Who’s reading now?

When it comes to comic strips, whilst not all of them sell merchandise a lot but by the virtue of being published in a more accessible format they have more casual readers and more people actually reading those comics (by chance) than DC and Marvel do. Helps that those comic strip collections are cheaper too, from my own personal experience.

Somebody like Steve Bolhafner pointed out the real elephant in the room, where the likes of X-Men actually have a cultish following or perhaps in my own opinion, there aren’t that many people who actually read the comics, let alone in a more accessible format that it almost feels disproportionate. This may not always be the case with comic strips, but at least people actually read those.

Not that Garfield and Peanuts lack devoted readers, they do but it’s parsimonious to say that due to accessibility they both have more casual readers and more people actually reading those comics than DC and Marvel do.

Kids read comics

I honestly think there are some comic readers who’re very pessimistic about the state of the comic book industry, where I’d say there are people who still do read comics and there are children who do read comics themselves. Okay, those comics aren’t always about Batman and Superman but they still read comics.

Maybe not your comics, something in the lines of Garfield, Peanuts and Marmaduke (the perennial comic strip classics). Somebody like Steve Bolhafner pointed out that Garfield actually has more casual fans than say X-Men does, I’d go on saying that Garfield does spawn best-selling merchandise as well.

(Helps that Garfield’s in a more accessible format, that makes it easier to gain casual readers.)

Kids do read comics, some of it’s DC and Marvel or any geek favourite but they also read Archie, Peanuts and Garfield that I feel that’s the latter’s advantage over the former.

Other Philippine comic strips

Pugad Baboy’s one example I mentioned before and the one I’m most familiar with, but I’d have to give other cartoons a try in this essay and post. Kikomachine centres around anonymous pupils, Mang Ambo’s about a Filipino everyman as done prior to the 1990s (Pugad Baboy came about in the late 1980s).

If we’re to extend comic strip to mean comic book, this also includes Trese which’s about supernatural detectives and Skyworld both of them are books that I have upstairs. I’m the most familiar with Pugad Baboy, but one of my siblings loves Kikomachine more so I gave service to it.

Pugad Baboy

Pugad Baboy’s a comic strip that alternates between satire, slice of life and adventure that’s popular in the Philippines. The first volume was somebody else’s thesis designed to study its popularity, then revised by the author of the cartoon. Later compilations are published by other publishing houses including the author’s own, the latter as part of Pol Medina Jr Novelties.

There used to be a live action programme based on it, but little survives of it so the only surviving filmed instances are in one music video by the band Sugarfree, somebody else’s fan animation and an advert for a baked good. The characters are usually rotund and depict Filipino life, ranging from the mischievous maid Brosia to the adventurous dog Polgas.

The author Pol Medina Jr also does editorial cartoons to the side, as well as Blood of the Shinobi series which’s what I gleaned from reviews and an excerpt to be different from PB’s usually tone and writing.

Is it more mainstream this way?

When it comes to popularity and recognisability, to wit whilst X-Men and Justice League do spawn well-known cartoons and movies when it comes to people who actually read the comics en masse that goes to Peanuts, Garfield, Cathy and Doonesbury.

I do think hype also plays a role where some marketers do market and hype superheroes a lot, even though ironically not too many people actually read superheroes save for some titles and stories so Watchmen might be more mainstream than say Young Justice.

Curtis and Cathy are more mainstream (i.e. more widely read) than say Impulse and She-Hulk, that’s saying in terms of what people actually read that a survey showed other kinds of comics outsell superheroes.

That’s not to say superheroes are any less appealing, I do like them but conflating them with mainstream comics becomes ridiculous when Garfield and Archie are more readily available in bookstores, the former also in newspapers so Garfield has more readers than the X-Men do.

So far, the only superhero comics to be objectively this mainstream in the sense of being readily available in bookstores and newspapers, from my own experience would be Spider-Man and Watchmen though it can also be argued for Sandman but for affordability’s sake, that goes to the newspaper version of Spider-Man.

But that would mean that there aren’t that many superhero stories that sell well outside of niche stores, where in terms of availability when it comes to newspapers one’s more likely to read Garfield and Peanuts than they do with Impulse and Robin. You’re also likelier to see those two in mainstream bookstores, that’s saying.

I could be speaking from my experience, but I feel Peanuts is a tad more affordable than say a superhero anthology is. Garfield’s cheaper and more accessible than Catwoman will ever be, so the Monday-hating cat objectively outsells her.

Actually and honestly, even Batman and Superman (in terms of comics) get outsold by Dilbert and Animal Crackers so it’s as if the popularity of superheroes in movies is disproportionate to the number of comics being sold though it does help lead some people to comics to be fair.

Japan as it is

When it comes to idealisation, there’s the feeling of grass is greener as well as hopeful in the romanticism of such a person or country as to be unspoilt by terrible realities or in Japan’s case, not letting reality get into the fantasy of it as I suppose. Something like expecting Japan to be all anime land, if because a lot of anime’s produced there.

