“Evolve or die!” This is true for comics as it is any other medium. According to a recent article by Forbes, data is showing that, for pretty much the first time since the 10-Cent Plague, comics readers are choosing other genres more often than superheroes. So, what are they turning to? Graphic novels and manga. Superheroes, the sub-genre which originated in comics, has kept comics afloat for decades, and which is now ubiquitous thanks to blockbuster Hollywood movies, is declining in its native medium. And all this on the heels of Raina Telgemeier becoming the best-selling author in the country thanks to the popularity of her recent, very non-superhero-y book Guts.
Why am I saddened by this news? Am I a no-good, gross gatekeeper who thinks that those reading comics that aren’t superhero are phonies? No, no, not at all, I swear. I’m just sad to see the superheroes that I love, the superheroes to whom we owe the continued existence of comics, the superheroes who are so often snubbed by academics and even libraries, being dwarfed by their adaptations in other media. Superheroes got me and countless others in my generation and before into comics, and it’s a sub-genre that isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. It saddens me that supeheroes are now considered so “basic” by so many, when there is so much value in the stories.
Despite my lament, I tend to not be fearful of change, so I also find this news equal-parts exciting. It’s a thrill to know that comics are expanding in genre, medium, and in audience, and the decline of superheroes is indicative of this. For too long, superhero comics were welcoming to only a select few (white, male, straight, etc.), and, since superheroes were the primary genre of comics for so long, it’s only natural to see this shift in audience and genre coincide, even with superhero comics making substantial strides to course-correct and be more inclusive. Change is a part of life, and I’m honestly just happy to see comics being read, even if they are memoir instead of superhero and graphic novels instead of monthly issues. I’ll always be a faithful superhero reader, but I’m ready to buckle-up and see where this journey takes me and the medium I love so deeply.