Speaking to Wired‘s Adam Rogers, Watchmen creator Alan Moore puts the fanboys in their proper place with a six-paragraph quote: “I have to say that I haven’t seen a comic, much less a superhero comic, for a very, very long time now,” he begins. “But it seems to be that things that were meant satirically or critically in Watchmen now seem to be simply accepted as kind of what they appear to be on the surface.
“If you remember back in the ’80s, there was an incredible spate of monumentally lazy headlines in British and American magazine and newspapers. But also something along the lines of ‘Bam! Sock! Pow! Comic Books Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore.’ I used to think those headlines were just irritating, but it’s only recently that I’ve looked back and realized how incredibly inaccurate they were. Comics had not grown up, bam-sock-pow.
“What had happened was that you’d gotten two or three comics that had gotten, perhaps for the first time, serious adult elements in their compositions. This was judged as miraculous as a dog riding a bicycle back in the 1980s. It doesn’t matter whether he’s riding it particularly well; it matters that he’s riding it at all.
“I think that a lot of people, irrespective of whether they’d ever read a book like Watchmen, took it basically as a form of license. I think there were a surprising number of people out there who secretly longed to keep up with the adventures of Green Lantern but who felt they would have been socially ostracized if they had been seen reading a comic book in a public place.
“With the advent of books like Watchmen, I think these people were given license by the term graphic novel. Everybody knew that comics were for children and for intellectually subnormal people, whereas graphic novel sounds like a much more sophisticated proposition.
“That sounds like the kind of thing a 30-year-old — or a 40-year-old, even — could be caught reading on the tube, upon the subway, without embarrassment. When I started work for DC Comics, I figured that my readership was probably somewhere between — they’d previously been 9 to 13 years old, and now they were around 13 to 18.
“The average age of the audience now for comics, and this has been the case since the late 1980s, probably is late thirties to early fifties — which tends to support the idea that these things are not being bought by children. They’re being bought in many cases by hopeless nostalgics or, putting the worst construction on it, perhaps cases of arrested development who are not prepared to let their childhoods go, no matter how trite the adventures of their various heroes and idols.”