By Darryl Ayo
I look at a lot of the so-called “alternative comics,” and–I don’t expect that I’m blowing anyone’s mind here–find that they are perfectly normal. They should be called “normal comics” and marketed as such. They should be called “normal comics,” and people can say “oh, are you into Spider-Man?” and you’d respond “nah, I only read normal comics.” Look at some of the stuff noted as “alternative” or “left-of-center” in the comic book world; a lot of it is genre stuff akin to what you’d see at the multiplex or stories about normal people that you’d find in the center of your local Barnes and Noble box store. Just regular, normal stories. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
I’m not kidding, if someone tells me that I’m putting down their favorite stories-about-people or normal-genre-stuff, I’m going to learn karate and then karate-chop them.
My point is that context means a lot. You start telling people that you’re into “alternative comics” or “indie stuff” or worse “artcomics/literary comics,” their eyes are going to glaze over and they’ll begin the cold sweat that people start to feel when they get cornered at a party and bombarded with a discussion about John Cage.
Obviously, context is everything. “Alternative” and “independent” are relative terms of comparison and in comic books, the point of comparison is against corporate superhero comics, particularly Marvel and DC’s offerings. But it’s that same small-minded viewpoint that keeps “alternative” comics in a tiny box. Actually a box inside of a box. Some publishers/marketers have figured this out, for example First Second Books has a perspective that reaches over the heads of the Comic Book Direct Market and into the real marketplace for books. And they don’t market their products as “alternative” or “indie” (First Second is a division of a major New York book publisher).
This is a blog post for like five, ten years ago. Outdated bitterness, perhaps. It’s not the publishers promoting this linguistic problem, it’s the readers and people like me, who pass along these outmoded terms as a way of allowing ourselves to be understood in this vocabulary-challenged field. I get angry about semantics.