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Sunday, August 18, 2013 

Mainstream comics used to make for great escapism, but today, less so

The Jamaica Observer wrote about the history of comics (mostly westerns) and how they were a great form of escapism in their time. And towards the end, they fall back on classically superficial lines like:
Comic book sales declined in the late 1970s from competition from television. The answer was to turn to licensing out characters to television for revenue, and DC and Marvel enjoyed soaring profits from Saturday cartoons such as Super Friends as well as the Wonder Woman series, while Marvel licensed out the Incredible Hulk.

The downward trend was broken in the 1990s when the book industry began marketing new issues of comic books such as Spider-Man and the X-Men as future collector items.

With the roaring successes of Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman as box-office runaways, the comic heroes have been re-energised and books have once again emerged as a major force in a computerised culture.
Here we go again with the hilariously superficial, easy-peasy propaganda that merchandise and commercialism instantly saved comics. Yet not a word here about the quality of storytelling. Some folks want to know just how well the comics were being written and drawn, and all they can think to say is that these 1990s books made for collector's items? They didn't, and are worth very little today, mainly because they weren't very well written to start with. Nor have the movies and TV productions made a difference for declining sales. Too bad a foreign paper can't be bothered to do better research any more than a local one.

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Merchandising and media tie-ins (movies, TV) may have "saved" comics by giving the parent companies (Time-Warner and Disney) a reason to subsidize the publishers. DC and Marvel now exist mainly so the parent companies can maintain copyright and ownership of the characters. And I get the impression that most comics creators today don't want to produce "great escapism." The writers and artists in the Silver Age and earlier were content to provide entertainment for kids. It seems today's "creators" see themselves as intelligentsia, imparting their Great Wisdom (i.e., leftist propaganda) to the masses.

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