In San Diego, going on right now at the San Diego Convention Center: this year’s Comic-Con International. From Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean (Da Capo Press, 2007), p. 64:
The blessing and the curse of comics as a medium is that there is such a thing as “comics culture.” The core audience of comics is really into them …
… Comic-Con International is where everybody goes – around a hundred thousand attendees paralyze the entire city of San Diego.
And the people who are really into comics have been into superhero comics (aimed at boys and young men), though “art comics” (especially graphic novels) have been gaining ground for some years now.
(Phonological note: everyone seems to pronounce Comic-Con like Commie-Con, with deletion of the first /k/.)
From Wolk, p. 89:
There is no way getting around it: if you are going to look honestly at American comics, you are going to encounter superheroes. The spandex wall is the public face of the medium, and its monolithic presence is what leads to the conflation of the superhero genre and the comics medium by people who don’t know better. (“Comic book” as a pejorative basically means “characteristic of superhero comics.”) For artists and readers who are interested in comics as a form of artistic expression, there’s something horribly off balance about that. It’s as if all mainstream Hollywood movies were Westerns, or all prose novels that didn’t come from tiny experimental conclaves were Regency romances.
Before the arts-comics movement came along, mainstream comics were virtually alwavys genre-based. Still, there used to be a wide variety of genres on newsstands: Western comics, war comics, horror comics, sports comics, romance comics, funny-animal comics, crime comics, teenage-humor comics (which still persists in the form of the Archie line, like a tiny vestigial organ). With the rise of the collector culture … superheroes slowly took over, and the others [largely] drifted out of existence.
As in many of my other postings on comics/cartoons, there are significant issues of categorization and labeling here, starting with the comics vs. cartoons division. I’ll have more to say about that on another occasion, but here I’ll just note that readers of cartoons like the ones I post in this blog are unlikely to be in that fan horde at Comic-Con.
Here are three gag cartoons from my recent gleanings. First, a New Yorker cartoon by Jack Ziegler (one of many cartoons on the Proust theme):
Then a meta gag cartoon — today’s Bizarro — playing on the themes of the genre:
And finally, a pointedly political cartoon from Brian McFadden: