In my speech at Comics Pro this week I described the time we’re living in as the new Golden Age of Comics, and a more creative one than the first. Taking nothing away from the first generation of comics creators, including many who became my friends like Will Eisner, Shelly Mayer and Jack Kirby, to name three of the most influential, they were inventing a form with little to go on but the very short newspaper strip comics as a baseline. Today’s creators have a body of comics created over eight decades that they are using as a foundation for incredibly diverse and innovative work.
The diverse part is key, in my opinion. When you consider the success of manga as a form in Japan (where it’s about a third of publishing), part of it must come from the vast diversity of content offered in manga form. Fiction, history, how to, all for any possible audience. American comics (with perhaps a 4-5% share of the publishing market here) has operated in a very small creative range until the last decade or two. Now we’re seeing talented people speaking to a wider selection of subjects, and through that, a wider audience.
Much of the work is not to my personal taste, of course. As a reader, as well as a writer, certain subjects interest me and others don’t. And some subjects work better in prose than in comics (or vice versa). But as someone who has worked to expand the comics market in several different roles through my life, I’m thrilled to see the experimentation with subject matter, styles and formats…and even more excited to see the readers being attracted as a result.
And I really do think the best is yet to come.
Although, like you, much of the stuff being published isn’t to my taste, I fully accept it’s not supposed to be; I’m 61 years old, and much of what younger readers are searching for doesn’t appeal to me. But I’m glad to see it out there, because if the medium is going to survive, it must continue to seek out new audiences and tell THEIR stories, not mine.
I miss the days when newsstand comics offered us a variety of genres. Mainstream comics (DC and Marvel) today mostly don’t, which means the ability to reach a diverse audience with a variety of tastes isn’t there. And so I applaud the new voices that are coming in and shaking things up.