I posted this yesterday, and the more I thought about it the less I liked it so I deleted it, but like the little kid that gets picked towards the end in a pickup ballgame, it keeps jumping up and down at me, saying, "put me in! put me in!" So here it is, for better or worse.
After having observed the discussion sparked by various members of the comics blogosphere about the super hero emphasis and its effect on the perception of comics in general by the great unwashed out there, in particular Franklin's recent column regarding the topic, I really can't add a wealth of significant commentary (no big surprise there) to the discourse, but I can make a statement that doesn't seem to be factored in to anybody's argument one way or the other:
It's not the superhero that dooms sequentially illustrated fiction to scorn and disdain by the infidel hordes of the unenlightened; it's the format itself. Comics in general are perceived, by those who wouldn't think twice about watching movies or TV crime dramas or soap operas or sitcoms or Survivor or football games all day, as somehow frivoulous, juvenile, and just not something that "normal" people read. Billy Bob snuff dipping Deer Hunter or Suzie Trailerpark from Cub Run, Kentucky or any local-to-you stereotype you care to insert here just don't have time for that silly shit. They might let the kid have one once in a while. And of course I'm referring to my own environment and surroundings here, but it's easily applicable to where you live as well- it's a matter of what kind of upbringing and peer experiences people have. They're just not conditioned to open their minds and foster that sense of wonder that is so important to enjoying any kind of fantastic fiction. It doesn't matter whether it's Blankets, Love & Rockets, Maus, Watchmen, Acme Novelty Library, the Hornschmeier book of your choice, or Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, or Wonder Woman, the great unconverted out there don't care. If it looks like a funnybook, it is a funnybook, and nine times out of ten they'll retain that opinion no matter what you stick under their noses. And if this is a defeatist attitude, well, it's been a well-earned one, based on 40 plus years of reading and collecting comics and having only a select handful of friends scattered over 40 years that share my passion. I gave up trying to convert the unbeliever many, many years ago.
And this is a big reason why box-office numbers of recent blockbuster hits like Spider-Man and the X-Men flicks haven't translated into increased comics sales figures. Some things are black and white, good or bad, hot or cold to people, and to them, like water is wet and sky is blue, movies and tv (no matter how stupid or lame they are) are somehow legitimate (no matter how much they might criticize or complain) and comics are juvenile and not worth their time. And that's a shame, but what do ya do. All the free comics days in the subsequent history of the known universe aren't going to matter much while this mindset is prevalent.
And that's my opinion. As I've said on many such occasions, I've been known to be wrong before.