Actually from my own experience going to Japanese language websites, albeit not in topics you’d expect to, there’s actually room for Japanese who’re indifferent to anime at the very least where there’s room for sports, feminism and ecology as far as I’ve remembered going there however meager as my memory gets.

Likewise, if you look hard enough there’s a lot of geekery in places like Brazil and Kenya where there are even anime fans and cosplayers there so it does feel overlooked globally speaking in favour of Japan’s anime industry even if Brazil and Kenya have their own comics and cartoon industries.

(Something like Kenya’s Shujaaz and Brazil’s Turma da Monica, but that involves any real familiarity with those.)

Not to mention, if you look even harder Kenya’s got Alokohan, South Africa has Supa Strikas and Cote d’Ivoire’s got Aya de Yopougon but I’m afraid African comics aren’t that widely accessible compared to Japanese ones. (They do exist if you find them either by deliberation, or by luck in some cases.)

Alternately speaking, Japan’s a normal country if you look past anime and certain subcultures, thusly going for the more common aspects like sports and other experiences like mental health and bullying. But that also demystifies Japan a lot, to the point where it’s ultimately no different.

The fantasy’s over, now comes a grim reality that’s too close for comfort. Frankly, I’ve been through something similar before and I suspect if some anime fans did bother going through things about Japan they didn’t expect, disappointments will come to them as well.

This is like thinking all Japanese love anime, but some of the Japanese people you end up encountering in the flesh aren’t all that fond of anime and some may even prefer live action to animation (J-Dramas are a thing among some people, however they’re not as popular as anime.)

That’s going to disappoint you, especially if you love anime a lot yet not all Japanese are fond of anime themselves. But I suspect that takes a lot more experience and knowledge to get over things, before moving onto others as I’ve done this before.

The ghost

Panel 1: Johnny goes upstairs but he sees a ghost.

Panel 2: Johnny runs downstairs because he saw the ghost.

Panel 3: The ghost continues to chase Johnny down the stairs.

Panel 4: Johnny runs away from the ghost.

Panel 5: Johnny opens the door.

Panel 6: He runs away from the house.

Do they read comics?

That’s not to say casual readers of comics are nonexistent, they do exist but bear in mind the real reason why I think superhero comics have a hard time reaching out to readers might be more of a matter of the way they’re distributed where they’re not just expensive but also inaccessible at times further complicated by other priorities that makes it harder for people to read comics at all.

Not a dig at those comics, as much as if they’re so expensive and inaccessible that newspaper comics and prose paperbacks will win out due to sheer accessibility and affordability. Therefore it’s going to be a problem more with distribution than with the content, since I think there are some people who do get behind continuity but there comes inaccessibility and other priorities in life that those comics will always lose out.

If this were a Darwinian contest, then DC and Marvel are practically out when it comes to how inaccessible and expensive they get that Archie and comic strips practically flood every bookstore (as I know from experience, barring some exceptions). Not that casual readers of DC and Marvel don’t exist, as much as the way it’s distributed can make it tricky to find and afford one at all.

What’s mainstream, again?

When it comes to defining mainstream, it’s in the sense of popular with and recognisable and accessible to many people (actually normies) that when it comes to being actually read by people, even by chance, this goes to newspaper cartoons as I think they’re the most accessible form of comics that people do stumble upon by chance.

Even the collected forms are usually cheaper and more accessible than with most of DC and Marvel, from experience even if Marvel and DC are more recognisable however through merchandise. Somebody like Steve Bolhafner said that Garfield has more fans or at least more casual readers than Batman does, or for another matter the same can be said of Peanuts, Curtis and the like.

That’s not to say DC and Marvel don’t have any casual readers at all, they do on some level but that’s complicated by factors like those comics being expensive and not always available that they readily lose out to the likes of Peanuts and Garfield in terms of accessibility.

It’s actually not so much or not always about political correctness but rather distribution that makes it harder to access to superhero comics, not helped by being more expensive than even most or many other paperbacks that means an ordinary prose paperback still has an advantage over most DC and Marvel graphic novels.

I could be talking from experience, but whilst DC and Marvel are more readily recognisable through aggressive branding and marketing they’re not always so readily accessible and available to other people so they often lose out to prose paperbacks and comic strip collections.

Not much comics readers

That’s not to say there aren’t any comics readers in Norway, let alone casual ones at that so to wit either the number of frequent comics readers certainly did decline with age (which’s the likeliest) or if a good number of people do intermittently/sometimes read comics (just as likely).

If the decline with age were a thing, that does make sense as not only do some people outgrow comics but also hit a peak in their lives like say my habit of reading comics peaked in 2011-2012 (as I recall). That’s not to say there aren’t any comics readers at all in Norway, but they’re usually casual readers with a peak at best.

This would also be the same with almost any other country, including the US to some extent where in one statistic you have people sometimes reading comics (if you combine them all) and very few people who read a lot of comics every day.