When it comes to the world of Anglophone American comics, there’s a tendency to describe superheroes as mainstream even though quantitatively speaking they really aren’t and anything that doesn’t involve superheroes as alternative or indie. Maybe not always exactly the case, but the fact that outside of Archie Comics, best-selling children’s graphic novels and especially newspaper comics/cartoons so far in the Anglophone world (to my knowledge) much of comics pander to geeks.
Which means pandering a lot to what geeks are into, even if geeks aren’t always necessarily into everything geeky but it’s telling when a good number of comics published in the Anglophone world centre around what geeks like, be it manga, science fiction, fantasy, horror or superheroes with the non-manga, non-superhero, non-comic strip comics being kind of unpopular. At least up to the time webcomics showed up and even then, some of it’s based on what geeks like.
When it comes to crime and romance fiction, they used to be pretty common in comics and still are to some extent when it comes to Dick Tracy and Archie. But it is telling when the comics industry has come to pander a lot to geeks, especially so in North America when it comes to the Direct Market, that’s when they began phasing out a good number of comics that would appeal to non-geeky readers though it could’ve been complicated by censorship bodies like Comics Code.
It does get really strange when you realise that crime and romance novels regularly hit the bestsellers charts, which’s enough to make their authors rich or at least lead a comfortable life, don’t appear often in comics anymore. Either that readers’ tastes have changed, or the odd fact that outside of newspaper cartoons comics publishers have began catering a lot to a rarefied minority. That rarefied minority being geeks, so it’s easier to stick to a small but loyal audience than it is to reach out to many more.
Okay, that too may not always be the case even in prose fiction where literary fiction doesn’t always produce that much bestsellers compared to crime and romance. But it is strange that in the world of comics, outside of newspaper cartoons and Archie, romance and crime don’t seem to be very popular genres in comics compared to science fiction, horror, superheroes and fantasy.
Well at least these days, but it proves my point that much of comics publishing has come to pander to and actually stems from geeks. So much so that a good number of comics popular with those characters tends to centre around the kinds of stories they enjoy and read in prose fiction, so it’s something comics publishers have come to tap into and cater to them a lot. This may not always be the case for all comics publishers, but it’s telling.
This may not be the case for all graphic novels, as they are changing for the better when it comes to catering to a wider audience who aren’t big comics geeks. But it seems to me that many comics publishers have come to pander a lot to geeks, since they’re the more loyal readers and customers out there who’d patronise such a medium that they cater to them instead.
At least until recently and even then, it’s telling when a good number of comics published by many comics publishers tends to revolve around the sorts of stories geeks like to read that’s when you realise the (near) marginalisation of crime and romance with that audience. Even though these kinds of prose novels sell very well, they’re not the kinds of stories that attract a big geeky audience.
Even if there are geeks who’re into those kinds of things, it’s parsimonious to say that perhaps outside of certain stories (paranormal romance for instance) and some people there’s not much of a big crossover audience between those who read something like Miss Marple and those who read Starship Troopers, the latter is more likely to intersect with comics readers even if that may not always be the case either, but still.
It’s not that there aren’t any comics based on things normal people would be interested in, though the best examples are to be found in newspapers, but I think that’s what happens when you pander to geeks a lot. It may not always be the case, but when everything that isn’t about superheroes (and to an extent, anything speculative fiction) is considered alternative that’s what happens when you pander to geeks a lot.