The End of Comics?

Mike Wheeler

ByMike Wheeler

May 2, 2024

By Bradley Mitzelfelt

Marvel and DC are dead.

“But Brad! There are all kinds of comics being produced and people still reading them! And what about the movies?!”

That’s true, and I won’t dispute it, but let me explain what I mean. To start, let’s go back in time to the roaring… 1990s!

“Why not sooner? Comics started way before that!”

They did, but I wasn’t born until 1986 so I didn’t experience anything that happened before that. To be fair, I didn’t really experience comics until the mid to late 1990s. My first introduction to comic characters was in media form. Superman from old cartoons, Batman from The Animated Series, and X-Men from The Animated Series. Then I got a couple of random comics, mostly Spider-Man, and my grandparents picked up a bunch of older comics from a garage sale.

Those were good times. Comics were fun. Superheroes were buff and sexy and did what they did because they were good people who wanted to help the helpless!

“So, what happened?”

Well, I stopped reading comics until I was in graduate school. Mainly because I was deep-diving into Star Wars novels. What can I say, I love magic in space. But when I was in my last semester of graduate school, I started going to a local comic shop and picked up every variant cover of the Ultron run (this was 2013 for reference). I loved it, but I started noticing things even then that were odd, at least to me. Some of the characters just didn’t act how they used to.

It kept getting worse from there. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but Marvel and DC both started kicking out people who didn’t fit with their socio-political agenda. Chiefly, if you weren’t a liberal, and they knew it, you got the axe. Sometimes they even used their people to run people into the ground. Ethan Van Sciver is a famous example of this. EVS, as he is commonly referred to, was kicked from working in the Big 2 because of commentary on his YouTube channel. Other creators met the same fate. Inevitably, this led to the formation of the ComicsGate movement, as well as the boom of the independent comics industry.

But the downfall of the Big 2 started before that. I can personally trace my notice of it back to a 2014 purchase of a Squirrel Girl comic in which it was nigh impossible to even tell what gender she was because of how amorphous she was drawn. This trend continued in further comics, in which women were drawn in ways that downplayed their physical endowments, and sometimes made them to look like they were men. Perhaps this wasn’t the end of the world for them, but it sure hurt their image with a lot of regular comic readers. The real kick in the pants was when they started making traditionally heterosexual characters gay and introducing trans characters. Add in making young girl characters and forcing them into homosexual relationships and you can begin to see how these companies were starting to look more and more like they were being run by perverts with no understanding of science, specifically biology.

While all of this was going on, the Manga industry was also picking up, and getting more and more books into the hands of readers, especially here in the States. Where the Big 2 were denigrating males, and turning women into men, the Manga industry continues to produce work where men are men, women are women (usually, there are some exceptions) and they look like what they are. But really, Manga focused on telling the story rather than ticking off the boxes the left wanted. More people were reading Manga than comics!

Now the Big 2 have been putting out propaganda that they’re doing just fine, and they continue to do well in large part because of the movies they make, not their comics. If you look at their comics sales, they’ve been crashing over recent years. In 2021, Manga made up 76% of all comic and graphic novel sales in the United States. You can argue all day as to why that is, I think I laid out my view above, but the fact remains that Manga is performing better. With the ongoing indie comic revolution, it’s nigh impossible to think of Marvel and DC righting their ship. The only way they could is if the Mouse gave up ownership of Marvel and both companies fired just about everyone working there and stopped focusing on pushing leftist propaganda. That’s not likely to happen, so I suspect their readership will continue to dwindle, just as their movie attendance has.

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Disney will try to do something to keep Marvel relevant, but it will be more like what they’re doing with Star Wars, beating the name to a pulp, and putting out drivel in the hopes that it somehow stays relevant enough to warrant how much they spend on it. Whether that succeeds or not depends on the upcoming generation’s view of the Marvel properties.

DC is in a better position in that its movies are still relatively popular, and it still produces some books that don’t pander and are well-regarded by readers on all sides of the political aisle. They haven’t been as negatively engaged as Marvel has been.

The truth, though, is that the comics industry has fallen out of the hands of the Big 2. You don’t need Marvel or DC on your book to sell. Between crowdfunding, and the multitude of smaller comic publishers (such as Alterna), you can still get a good book put out and into peoples hands. Image and IDW are still publishing good books, too. The comics industry will never fully fall to Manga, but it’s a lot harder to walk into a comic shop now and look at the new arrivals to find something worth reading.

Long story short, readers need to stop hoping and praying for Marvel and DC to turn around. It’s not likely to happen. Invest in small publishers. Investigate comics on X/Twitter (or whatever Elon decides to call it), peruse Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and don’t forget about the new site: There’s a lot of good work being put out. Buy what you fancy.

Just please, PLEASE, don’t waste your time going on and on about books you don’t like, creators you don’t like, or companies you don’t like. It’s bloody annoying and doesn’t help anyone. Everyone knows Marvel and DC books are generally bad. We don’t need to be constantly told. Focus on supporting other creators instead! I’ll leave you with this quote from Stan Lee: “Another definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well- being and will go out of his or her way to help them–even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”

Bradley Mitzelfelt

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