For the most part, comics are a thing we come to in our youth, and then we grow to love them from there. For a lot of us, if it wasn’t a comic book itself, it was from cartoons. If you’re old (like me!), you probably started with Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and the Superfriends. If you’re not so old, it might have been Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League or one of the Marvel cartoons that came and went. Marvel and DC are generally our first introductions to comics, and some of us seek out the source material from there.
Lately, the first exposure the masses are getting to comics are the blockbuster films that are being made. Like those who watch the cartoons, some then go look for the source material and get hooked. Again, it is mostly the Marvel and DC movies that get this treatment, because people generally have no idea that Men in Black comes from comics, or other films like The Road to Perdition and A History of Violence…or if you want to go more modern, Kingsmen: The Secret Service and Jupiter’s Ascension.
Then there are those who just aren’t interested in comics at all. This is generally because they think that it’s nothing but superheroes. A friend of mine, Joe Mulvey, does something that I find admirable: he talks to people (Joe’s a talker), and he finds out what people thinks about comics, finds their interests, and then lends them a book that matches their interests from his own library. What generally happens then is that people’s eyes are opened to what comics are or can be. Not just superheroes.
And that’s the key to possibly growing our hobby beyond the insular boundaries we’ve constructed. We first have to branch out ourselves beyond the “mainstream” of Marvel/DC and be open to other types of stories, and then we have to absorb what we’ve read. Then, magic can happen.
If you’re talking to someone, you can’t just say, “Read the Hulk! Banner is trapped inside Doc Green, and all kinds of great things are happening!” Marvel and DC have decades of history behind them, with few points to just jump on and enjoy the ride. It’s daunting. (Hence, the New 52, where DC wiped their continuity—this was a jumping on point for the masses.) Especially if the person you’re talking to isn’t interested in superheroes. You have to catch them with different fare, and the only way you can really catch them is if you’re widely read yourself. This way you can ask them their interests, and possibly have something they may want to read.
I have a friend who’s very cerebral, but she’s also into some mysticism. I’ve recommended Sandman to her, and she had already started reading it, but she’s not one for the ongoing nature of a lot of comics. She had renewed interest when I told her it was a finite story—just about 75 issues long. Luckily, I have most of the TPB’s, so I’ll be lending those to her.
Get to know your audience when you’re recommending a book to them. This will only help comics in general in the future.