Depending on whom you ask, the superhero comics industry is either thriving like never before or a sinking ship that should be abandoned. Though superhero movies and TV shows are more popular than ever, comic book sales remain decent at best. The current zeitgeist of constant relaunches and renumbering, believed to draw in new readers who would be scared away by a high issue count, seemingly succeed only in driving longtime fans away.
DC’s Rebirth has been very successful, but it’s unclear if that’s due to an increase in quality or the focus on nostalgia. Marvel has resorted to giving away extra copies of books with low orders to inflate their sales numbers after driving away their die hard supporters.
While DC is steering the ship out of the storm, Marvel is right in the middle. Their last two major events have suffered huge delays and had their endings spoiled by the post-event books released before they could finish. All of their iconic, most popular heroes are currently either dead, mind-controlled Nazis, title-less bums, or acting so out of character as to be unrecognizable. New readers aren’t taking the bait of diverse heroes and old readers are fed up with all of the changes - expect a “Rebirth” from them soon.
It’s hard to be a superhero comic fan and it’s hard to be a creator. The genre depends on stagnation but also thrives on change. Too much change and you can risk breaking the formula altogether - not enough change and the book feels boring. At this point, most of the characters we love are over fifty years old, some over seventy. In a lot of ways, all of the possible stories have been told. A good writer can always come up with a fresh idea, but the accumulation of history makes that harder and harder. Most fictional characters don’t need to continue their stories every month, indefinitely. Nobody had to write sixty years of Zorro stories.
It just might be that superheroes were never really meant to endure like this. When they were created, nobody thought they’d last this long. But comic books are so much bigger than superheroes. Ever since the beginning, there have been adventure comics, sci-fi comics, horror comics, romance comics…
They might not ever have achieved the popularity of superhero comics, but the everyday exploits of Archie and the Riverdale Gang have endured since the 1940s. If you’re someone who has limited your reading to books coming from the Big Two, you may be sick of comics, but you can have your passion reignited by migrating toward other publishers with less gimmicky stories. If you’re on the fence, this might be the push you need.