At Fan Expo Boston 2022, I had conversations with several convention attendees and exhibitors. This was the first comic convention I was able to cover post-2020, and upon returning I feel that we are at a turning point in comic book culture. The old ways and notions of what comics can and should be are eroding.
Comic book culture is changing– there’s a new generation of readers and creators with different values and aesthetic tastes and the comics that cater to them will find success. During my last trip to Fan Expo Boston in 2018, professionals were commenting that the readership had diversified much more so than 30 years ago– going from 90% adult male to more of an even split between male and female plus families with kids.
I see DC’s Black Label-type stories becoming more common–creator-driven superhero comics rather than continuity or cross-over-event driven comics. This way, the story comes first as opposed to collectors’ value. If this shift doesn’t happen, then Marvel and DC superheroes could easily become like Archie and Snoopy comics–characters that are eternally tied to the form of comics but aren’t necessarily the most popular characters out there. I see more fans of the film and TV incarnations of Marvel and DC characters as opposed to the comics themselves.
There are as many fans of anime cartoons and video games as there are of Marvel and DC comics attending this convention. Even the fan artists tabling are making prints of anime, cartoons, and video games. I see this pop-culture trinity as being the main pools of influence for comics in the near future.
I don’t see this shift as a cause for concern. I see massive potential for growth. The growing pains might hurt, and there will be those too blinded by nostalgia to see what’s happening, but ultimately I believe that we’ll see more excitement surrounding comics coming from unusual sources.