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Tuesday, December 28, 2021 

A selective focus upon escapism at a store in Albequerque

The Albequerque Journal covered a specialty store where their quotings of customers and such begins with a predictable bias for whom to spotlight:
Fernando Cuevas already has a sackful of comic books, and he’s still browsing through Age of Comics, a store at 3700 Osuna NE.

He’s into Batman and Batman-related comics.

“I like the darkness,”
he says, explaining his fondness for the Caped Crusader, who first appeared in DC Comics in 1939.
Straight out of the gate, here comes emphasis on the Masked Manhunter yet again. This article does mention Superman, but it's very non-committal, and nobody talks about what kind of entertaining sci-fi stories the Man of Steel once offered in better days of the past. For the mainstream today, darkness is the easy, cheap path to take, sadly enough.
Comic books have been a factor in American popular culture since the 1930s, but perhaps never before has their reach been so long and their grip so strong.

It goes beyond the comic books into toys, movies and television
. A recent listing of the biggest-grossing American movies this year shows that four of the top five – “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” “Black Widow” and “The Eternals” – are based on comic books. That list was compiled before “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was released Dec. 17 (the film brought in $260 million domestically in its opening weekend).

Matt Trujillo, 38, co-owner of Age of Comics, said you can’t underestimate the power of comic book films. He said the buzz is that the just-released Spider-Man film may be the movie that saves theaters, which have struggled to survive the pandemic.

“When we opened in 2013, the Marvel movies that were just coming out (“Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) helped establish us,” he said. “The movies have created a broader audience for comic books. You have people coming in for ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Captain Marvel’ comics.”

Greg Trujillo, 52, Matt’s brother and co-owner of Age of Comics, said not just the movies but also comic book TV series are a driving force in the business.
But they're not drawing in utter masses to buy and read, are they? Despite what they say, sales for pamphlets are not off the charts. One of the reasons why ICV2, as I've mentioned at times, now seems to conceal the actual figures behind a subscriber barrier, if they publish them at all.
“Our biggest demographic is mid-30s,” Matt Trujillo said. “Seventy-five percent are male. People collect for different reasons. Some people collect just for the cover. It’s the art. Some people collect for the stories. Who is Batman fighting now?”

He said the average customer will spend $40 to $60 during a visit to the store, but there are a few who will spend $200 a week. “He just spent $300,” Matt said, gesturing to a middle-aged man, a store regular, who is leaving with a collection of Batman and Catwoman comics.
Yet more Batbooks, and if some people are just buying for the cover, even that's laughable, considering they may lock away those purchases in a vault where they'll be seen by no one. Exactly why I believe the artists, if they're talented, should be drawing these items for galleries and museum displays. Not just simply covers. But you couldn't expect the store proprietors to discuss the subject objectively, could you? The conversations continue:
Micheel said there are some people today who are more collectors and investors than they are comic book readers. Fans who love the books for the art and the stories refer to this other breed as speculators.

“If they know a character is going to be introduced in a movie, they start buying up early comics with that character,” Micheel said of speculators. “Comics are meant to be read, but there are some people who just want to get that perfect copy.”

And for good reason. Comic books that originally sold for 10, 12 or 15 cents can go for staggering amounts of money if they are in pristine condition. Just this year, a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, in which Spider-Man made his first appearance, sold for $3.6 million, and an issue of Action Comics #1 went for $3.25 million.
And those speculators have been a most embarrassing leech on the medium going back a long way at this point. Yet does anybody argue why it'd be better to abandon the pamphlet approach and shift to paperback/hardcover format, if that's what it takes to put a stop to the joke speculators are building up? Why, they could be part of the problem with how outsiders perceive sales as supposedly going through the roof whenever a publicity stunt occurs, along with the movies coming out. And then, here's something decidedly flawed, and downright superficial:
But for people such as Micheel, comic books are valuable for another reason. “Comic book stories have been more nuanced in the last few years, but there is still a good guy-bad guy theme going on and that helps,” he said. Especially in today’s complex and challenging times.

“There is a clear view of what’s right and wrong,” Micheel said. “And usually the good guy wins.”
This misses the serious problem of politicization of the medium, and how sometimes the baddies are metaphors for right-wingers. Say, and what about the time Captain America was turned into a Hydra-nazi? Or how about the first Civil War from 2006? Don't stories like those make the whole good-bad divide numbingly jumbled? Such issues aren't in discussion here. I wonder why?

