Case in point: there was a conversation on DC's message boards about whether or not Dick Grayson is a househould name outside of comics fandom. The majority of the fans were saying, "Of COURSE everyone knows who Dick Grayson is. Duh!", with a small minority saying, "Um, no." I shook my head and decided not to get involved, but let me tell you, a year and a half ago, I had no idea who the heck Dick Grayson was. (Obviously I knew who (the original) Robin was, but I didn't know his name.) And no, I didn't know who Nightwing was, either.
Which lead me to the conclusion: at least half of what comic fans think non-comics fans know about comics is completely, utterly wrong.
Pre-Batman Begins, here's a list of all the comics characters I knew existed, in no particular order:
- Robin (though I didn't know his name)
- The Joker
- The Penguin
- The Riddler
- General Zod and his two minions
- Lex Luthor
- The Hulk
- Wonder Woman
- Green Lantern (though I didn't know his name was Hal Jordan or that there was more than one, or even what he looked like)
- Bizzarro (only because of that "Seinfeld" episode.)
- Green Arrow (again, only becuase of "Seinfeld.")
- The Phantom
- Dick Tracy
- The Rocketeer
- And perhaps a vague notion of "Aquaman." (I can't really remember for sure.)
The knowledge of all of these characters came from movies, TV, and pop culture. Harley Quinn doesn't even make the list becuase I only have vague memories of watching the Batman Animated Series when it originally aired, though looking back I do remember her...I just didn't know her character's name.
I'd say up everybody up to number 15 are bona fide Household Names. If my mother knows who a character is, then I consider him or her a household name. (Amazingly she knows who Green Lantern is, which leads me to believe my uncle liked him when he was a kid in the 50's.)
As far as teams go, I had never heard of The Justice League, the Justice Society, or the Teen Titans. Let's not even think of Marvel's teams (besides the X-Men), becuase I still know next-to-nothing about them.
Where am I going with this? Well, for one, assume that non-comics fans know nothing, becuase it's pretty much the truth. Even if I did know who Superman was (I grew up with the Christopher Reeve films and watched the old George Reeves show on Nick at Nite), who Superman is on film is different than he is in the comics. When I cracked open a Superman comic not too long ago and found out he doesn't go around fighting with General Zod in Metropolis and saving cats out of trees all the time and telling Lois how many s's are in "Mississippi," I realized I had some misconceptions.
Now, for the longest time (okay, only a year or so, not that long), I figured that in order to enjoy my comics, I better shape up and start conforming to a certain "comic book reading demographic." If I wasn't understanding what was going on, or if I didn't like the book I was reading, it was my fault, and I would read synopses or reviews online to "tell" me whether or not I should like a book. Hey, I figured, if the reviewer at IGN says it's good, and I don't like it, there's something wrong with me. I'm not a Real Comics Fan if I don't like Hush, because everyone else seems to. Tom's comments made me think that perhaps I should give my own opinions a little more credit, considering that being an outsider to comics isn't necessarily a bad thing.
To be continued...