"Sometimes I worry that comics just can't handle the weight of all the metaphor and allegory," says author Tom Spurgeon. "Sometimes we just want a hero to be a hero, get in a fistfight, and have exciting adventures. We don't always need the psychological underpinnings, or a visual reference to the Kabbalah."
Milton Griepp notes that the shift to an older, more sophisticated audience parallels another change in the comics world: the rise of graphic novels. According to ICv2.com, readers spent $100 million on graphic novels in 2002, followed by at least a 30 percent increase in 2003 to $130 million. If current trends continue, Griepp says, graphic novels will outsell traditional periodical comics in a few years.
Many graphic novels are sold in large chains such as Barnes & Noble and Borders Books & Music, convenient for adult readers who may not haunt harder-to-find specialty comics shops. These trade paperbacks and hardbacks, handsomely illustrated and printed on high-quality paper, range in price from $10 to $25 - a long way from allowance money. And because they contain an entire story arc, graphic novels are perfect for older readers who want to read a complete story front to back, rather than trek out monthly for a periodical.