“What’s wrong [with the comics industry]? … In the late ’70s, all the comic fans decided to get into the business. The problem is, it was a bunch of superhero fans. And an industry that had, up until that point, catered to almost every genre imaginable slowly and slowly was narrowed down and boiled down to a point where it was superhero comics, and that’s all there were. And then they all were writing these comics for each other — not for a mass market, not for young people. And then, as they aged, the content aged to suit their needs. And the idea is, when you’re an adult, you’re supposed to turn to other forms of entertainment, maybe, or appreciate comics for what they were. But that hasn’t been the case. So now we have superheroes that rape, we have heroin addicts, we have all this kind of bullshit that’s been heaped onto these characters that were meant to entertain kids and give them a little sense of right and wrong and adventure. I think it’s so sad. And you see what the strategy has done. … In 1972, Jimmy Olsen comics sold 200,000 copies a month, and it was canceled because that wasn’t enough to keep it going. These days, the best-selling book can barely scrape past 70,000 — never mind the worst-selling books. So let’s take a look at that strategy that’s been applied to this business. How’d it work out? Not too good. And the less people that read ‘em, the more expensive they have to be, and the more cryptic they have to be to cater to that tiny little market they’ve got. That’s what’s wrong.”—
So I signed the deal for my next book, The Caped Crusade: The Rise of Batman and the Triumph of Nerd Culture back in May, and it’s due at Simon & Schuster on May 1st.
Well-meaning friends and relations ask me a lot these days how the book’s coming along, which is a perfectly polite, idle-chit-chatty sort of question that nonetheless opens up a vortex of Lovecraftian dread in the nethermost depths of my very soul. This is because I am a lazy, shiftless and whiny baby who cannot help but see the question as a withering critique of my lazy shiftless whiny babyosity.
Also, like a lot of writers I know, I find I’ve developed a weirdly ascetic and self-recriminatory mindset, which only considers the time I spend hunched over the laptop pounding out sentences as “working on” the book. All the other time I spend researching? Interviewing people? Watching the occasional movie with F? DOES NOT COUNT. IS JUST MORE PROCRASTINATION, MORE OF YOUR SICKENING INDOLENCE. YOU ARE A SOFT, QUERULOUS, WEAK-WILLED STREAK OF WORMSNOT. MY GORGE RISES AT YOUR FLESHY SELF-INDULGENT —
Anyway, that. Pretty much that. You get the idea.
The book I pitched last spring was a straightforward history of Batman, like the one I did for Superman. The book I ended up selling was, thankfully, considerably different.