‘We are no longer the nerds’: How comic book culture has evolved over time

On Sunday, comic book collectors met at the American Legion Post 365 in Collinsville, Illinois, to see the comics and memorabilia of others. Some even added to their own collections. 

As comic book collectors from across the area gathered in Collinsville, Illinois, this weekend for the Metro East Comic Book Convention, long-time fans could not help but reflect on how far the culture has come since they first started collecting. 


Alan Morton, a promoter for the Midwest Comic Book Conventions, said instead of people reading comic books as kids, some new fans are seeing movies and TV shows in their childhood, which has created a new generation of comic book fans.

“A lot of people started reading them as kids, but nowadays, a lot of people say, ‘Ah, there’s a movie or a TV show based on it,’ and figure out it’s based on a comic book,” Morton said.

According to Bruce Reynolds, a comic book collector, this has led to a recent revitalization of comic book culture. And although he said he was happy to see the comics he grew up with finally get the mainstream love he felt they deserved, there are still some bittersweet parts to it.

“I had a friend who once said, ‘We won. We are no longer the nerds who collected junk,’” Reynolds said. “But for some new fans, it’s all about the movies and TV shows. Now the comics are secondary, which was never the case before. I’m not worried, though. I think there will always be those superfans who want to go out and read the comics.”

Reynolds said he remembers when he felt like the world of comics began to shift in the 1980s.

‘In the ‘80s, you had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they made the TV show, and the action figures and it all came from a comic book,” Reynolds said. “But the mainstream doesn’t remember the comics, they remember the show and the toys.”

Reynolds said he was happy to see new attention and life brought to old comics, especially those of lesser-known characters

“Back in the day, when you bought the comic, if it didn’t sell well, that was it. There wouldn’t be a movie, or the rest of the television season,” Reynolds said. “If the books didn’t sell well, it was dead. So, with these movies, it’s nice to see some smaller comics and characters getting picked up and put into the movies.”

Junior English major Kevin Cox of Brighton, Illinois, said this change is pop culture was inevitable.

“Everything has become much more accessible culturally, so I bet this wider appreciation for comics would have come about naturally,” Cox said. “Comics are so varied. It's not just superheroes in the mainstream. A lot of more indie comics are popular, like The Sandman. Things have grown and gotten bigger than their creators probably ever intended or expected … But, there will always be art styles and things you can’t do on film, or that don’t translate well, so some things may stay in comics.”

Morton said with recent developments in computer animation, a lot more comics have gotten interpretations than some comic fans expected.

“I think we’re at a point now where they can do things with the computers that would have been very cost-prohibitive, like in the 1990s, to try and do effectively,” Marton said. “It’s not like back in the ‘50s, when they did live TV, and they couldn’t do a simple, like stop the camera, and somebody walks away and then we start the camera again so it looks like they disappeared.”

Whereas some comic book collectors have made something of a career out of selling them, others are happy to keep it as a hobby and side job. Bruce Reynolds is a comic book collector, but his day job is repairing eyeglasses. Reynolds said he’s always had a love for comics, and the Metro East Comic Book Convention was the first convention where he came to sell comics.

“I mean, I’ve been reading comics my whole life. I’ve been reading comics since before I even knew how to read. In fact, I would say comics were how I learned to read,” Reynolds said. “After about 23 years of reading comics, most people realize they have too many comic books, and that’s when they start coming to these conventions to sell.”

For more information, visit the Midwest Comic Book Conventions’ website.

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