On the subject of women in comicdom, they interviewed a lady manager who said:
“People still love the good guy beating the bad guy,” she said. “It’s still very popular.”

Even so, Sanchez said her forte is DC Comics villains. Her favorites are Harley Quinn, a twisted former psychiatrist and one-time love interest of Batman archrival the Joker, and the Scarecrow, another of Batman’s major enemies.

“Harley is trending more from a villain to a hero,” she said. “Personally, I like her more as villain. But she’s good as a hero, too.”

Sanchez, 23, is a manager at Lobo Comics & Toys, 1016 Juan Tabo NE. She said comic book fans are still mostly male, and she has noticed that when people in the store need help they usually seek out her male colleagues.

But she has also noticed more girls coming into the store. She thinks that may be due to the role women play in contemporary comic books.

“I think female characters are definitely stronger today,” she said. “Batgirl has become a more forceful character.”

Sanchez started reading “lots of DC Comics” when she was 9, attracted to the comics culture by the artwork in books featuring Harley Quinn and also by the animated Batman TV series.
This too is ludicrous, and is the masculinized take on Carol Danvers what she'd consider "stronger", when under Kelly Sue deConnick, the heroine's femininity was horrifically desecrated? It goes without saying it was never financially successful, seeing how the Capt. Marvel series went through 4-5 relaunched volumes. On Batgirl, does she mean Gail Simone's take on the character costume from several years ago? That too was mired in identity politics, and Simone's been less prominent lately as a result. If the story merit is bad, why would the wider female consumer audience care? The manager even says:
“DC actually sticks to its story lines better,” she said.

“Marvel tends to start a lot more story arcs. DC is more straightforward.”
Another form of apologia, considering how much damage was done to Hal Jordan for starters in the 90s, and they stuck with that at his expense for a decade. And it certainly doesn't clearly stress whether quality in writing is there. And then, wouldn't you know it, some SJW pandering turns up:
“Our biggest sellers are our Native-focused comics,” said store employee Adrian Pilgrim, 32. Pilgrim is not Native American but he is Black, so he has some opinions about how minorities are represented in comic books.

“Under represented,” he said, “but trending toward more representation.”

As a kid, Pilgrim read Marvel’s X-Men and Avengers comics. “And I was definitely a Black Panther fan,” he said. “I was looking for someone who looked like me.”

[...] Pilgrim finds more encouragement in Marvel’s new Voices series, which includes “Indigenous Voices,” Native American writers and artists teaming up to tell stories about indigenous characters; “Marvel’s Voices: Legacy,” in which Black heroes take center stage; “Marvel’s Voices: Pride,” featuring LGBTQ characters such as Mystique, Iceman and Karma; and “Marvel’s Voices: Identity,” showcasing Asian heroes such as Shang-Chi.
So they're taking a sugarcoated approach to politically motivated products, and obscuring that Iceman was never created as a gay character? Then I must conclude they're not fans of Lee/Kirby if this is how they discuss such topics. Wow, this says it all. Bobby Drake/Iceman deserves much better than this distortion. And whether one looks for characters of the same background in real life, don't they look for entertainment value?
“The difference now is the movies are finally able to make the Fantastic Four (characters) look like they can stretch or send fire from their hands and make Wolverine look like claws are coming out of his hands,” Losack said. “Now, movies can make these things look realistic.”
I'm afraid I must dissent, based on how special effects have become way too much in blockbuster movies of recent, while talented performances have become far less of a concern to filmmakers. It's getting to the point where I can't find some older sci-fi products as appealing as I used to find them either as a result of this. It's a feeling I've had for 2 decades now, and the increasing pandering to social justice ideology in Hollywood's made things worse. At the end, it says:
“Comics have everything – superheroes, horror, science fiction,” Losack said. “It’s fiction, escapism. You want to escape reality, read about danger without experiencing danger.”
Sure, but I also want to read escapism that isn't mired in identity politics as has become massively common today. That they won't acknowledge the problem here speaks volumes. This is why I find specialty store management so disappointing, because they always seem to tell the press exactly what they want to hear. The emphasis on Batman and darkness is just the icing on the cake.

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