Monday, October 11, 2004

Fan following: At Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien looks at a comic audience made primarily of hardcore fans, with few casual readers, and wonders what that means to the industry:

"Fans, by definition, form an emotional attachment to the work, and tend to have pretty high expectations of what's to come. Moreover, they tend to have fairly well-developed and solid ideas about the characters and the stories. This is not to say that fans (or most of them, at any rate) are locked into one particular interpretation or status quo. The audience has aged over time, and most of them do want to see things change and move forward. Often, in some ways, they'd like to see more change than the publisher would like - the Spider-Man mythos ossified years ago, but the character retains a lot of fans from a period when it was driven by soap opera plots that still seemed to be heading somewhere.

"The catch is that the fans want to see things develop in a way that is consistent not merely with the letter of the original stories, but with their personal interpretation and expectations. A radical reinterpretation of characters or events gets into very dangerous territory with this audience, particularly if it has knock-on effects that require it to be treated as a significant part of the mythos. Swerving the storyline off in an unexpected new direction, or drastically changing the style of the book, can run into similar problems."