I know I still get hammered via e-mail when I suggest something like, say, that there aren’t any superhero comics in any one of my year’s top ten, with a line of thinking that things should somehow be balanced between that particular form of expression and others. I kind of thought most fans were past this …
It wasn’t too many years ago that this definitely was an issue, at least for me. I thought of the stages in my comics life in terms of how much each involved superheroes. My childhood years were all about Harvey, Walt Disney and Looney Tunes until I discovered Marvel and DC and put away “childish things.” That lasted well into my 20s, until companies like Dark Horse and Vertigo opened the gate to other genres.
Not that I abandoned superhero comics. I did my best to balance my reading, but I still thought steadfastly in terms of Superhero Comics and Everything Else. When planning my comics budget, I’d allot half of it for DC/Marvel and the other half for the rest of the Previews catalog. I thought this was a very generous, progressive, and indie-supportive way to go. I’m not judging Then Me or anyone else who budgets in a similar way, but I realize now that I was letting the two publishers with the biggest market share determine the way I thought about comics. It’s not actually even a superheroes/non-superheroes thing; it’s a Big Two/Rest of the World thing. And it’s not a very useful way of thinking.
These days, Marvel and DC compete for my dollars equally with the entire Previews catalog. I read very few comics from the Big Two, but I enjoy the hell out of the ones I do.
If we’re not yet to the point that All of Comics has absorbed Marvel and DC into itself, we should be. I’m not going to tell anyone how to spend his or her money, but the best from the Big Two should at least compete equally with the best of the rest of comics for awards and honors. They shouldn’t be given a special pass just because they’re more popular. I mean, they also shouldn’t be dismissed summarily either, but shouldn’t we be at the place by now that all comics are considered equal regardless of genre or publisher?
Shazam and Bone art by Jeff Smith.