the audience doesn’t know what it wants
I agree with the spirit of what Mark Waid said but I’ve got some qualms…
I think he sees the symptoms properly but his conclusion that the audience doesn’t know what it wants will certainly lead to a treatment of the symptom rather than the cause.
I propose we look into this dichotomy of audience and entertainer. I think in a healthy relationship between an audience and entertainer, the audience does indeed know what it wants. And yes the audience wants to be entertained, but we are more than entertainers, we are artists; we are creators. The creator cultivates the tastes of the audience and continues to push those limits and challenge the audience and the audience in return pushes the creator. There’s a dialogue.
The farmer cultivates the soil, the soil feeds the farmer…the farmer feeds the soil
It is the false dichotomy of audience and creator or consumer and entertainer that perpetuates this unhealthy idea that the audience doesn’t know what it wants. It predicates on the idea that a good audience is an audience disengaged from the creative process enough that it’s un-honed appetites can be whetted with whatever the entertainer can easily brand, mass produce and sell, like Mcdonald’s french fries.
A continuous, unchanging product that can be sold over and over…
This is what creates the symptoms to which Mark Waid refer. An audience all but desensitized by the ‘entertainment’. An audience conditioned by the bad behavior of it’s entertainers. Entertainers who allowed commerce (print distribution, publishers) to cultivate the audience and perpetuate a dynamic where the creator panders instead of challenges the audience. I understand it may be difficult to resist this. I am hungry and have to work like anybody else, but I think we must remember to work together to hold the line. It’s our responsibility as artists. And if we cultivate this healthy relationship it is my belief that it will support us and support our art.
I agree with Waid. I am not interested so much in “comic fans” or the “hardcore audience” in particular…but, rather, I am interested in people. People whose interests and life challenges I share. People to whom I will continue to reach out with my work. I am the same as the audience. So as excited as I am about how digital may bring the Audience and author closer together, I will not be waiting to hear what “digital” tells me as much as I will be listening to what my humanity tells me and what it must be telling the audience.
Because we are one and the same.