The Power of Comics

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X-Men comic books on the shelf at Cosmic Comics - Photo by Jelani Watts

Comic books. People see them, they hear about them, and they may even read them. The superheroes they feature have been around for decades on end and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. 

While plenty of these characters are on TV, in the movies, and online, it is easy to forget that they are still on the covers of comics. 

Traditional comic book stores are still around and in business. Interestingly enough, they are even doing well in areas that do not come to mind when thinking of comic books. 

While there is not any particular part of the country that screams “comics,” there are some areas where it would be the furthest thing from what you’d associate them with. 

“The thing that makes operating a comic store in Las Vegas different is the tourist population,” said Dann McNerney, general manager of Cosmic Comics. “We’re constantly seeing new customers, people that we’ve never met before, every single day.” 

Persistently seeing new faces in comic stores is not always common. This is especially true for areas that do not bring in as many visitors as Las Vegas does on a continual basis. 

 “Your average comic book store in Pennsylvania, they have their regulars and the occasional parent that brings their child in for the first time,” McNerney said. “Here, people come in from Paris, people come in from Japan, people come in from all over the United States just to look for comics that they can’t get where they’re from.”

With Cosmic Comics welcoming customers from every part of the globe, they are bound to see sales across a wide variety of comics.

Even though they carry issues of every superhero to be thought of, there is one character that brings them more revenue than the others do. It has more to do with the character being subconsciously present in their minds. 

“DC and Warner Brothers do a huge push in their marketing with all of their movies and all of their shows being Batman centric,” McNerney said. “They keep him in everybody’s mind. When people come to the store, they look for Batman because that’s what they’re beat over the head with.”

DC and Warner Brothers have a large collection of familiar superheroes such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. However, Marvel Comics has a much larger fanbase from a national and global perspective. Their fanbase gained even more of an increase with the addition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). 

While Batman is the most popular superhero at Cosmic Comics, there is a different fan favorite on the opposite end of the comic spectrum. 

Ben Morse, Marvel’s former Editorial Director of Digital Media, witnessed high admiration for a big character. 

“The most popular character while I was at Marvel was Iron Man,” Morse said. “It was Iron Man for a while because he was the central figure in the movies. Iron Man the movie came out in 2008, so the MCU happened while I was there. Anyone who was prominent in the MCU quickly became successful in comics.” 

Robert Downey, Jr. played Iron Man in all three of the films. 

Downey was a previously established actor prior to the initial film’s release, which also made him a recognizable name for fans who went to see the film. 

Aside from the popularity of Marvel characters, Morse learned a lot more during his time working there. He discovered the importance of representation within the comic book industry.

When comic fans are reading each issue, the characters they see may not always replicate the diversity of the world around them. This can easily become a problem, especially with so many young people becoming influenced by these depictions. 

“We had one female lead book, and it was ‘X-23’. Then, they canceled it. Literally, all of the lead characters were then white guys. The company had a collective realization. We were like, ‘This is not okay and we need to change this’. The thing I learned about superheroes was, they’re not just for entertainment. They really give somebody something to focus on and aspire to.” 

That focus and aspiration has been going on for quite some time. When many people think of comics, they think of the newer releases with modern imagery. 

As no surprise to lifelong fans, comic books date back to the late 19th and early 20th century. If it were not for the originals, the industry would not be where it is today. 

Cosmic Comics sells books from much older eras for fans who are interested in vintage material. 

It has been mentioned that Batman leads DC and Iron Man leads Marvel in terms of prominence, but who leads Cosmic Comics in vintage sales? The answer may not come as a shock. 

“Spider-Man sells the most in vintage because people connect with Peter Parker,” McNerney said. “They connect with the character that’s the everyman. And then, he gets bit by this spider and has to undertake great responsibility. And, the villains they created when he started are iconic. So, people want those early appearances.” 

Similar to Iron Man, Spider-Man also made it to the big screen relatively early. The first Spider-Man film starring Tobey Maguire was released in 2002 under Sony Pictures Entertainment. 

It was not until 2015 when Sony came to an agreement with Marvel Studios to integrate the character into the MCU. In short, not only does Spider-Man have a long history in comics, but he also has a long history in front of the camera compared to his Marvel peers.

Everyone has their own preferences for which superhero means the most to them. Those preferences vary, but it is not necessarily based on geographic location. Other factors play a huge role in which characters resonate with people the most. 

“I haven’t noticed so much of a difference between east coast and west coast fans,” Morse said. “What I’ve noticed more often is that it’s a generational thing.”

Among all ages and all lifestyles, the power of comic books and their superheroes continue to make an impact. 

While Batman might currently bring the most success to Cosmic Comics, and while Iron Man has always remained prominent in Marvel, it will likely be a different story as the next generation comes. 

This story is a student submission and is in no way associated with the paper.

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