In mid-1998, the Washington Post asked its readers to rate its comics... an impressive four page collection of strips ranging from Family Circus to Zippy the Pinhead and, yes, including the Amazing Spider-Man. On July 17, the newspaper published the results of its survey.
They divided their responses by age and sex. The groups were men and women aged 46 and older, 31 to 45, 18 to 30, 12 to 17, and 11 and under. Each respondant was asked to name their top five "Love It" choices and top five "Lose It" choices. Big winners included "For Better or For Worse", "Dilbert", "Baby Blues", and "Garfield". Big losers included "Rugrats" and "Nancy" and "Zippy". (Don't worry, Washington-area Zippy lovers! The Post says these results will not result in wholesale changes.)
At the end of the results was an "All Ages All Genders" section that listed the top ten "Least Read Comics" and top ten "Lose It Comics". Number eight on the least read list was the Amazing Spider-Man.
This isn't really surprising. Other strips on the list were "Prince Valiant", "Judge Parker", "Apartment 3-G", "Rex Morgan" and "Mary Worth". In other words, all of the Washington Post "non-gag", continued strips. So, it appears that most people who read the daily funnies are looking for a quick laugh and don't bother to follow a long-playing story... even in something as light and frothy as Stan Lee has made the newspaper Spidey.
So, nothing to worry about there. But what about here? