can say where they’ll be in the next decade? LEGO produced a comic based on their big-selling “Bionicle” toy series (they may even have hired DC to produce it for them). It sold 3 million copies, which is probably more than the top 100 superhero comics combined.
In other countries I’ve visited, like Chile and Argentina, US superhero sales have taken a pounding from Japanese manga titles (and a strong dollar, though presumably the manga books have to be imported, too).
While I’m sure superhero comics will continue to sell, not least because of their Hollywood connections, there’ll be strong competition from a flood of new (to us) material, especially from Asia and Eastern Europe.”
Vince Namaste : “I totally believe superheroes will remain the dominant genre of American comics for not only the next decade but for as long as Marvel and DC continue to exist. Why? Several reasons. One, too much money is invested in these characters and this genre for it to fade gently into that good night. Sorry to all you people who love the phrase “perv suits.” It’s simple economics. Two, contrary to some opinions, some genres match up with and dominate some media all too well. For example, romance novels account for about 25% of the paperback book market, according various estimates I’ve read. That’s one out of every four paperbacks sold, covering about 2000 different categories. (If I’ve gotten this wrong, just bitch at me later on the message boards.) Obviously that’s a genre that goes will with the prose medium. Action flicks and action-comedies dominate film; that’s the genre most easy to export. It’s a toss up between sitcoms, soaps, cop shows, and reality programs for TV. But you get the picture. Recent superhero movies look great, special effects wise, and have done well at the box office, but it may not last. The cost of bringing superheroes to life will limit which character gets their shot and in what way. Three, the true flexibility of the superhero story is just now being explored. The superhero as science fiction epic (New X-Men), as mystery/crime fiction (Daredevil), as coming of age tale (Runaways and Sentinel), as horror story (JLA: Scary Monsters). I could come up with a few others, but you should get the idea by now. Even with the wave of manga books crashing up our shores, superheroes will still have their place at the top of the heap. Because even that new audience can’t support the flood of titles coming out forever, the novelty will wear off, and the boom will turn to bust. Not to wish anyone bad luck. Still, it’s happened in the past and could very well happen again. Besides, there are manga superheroes out there, like Dragonball Z and S-Cry-Ed. So the superhero is a part of new influx of books and fans as well. Some people will want and will turn to power fantasies for entertainment. Particularly when times are tough. That’s the superhero in a nutshell. Other genres should and will do well in comics. But the superhero put comic books on the map and as long as there are tons of hopeful professionals out there (like I still am in many ways) who love superheroes, the genre will never die.”
Alonso Washington: “I believe super heroes are here to stay. Super Heroes are why comic books are popular. However, I believe other types of comic books will capture the comic book world’s attention. Anime, horror, humor & ethnic comic books will influence the look and the approach of mainstream comic books. Look at my African American comic book company (Omega7 Inc.). A number of mainstream Black super heroes at Marvel & DC began to look a little more ethnic (like Omega7 characters). Current hair styles, facial hair, etc. Green Lantern of the Cartoon Network Justice League cartoon is the biggest Omega Man look alike rip off. The new Cartoon Network Teen Titans cartoon looks like an episode of Sailor Moon. Other comic books will emerge. However, the major corporations won’t let the super hero die.”
Craig Lemon: “In monthly format, sure. In trade format, manga.”
Alan Donald: “I have no idea. I love the genre and buy several titles in it but there’s a hell of a lot I read outside the genre too. I couldn’t possibly guess, sorry.”
Next Week’s Question: ” Why does Hollywood feel it a necessity to put their own take or “stamp” on perfectly solid origins, characters, and stories?”
Big Shout: The Panel need your questions so email them into me at: email@example.com.
Previous Questions: Check out the message board where I’ve put up a list of every question the Panel has faced so far (neatly linked to the column it appeared in) to inspire you and let you know what to avoid.
SBC reserves the right to edit questions for reasons of consistency and inclusivity.