Imagine, you walk into a bookstore, let's say a Barnes & Noble or Borders, just your run of the mill big box bookstore. You don't have anything in particular in mind to buy, you just want to browse, and if you're lucky, you'll leave with a book or two in hand. But as you walk through the store, you notice something odd. The genre titles have been removed, you don't know where fiction is from mystery or Civil War history. Instead, all you see signs are for the different publishers, Penguin-Putnam, Random House, etc. And any small press publishers are lumped into a general section called 'Independents.' You're confused, frustrated, and you leave the store disappointed and empty handed.
Welcome to the shopping experience of the modern day comic book reader.
As things stand today, based upon my experiences of going to comics stores in various cities across the country, this is how a comic book store will typically be divided, a system still set upon the precedent that Marvel and DC, along with Image and Dark Horse, are the dominant publishers, and everything else is lumped together without any organization or categorization except title or artist. In some cases, the books of the four publishers listed above will be shelved together, but this in some ways compounds the problem even more. A Dark Horse superhero title will be slightly different from a DC super hero title, and now the comics browser only has title to rely on.
So why am I pointing this out? This observation comes about from the search to another question; how do we as a comics community branch out to more people? And as shown above, it is clear that the experience of looking for comics is almost diametrically opposed to the experience of browsing for books. In a bookstore, if I'm looking for a science fiction title, I know where to look. If I'm looking for the latest Lewis Black book, I go check the Humor section. But what if I went to a comics store, and I wanted to find a romance title, or a book about paranormal investigators? Where would I go if I wanted to find the latest collection of 'Krazy Kat'? Here is where the dilemma enters the picture for those who haven't tested the waters of comics.
Let me be clear right now, I'm not throwing stones. I've never owned, run, or worked in a comic book store. Marvel and DC ARE the major players in the comic book market, and so comic store owners have to push their titles. And I believe comic book stores are the best ambassadors of the medium, more than any comic based movie or a convention can be. But is it in the interest of the comic community to expect people to conform to a different paradigm when looking for a book to read? If we really believe in the diversity of our medium, is there a better way for us to show it?