Last week, I said that comics "are not a grown-up medium, they are an adolescent medium." Everyone seemed to mentally snip off the second part of the sentence and assume that this was once again me saying that comics are for kids, but in fact, the key point is that comics aren't for kids anymore either. Comics are in exactly that awkward stage we all went through in our teen years, where we were still learning what to keep and what to discard of our childhoods, and what to embrace and what to ignore for our future. Comics are not grown-up yet, and they show all the signs of going through puberty. Think about it:
1) Comics are self-absorbed. X-Men is, arguably, the single most successful comic in the last fifty years, and it's also the most "teenage". Claremont's writing was practically obsessed with the introspection of its characters, with everyone having their own trademark teenage angst to handle--Storm got a mohawk and went punk, Cyclops had a dead girlfriend and nobody understood him, Kitty kept getting told she wasn't mature enough to adventure with the team, Havok had a bigger brother who was captain of the squad and lived in his shadow...and this series has been the template for just about every single super-hero comic to follow it.
2) Comics form a tightly-knit social circle that "outsiders" just don't understand. Related, in no small part, to #1, but this is about the way that comics are all about returns of obscure characters, reinventions of old ideas, easter eggs for the fans, and similar references that reinforce the "insider-ness" for insiders, and push away outsiders. Look at Dark Horse, which has practically made a career out of creating impenetrable mythos for Buffy, Firefly, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones (and Aliens, and Predators, and...) The top three writers at DC are Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, and Geoff Johns, all of whom have a massive man-crush on the Silver Age. The top three writers at Marvel are Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and Jeph Loeb, all of whom have a massive man-crush on the Bronze Age. These are fans writing for fans. If you don't get it, it's because you're not supposed to.
3) Comics are obsessed with sex and violence. 'Preacher' is not an example of a grown-up medium, folks. 'Preacher' is a classic example of someone who's going overboard with the sex and violence to seem grown-up. Do I enjoy the series? Heck, yeah. But nobody is going to mistake it for 'Death of a Salesman'.
4) Comics love girls, but don't know how to talk to them. 'Gen13'. Next!
5) Comics keep insisting they're not kids anymore, and that you just don't take them seriously, and that they're mature enough now to be called an adult, but you keep treating them like a kid! See the comments section of this post.