As a viewing audience, we’ve been bombarded with superhero movie after superhero movie. Twenty years ago, those who cried in their seats at the end of “Avengers: Endgame,” like I did would have been labeled as nerds and shunned from mainstream culture.
So in the days before superhero movies and the widespread attraction of video games, nerds created their own tangent culture that would allow them to continue to enjoy that without having to deal with the discrimination from their peers and family.
But now, these movies and books are a part of common culture and are widely accepted by the growing populous. “Avengers: Endgame” is now the second-highest grossing movie in the world behind James Cameron’s “Avatar,“ which would also fall under the nerd umbrella as a sci-fi movie about blue cat people.
Even nerd culture from other parts of the world has made a nest in the United States. Anime and manga’s popularity in the U.S. has exploded in the last 10 years with companies like Crunchyroll, which dubs Japanese anime for English-speaking audiences, growing their number of subscribers to one million since 2012, including myself.
So what does any of this mean for “nerd culture”? This is a good boost for the industry creating millions of dollars in revenue for companies, that in turn can create thousands of jobs for young people who love to watch Thor swing his mighty hammer and see Akira once again play on the big screen.
I am not arguing against that, I love the fact that more and more people can enjoy the same characters that I did when I was growing up, my face stuffed between comic books and manga. So you’re probably asking why am I writing anything on this when I have nothing to complain about?
But I do: in the last couple of years, comic book sales have decreased steadily across the industry. Comichron.com reported that in comic sales between both Marvel and DC, both companies figures were down 4 percent year-over-year versus the previous May, and the year-to-date total slipped slightly into the red for the first time in 2019.
With the comic industry slowly dying, the inspiration for many of these creations is slowly fading out of the collective consciousness, with the increased desire for more films that fill theaters with hungry eyes. Many do not seek out the comics that have inspired some of the greatest story lines that have been shown on screen in the last two years.
Films like “Infinity War” and “Endgame,” which were based off of the “Infinity Gauntlet” story line written in 1991, was way weirder and included Thanos trying to date a hot version of Death. I’m not kidding.
This forgotten history is not necessarily important to create a fantastic film based off these characters, as the Russo brothers did in their film. But not appreciating the history does a disservice to the original writers like Jim Starlin, and the countless pencillers, colorists and letterers. Without these people, “Infinity War” and “Endgame” would not exist.
So if you can, I recommend reading some of the older comics and enjoying how weird and wacky they can be as well as reading some of the more modern comics that create wonderful moments for characters that are two-dimensional. I thoroughly recommend Jason Aaron’s run of Thor, as it has been my favorite comic in the last five years.
Nerd culture may be becoming mainstream but it is truly only certain aspects of the industry that are gaining traction in the public eye. With the increased desire for superhero movies and the increased viewership for anime on sites like Crunchyroll, the revenue stream for these intellectual properties has quite a bit of traction.
But comics — the origin of all of our favorite superheroes and the source of all the great stories that make their way to the silver screen — are dying as nerd culture is not truly mainstream. It is a watered down form of the original culture that boomed in the ’80s and ’90s which has inspired so many to create some of the most interesting pieces of media in the last 50 years.
Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon