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Free Comic Book Day 2014

The Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) crowd is always an interesting gauge of how comics culture is evolving. A few years ago, the narrative around comics was dominated by concerns about an aging demographic. The logic was that an older, white and mostly male audience was not enough to keep the comics industry afloat. Today, thanks to the success of comics on the small and big screen, there is a lot of excitement around comic book culture. Yet, there remain some question if that success if changing the comic book print industry.

Some would argue that comic excitement is confined to "The Walking Dead" or "Avengers" fans that don't read the comic books. FCBD tests the hypothesis in the most basic way. If a more diverse audience comes out to comic book shops, than there might be greater interest generated by these adaptations that can be leverage by the print industry.  Having gone to several FCBDs with this in mind, I can see the demographic and scope of comics culture is changing. By far the biggest shift is more women in fandom. The growth of the non-superhero Indy comic books has translated into more women reading comics. This is not news. The real news is these women also read superhero comic book. You can see that at FCBD. They mix in superhero titles featuring Batman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman while picking up titles such as Saga, Mouse Guard or Pretty Deadly.

So, established characters do benefit from greater interest in comics. However, I think this attention does not extend to associated characters. What do I mean?  From my observations, some of these female readers know and enjoy Batman, but they don't care about Nightwing or Red Hood.  Listening to the crowds at FCBD I can theorize the reasons. Clearly, female reader enjoy Batman, but many of them have a relationship linked to mediated version of the character.  Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy inspired great interest and Batman's overall narrative history is widely known.  The details can become murky quickly. So, the many Robins in the Batman universe are not worth the time or energy necessary to understand.      

The upside for comics is more sales, but not necessarily strong superhero comics sales. This narrative has come through in the comic media, but the decline is framed in more dire terms.  The reality of may be less dire for the overall industry as more readers allow a less superhero centric comic culture to engage with mainstream culture. 
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