Why Can’t Comics Get New Readers?

I recently watched Cartoon Network’s micro-series, Amethyst, which aired on Saturday mornings (remember when that was synonymous with cartoons?) as a part of the DC Nation programming block late last year. It was short, silly, filled with (not overt) references to comics and video games with some sharp art and voice work (even something of a moral.)

Watching it, I was struck by one of the major problems with cross media promotion.  The DC Nation animation block (and its related website) are ostensibly a means of exposing audiences to comics in hopes of bringing them in as readers.  But does this really work?  There can be such a tonal shift between an animated series and its related in-continuity comics that it causes whiplash  For instance, this Amethyst show has a very cute anime-heavy look and takes place in a universe that’s filled painted with soft colors (purples and pastel tones) connoting its generally safe environment.  In contrast, the premier issue of Sword of Sorcery–the recent title under which Amethyst stories were published–included an attempted rape.  Alternatively, if you enjoy Teen Titans Go! (a disappointing continuation of the much beloved Teen Titans show of the early aughts) you can go to the New (it’s been two years, can they still call it “new”?) 52’s Teen Titans, notable for its promiscuous Starfire.  Of course, these disparities I mentioned also relate to the overall portrayal of women in comics, which is a very big, very convoluted issue, but it is related to this one (alienating 50% of the potential audience.)

But then I can’t really fault DC for playing hardball with their sales pitch.  “Read our comics if you like our cartoons!” is pithy and might get you new readers.  Of course, the Sword of Sorcery comic did get cancelled after only eight issues.


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