In his annual sitdown with ICv2.com, Dark Horse President Mike Richardson tackles the notion of gateway comics, such as the oft-cited Watchmen:
I love Spider-Man and Superman and all those books that I collected myself. I have boxes and boxes of them back from the beginning. As long as the direct sales market focused most of its attention on those types of titles, we pretty much have the audience we’re going to have. I don’t know that the person who doesn’t read comics is going to be pulled in if they read Watchmen and then they go in and it’s the same books they knew in the first place that were on the rack. I’ll say the same thing I’ve always said: if we had a wide variety of material featuring a wide variety of content we’d bring in a wide variety of readers. In the hard core comic industry, we stay focused on the same characters that we focused on since the late seventies. In the late seventies I had a retail store during, when the direct sales market was birthing. And you know what? If you walked into one of my stores in 1980 or ’81 you’d probably see pretty much the same characters that you see when you walk into a store in 2009: Superman, Batman, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans.
There's much more at the link, where Richardson also discusses the state of the market, manga, digital content and kids' comics.