MARTHA THOMASES: Every Picture Tells a Story
It’s great to have the comics on ComicMix now. I knew they were always planned to be part of the site, and so the site seemed to me to be a bit empty without them. Now the place seems to be filling in nicely, like a garden in mid-May.
Besides enjoying free comics from the comfort of my home, able to get them without even putting on pants, I find this format is great for my calling as a leading comics’ missionary.
Ever since I grew out of being a kid who loved comics, I’ve tried to encourage people to join my in my love of the medium. It wasn’t easy. When I was a teen at boarding school, there were a few other girls who like to read romance comics, and we would amuse our dorm-mates by reading them aloud. Unfortunately, it was the romance part that was most appealing to my peers (which was demonstrated when they also read True Confessions magazines out loud), and no one really wanted to read anything else.
In college, underground comix were cool, so I found people who shared my interest. These were heady days (in more ways than one), with all kinds of new stories from Robert Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Trina Robbins, Skip Williamson, Jay Lynch, Spain and many many more. The National Lampoon had comics pages in every issue, and people like Neal Adams did spot illustrations. My Superman habit was still considered kind of weird, but no weirder than anything else – certainly much less weird than Spiro Agnew.
And then, I moved to New York, and the world opened up. The direct market was a newborn, and there were six comic book stores within a mile of my apartment. Some specialized in undergrounds, some in superheroes, and some mixed it up. It was great. I could find anything I wanted.
Everything except people that I knew. My then-boyfriend (now husband) would come with me to Forbidden Planet, then the largest store near by. He didn’t like comics as much as I did, but he would look at the books about film and animation.
Competition and market forces closed down most of the direct market accounts in the Village. Forbidden Planet shrank. The stores that were left, quite naturally, sold the merchandise that was available. Since a lot of such product was T & A, the stores started to seem seedy and creepy. People who might be interested in comics didn’t want to go into a lot of these stores. Women, especially, were skeeved out by the impossible physiques of the women on the covers and in figurines. If I could talk them inside, they would want to get out as quickly as possible.
Other media was having many of the same problems. I remember standing in line for tickets at a movie theater in Ohio. There was a poster for the movie, Barbwire, starring Pamela Anderson. A little girl waiting in line with her mother said, “Look, Mommy! It’s RuPaul!”
The better comic book stores made themselves more welcoming to all customers, but the damage was done. The average non-comics reader thinks the only place to get comics is a place like the store in The Simpsons, and that all comics are superhero comics.
ComicMix changes that. I can send my friends a link, and they can sample several different kinds of stories. There’s action and adventure, but there’s also laughs, romance, whimsy and drama. Knowing these kinds of stories are being told, maybe they’ll brave a comic book store. With their broader, more mainstream tastes (mainstream in this case meaning more like what’s selling in bookstores and movie theaters, industries that sell far more product than comics), maybe they’ll change the retail environment.
But please leave some Superman for me.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of all things ComicMix, is delighted to report that Midnight is acting like her old self again, scratching up the leather furniture like a champion.