Catching up from the long weekend: WSJ's superhero smackdown

The article everyone was talking — and tweeting — about this weekend was Tim Marchman's scathing critique of superhero comics, which purported to be a review of Christopher Irving and Seth Kushner's new book Leaping Tall Buildings but in fact barely mentioned the book and went straight to a critique of the comics industry. Marchman starts by pointing out that despite the popularity of The Avengers movie, sales of superhero comics are far below their 1990s levels:

If no cultural barrier prevents a public that clearly loves its superheroes from picking up a new Avengers comic, why don't more people do so? The main reasons are obvious: It is for sale not in a real bookstore but in a specialty shop, and it is clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology.

There's a lot more, though, and the piece is well worth a read, whether you agree with it or not. Reaction seems to be mixed in the comics blogosphere so far — I would say everyone finds something to disagree with, but there are a lot of attaboys as well. Todd Allen posts excerpts from the column at The Beat, along with some tweets between Marchman and readers.

At Comic Book Movie, Josh Epstein responds, "The audience has not gone away; it has simply diversified its holdings," and he points to the increasing popularity of creator-owned comics. He also defends the quality of the current superhero creators, noting, "While the best super-hero titles may no longer be restricted to one or two massive companies, creators who made their bones on the independent market are doing beautiful work and pushing characters and concepts into heretofore unexplored realms." Jonathan Shepherd also has a lengthy response at his site.

Several creators and insiders weighed in on Twitter: Ron Marz called the piece "very perceptive," and former DC and Marvel staffer Ron Perazza (who is currently with comiXology) termed it "fantastic and insightful." And Dustin Harbin, no stranger to scathing commentary himself, called it "bruising." Watch for more commentary today as people get back to work and turn on their computers.

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