Graphic Addiction

By Greg D'Avis

Arizona Daily Wildcat

With the media blitz in hipster publications like

Rolling Stone and Spin in recent years, comic

books have finally gained an ounce of credibility, and everyone is aware that, no, they aren't just for kids anymore.

High publicity for events like the (temporary) death of Superman, the (also temporary) replacement of Batman and the growing number of titles aimed at older readers have attracted newer, more mature readers to a hobby traditionally stereotyped as "for the kids." Now, the old favorites like Superman, Batman and Spider-Man share rack space with the likes of Hate's Buddy Bradley and Sandman's Morpheus.

UA chemistry junior Kellie Rife said she thinks the public perception of comic collecting has improved to the point where

it no longer carries a negative image. "I think there used to be sort of a stigma attached to it," Rife said. "It was kind of a nerdy thing to do."

Now, though, "I don't think that's so present anymore," she said. "People tend to think it's kind of cool."

John Forier, the owner of Capt. Spiffy's Super Hero Emporium at 944 E. University Blvd., estimated that 75 to 80 percent of the customers at his store are college students. He said the number of college students showing an interest in the hobby has increased in recent years.

Forier said the most popular titles among college-age students include Sandman, published by DC Comics and Marvel's X-Men and related spin-off titles.

"Our Vertigo (a DC imprint aimed at older readers) sales are strongest," he said.

Drew Green, the assistant manager of Fantasy Comics at 3100 N. Stone Ave., said the median age of customers at the store lies at the upper college level.

Both Forier and Green said they make an effort to push alternative and independent titles to their customers, in the hopes of turning fans on to lesser-known comics.

Forier said the store has made an effort to push independent titles such as Hate, Eightball, Milk and Cheese, and Scud the Disposable Assassin, with increased interest resulting.

To a college-age person entering a comic store for the first time, "the first comic I would recommend is Scud," Forier said. "It's new enough, and it has all the elements that appeal to people without pandering."

"We like to recommend comics that are about people," Green said. The comics he recommends include rather than the traditional superhero fare titles such as Strangers In Paradise, with stories about a friendship between two women; Jar Of Fools; Stray Bullets, a "hard-hitting" crime fiction title; and Tale Of One Bad Rat, which is "about a young girl who runs away from a sexually abusive family," he said. "The art is absolutely gorgeous."

The increasing diversity in subject matter has brought in more female readers to a traditionally male-dominated hobby, Forier said.

"The Vertigo titles are more story-oriented, which brings in a lot of women," he said. "Women tend to like characters who solve problems without hitting each other."

Rife, who lists Sandman, Hellblazer, Red Sonja, Hate and Eightball among her favorites said she enjoys those comics because of the creative value.

"It's no so much structured as 'good guys/bad guys'," she said. "There's more artistic value than just 'look, I can draw super-heroes.'"

Travis Ptak, a recent UA graduate and staff member at the Center For Disability-Related Resources, said he "was really into the serious superhero comics for a while, but now it's just the lighthearted humor aspects" of titles like Hate and Eight Ball for him.

A recurring feeling among collectors is disgust at the capitalist tendencies of the comic book companies. Rife said she has grown weary of comic companies issuing multiple comics of the same issue to boost sales.

Similar gimmicks turn off potential new readers, Forier said.

"The death of Superman was in one fell swoop the best thing that ever happened to comics and the worst thing," he said. "It brought a lot of media attention, but it also brought out the worst in the comics industry."

"Many of the people we could have brought over were disgusted by the greed. Any benefit we could have got out of that was lost," he said.

"I used to collect for value, but I'm at the point now where I'm just sick of all the greed involved," Rife said.

"Now, I just want to read the damn things."

"Comics are still entertainment," Forier said. "There's a tremendous amount of really tremendous creators, writers and artists out there."

"Someone getting into the comic field has to be a lot more discerning. There's a lot of bad stuff out there," he said but, "the good stuff is so much better than it used to be."

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