NY Times’ City Room Blog Marginalizes Comic Fans

In an entry on NY Times’ City Room Blog yesterday, Alan Feuer posted a blurb titled “Comics and Combovers” about the upcoming NY ComicCon. In one sentence, Feuer manages to insinuate that anyone over the age of thirteen who attends ComicCon is juvenile, while presumably, he’s supposed to be encouraging the public to attend. It’s a small comment…. but it really pisses me off.

“The culture is strewn with examples of grown men in their 40s – some in their 50s – unabashedly proclaiming love for comic books, an obsession that hints at lingering boyhood hungers and ranks up there with coin collecting as something to be given up by age 13. Maybe the security of affluence has permitted men to remain adolescents at heart well after middle age has taken their bodies.”

Well now. If you plan on following this blog regularly, (and hopefully, I will be posting regularly), it would be best if you realize this sort of thing is going to result in a tirade.

I’m insulted by the stereotypes Mr. Feuer uses to describe comic book readers. As a female in her mid-20s who is an avid reader of both standard prose literature and graphic novels, I’m affronted by this long-standing, fallacious concept that a love of comic books belies some innate immaturity or an inability to relinquish ties to infancy. I have a love of well-told stories. I believe such an interest is not age specific.

I think Mr. Feuer makes offensive stereotypes because he hasn’t done his research. The percentage of books about our friendly neighborhood superheroes is diminishing as the medium expands to include stories of all genres. Horror, suspense, crime drama, comedy, romance, historical fiction, autobiography… all of these genres have substantial representation in comics, with nary a mention of capes or tights in an already large and growing number of books. The majority of comics today are not suitable for children, and are not marketed to them. I doubt a 13-year-old is equipped to understand the political commentary of Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan, or, well, anything else Warren Ellis has done.

While Neil Gaiman has written critically acclaimed children’s books, I would be hard pressed to find a child who could follow his graphic masterpiece Sandman, and I would pay to see anyone tell Mr. Gaiman to his face that Sandman is a work for children.

DC Comics’ Fables spins new tales on favorite characters from children’s storybooks, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend the comic for your five-year-old darling.

Even in the superhero genre, stories are becoming deep and rich and adult-oriented. I challenge Mr. Feuer to read DC Comics’ Kingdom Come and try to tell anyone that Alex Ross’s painting isn’t art.

In a society where only about half the population admits to having read ANYTHING in the past year, Mr. Feuer would do well not to alienate a group of book-lovers whose numbers increase every year. Or didn’t he know that the comic industry had its biggest year ever this year?

It’s not just the stereotype that ticks me off. How do you write for the NY Times and not do industry research? The Times building is within walking distance of a number of resources for industry research. DC Comics is a few blocks away. Marvel is nearby as well. Midtown Comics is across the street. Walk in and note the ratio of children to adults. Ask the very helpful staff what percentage of their stock is appropriate for middle schoolers.

Ignorance is not becoming in a NY Times writer, Mr. Feuer.

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