Comic book characters are ridiculously popular right now. They've become so well-known you could even picture Zoolander's Mugatu saying something like, "That Captain America's so hot right now." Millions are buying tickets to go see the latest comic book movie and tuning in to watch the latest episode of a comic book show, so why aren't many of these people getting into the medium where all of the characters and stories initially came from? Why aren't they motivated to buy some comics?
The midseason premiere of Arrow was watched by around 3 million people. The Walking Dead's midseason finale was witnessed by almost 15 million people. The latest issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's BATMAN? A little over 113,000 copies were sold to distributors. Given the Dark Knight's popularity, shouldn't way more people be interested in reading the latest chapter of Bruce Wayne's story, especially given the fact it's loved by many and gets consistently great reviews? How many people out there have a Batman shirt or love the movies yet don't follow the comics? Answer: a lot. So, why is that? Of course everyone's reason will be different, but there's two common reasons. Whether it's believing misconceptions about comics ("they're for kids and they're lame!") or not being motivated enough to give it a shot, those two things tend to keep a large number of people away from the industry. We, as fans of comics, need to help change that.
Publishers certainly try to reach out to new readers (e.g. The New 52, All-New Marvel/Marvel NOW!), but the amount of people interested in seeing these franchises on the big and small screen is absurdly bigger than the amount of people following the comics. How many of the people passionately discussing the cast of the Ghostbusters reboot also gave the IDW series a chance? How many of the people who saw The Dark Knight Rises wanted to go out and purchase Knightfall or even the Batman vs. Bane collection? How many people who watch The Walking Dead then picked up trades of Robert Kirkman's comic? Yes, these companies need to do more to boost sales. It's baffling why there isn't more collaboration to get TV and movie viewers into the comics. Why not include an ad before the trailers or commercials? Why not have a select few and very appropriate trade paperbacks on sale in movie theaters when there's a big comic book movie? There's so much these companies can do to increase sales, but it's also on us. We need to support what we love and yes, that means going beyond just buying the comics we like.
Show of hands: How many of you have friends that'll happily see Avengers: Age of Ultron or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice yet they don't follow comics? How many of you have lent a friend a trade that you thought was great but it didn't really jump start their interest in following comics? Sure, we can all let a friend borrow a copy of something that is widely considered as a must read (e.g. THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, WATCHMEN), but honestly, that isn't enough for most people. They may read that, think it's okay or even enjoyable, and then go on with their life without wanting to pursue other comics. Instead of just lending something that is widely considered a must read, think about what that friend is really interested in. Is there a certain genre they prefer? Is there a character they really liked when they were growing up? Do they enjoy something thought-provoking or do they want something big and full of popcorn entertainment? One friend may adore Hush and it'll make them want to explore Batman's world. Another may love The Black Mirror or Grant Morrison's work and it'll show them there's so much more to the medium than just people in capes punching each other. Don't give them just what you love or what everyone else considers as something that demands to be read. If this is truly your friend, you know what they're interested in and you know what'll keep them captivated.
For some friends, giving them a good comic to read won't be enough to get them really interested in the hobby. So, take the extra step. Bring them to a comic book shop so they can explore all of the options. Odds are it's a place they've never been to before and never planned on going to. Seeing how much awesome stuff is in there may make them realize it's not embarrassing going there and it may motivate them to return on their own some day.
If there isn't a comic shop near you -- or if you think this upcoming option is more appealing to them -- bring digital comics into their world. Show them how just much options like ComiXology or Marvel Unlimited has to offer and how it's easier than ever before to gain access to comics. No longer do you have to spend a lot of money to read an older comic. Now, they're affordable and just a few clicks away. You can read them on your phone, people. There's no good excuse not to give it a shot.
If it's a friend you really trust, you can even let them borrow your account information so they can read a little more in their free time. Only let them use your account for a certain amount of time, though! Friends don't let friends mooch. If they really grow to like it, motivate them to get their own account! You could even get them a gift card for the holidays.
A common question is "where do I begin? What should I read if I want to get into this stuff?" It'll obviously vary from person to person, but base your suggestions on what they're currently watching or -- as said before -- the characters they liked when they were younger. If they love The Walking Dead, get them the first two trades of Kirkman's comic. That's sure to hook them. Arrow? Give them Year One or The Kill Machine. Looking forward to the future of the Marvel Universe? Have 'em check out CIVIL WAR. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Aside from the obvious (THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS), there's so many options, but Birthright immediately comes to mind if someone needs to be sold on why Superman isn't totally lame.
There's no question that publishers and companies need to do more to attract new readers, but if you really do love comics, then you should be fighting to keep the medium alive, too. Nothing is stopping you from introducing your friends to the world of comics. Will they all turn into comic fans? Probably not. But maybe -- just maybe -- at least one will join the community and one day, they may try to convince their other friends to check out comics. Comic book movies and comic book TV shows are doing incredibly well right now. As comic book fans, we should be doing what we can to make sure the source material does well, too.