Why We Should Roll Our Eyes at Bill Maher

As a group, we comic book fans have certainly had to take a lot of crap over the decades. Our interests have been belittled, derided, and even threatened with government sanction. These days however, comic books are being praised as a medium of art and the stories conveyed in them are the stuff of an ever-growing slice of pop culture influence. So why do we let the words of one person who doesn’t much care for our passion get under our skin?

I think everyone knows the story by now, so I’ll just give a breakdown. About a week ago, comedian Bill Maher posted a blog in response to the recent passing of Stan Lee. While Maher’s post barely touched on The Man himself, he did launch into a short, familiar tirade of “comics are for kids”.

Beyond that, Maher derided those who consider comic books as even capable of being a sophisticated art form and that we were wasting our time and attentions on our medium of choice. This line of thinking is not new to comics and is not new to works of art in general. There’s an old remark that goes “how novel”, this remark was meant to be derisive to those who read novels. I’m sure some readers are asking, why would someone deride novels?

It wasn’t too long ago that novels, yes, the medium that gave us great works of literature like Crime and Punishment and Huckleberry Finn, was considered beneath the notice of intelligent men, the mere past time for women and children. And don’t get me started on how back in his day many felt that the works of William Shakespeare were nothing but lowbrow trash. My oh my, how times have changed.

How many of us can name a book or a series of books like Watchmen, The Sandman, Persepolis, or Maus that can easily hold its own in the canon of literature? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all comic books can achieve this stature. For that matter, not all works of art in any medium can achieve this. I’m a believer in Sturgeon’s Law, which states that only 10% of all art will be of lasting quality and the rest will be forgotten as time moves forward.

My point is this, is every comic book going to objectively be a glowing work of art, of course not. Does every comic book have the potential to be a work of art that will resonate throughout the years, certainly. And we as comic book fans know this and should take pride in this knowledge.

Does our ongoing appreciation into adulthood for comics make us any less so an adult? Wasn’t it Stan himself who said that comics shouldn’t just be for kids? We all know the answers to those question.

So then why does someone like Bill Maher get under our skin? He’s not the first to use his platform to say something dersive of comics and comic book fans and he won’t be the last. But he’s not a Fredric Wertham who has the clout of being a renowned child psychologist to give meaning to his thoughts on comics. He’s not an Estes Kefauver who can bring the weight of government authority down on an industry he believes to be a menace to society.

Maher at the end of the day is a guy with a big mouth and a platform that many listen to. He has no authority to speak of that could make life rough for us. He doesn’t speak for anyone but himself and is no representative of the intelligentsia at large. Matter of fact, there are many within the intelligentsia who would side with our line of thinking.

At a guess, maybe we fear that those days of derision will return. That the days when comic book fans were looked upon as the outsider, the nerd, the geek, the loser, will return. Anything can happen, but I sincerely doubt that will happen at this moment in time just because one loud mouth comedian wrote a blog post.

At the end of the day, he’s just someone we should roll our eyes at and continue flipping through our favorite comics. Excelsior!

Tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


Rick Horner is an aspiring writer and has done some work drawing an online comic strip. He has two associates degrees and a lifetime of reading and thinking about comics.

See more, including free online content, on .


  1. To quote Werewolf Jones/Simon Hanselmann
    “You can’t blame the mainstream press for arriving at such assumptions. Practically nobody reads what we call ‘good comics’. Nobody. It’s probably like 700 People. Worldwide. 90% of all comics are SHIT. Garish, vulgar, base, SHIT. That’s what up in everybody’s fucking faces. Take a look at a standard ‘comic shop’. They’re full of fucking TOYS… And my god, all these fucking superhero movies. And fucking Scott Pilgrim. It looks bad. Comics ARE for kids. Stupid fucking kids.”

    Maher’s take needles fans because it’s TRUE. The major face of comics in the world is a bunch of all ages films with stupid potty humor and nonstop quips to keep the lowest common denominator’s attention. Industry has to be better if it wants to be treated better. Stop with the fucking variants. And gimmicks, and trash events and “nothing will ever be the same”. Return to simplistic storytelling with bombastic villains and high octane action, with some good character drama to boot. Stop doing desperate grabs for the phantom “new reader” every 9 months.
    And don’t get on my ass for talking only about the big 2 above. They’re over 2/3 of the market and the non comics media is nearly 100% them. Fuck comics, comics need to get better if they want respect. It’s a pathetic crony industry, and without another set of Crumbs, Saccos, Eisners and Sims it’ll be gone in 25 years or less.

    • Honestly, I think that Sturgeon was being too polite in his estimation, but that’s another argument. The best way to cope with someone with whom one all but violently (but especially violently) disagrees is to put them on ignore. I dropped Maher several years ago, as decreasingly relevant and sliding into redundancy. The same jokes had been made, and made. The same basic insiders squeezed and enticed. In the end, it was as much about the company he kept and the blandness of the latest HBO incarnation.

      Ryan makes exceptional points, stomping where few even tread. We have been beset with a pair of problems in the mainstream: a dearth of true drama (the best titles could always dig into one’s heart, the latest rarely manage to tittilate), and Crisis-Like cross-marketing and event oriented plotting. Tying the fundamental structure of a “universe” (or multiverse) to an annual Big Bad, year after year after year… is a safe business model but death to creativity. Ryan’s antecedents living and dead are exceptional, too. I’m not the Sacco fan that you appear to be, but rank him nonetheless. The others were each generational, like Los Bros, Miller or Moore or the Pinis, and so on. It was a happy coincidence that so many germinal and seminal creators were of the same generation. Kirby spanned several. Then there are journeymen to whom little respect is ever paid. Curt Swan, Don Heck, John Buscema, et al. The bottom line, I think, is that while real talent and vision do exist, the market is too diluted to allow for (their) appreciation. I’m always trying to rustle up the newest, awesomest, etceterest, but there’s SO much product… and so on.

Leave a Reply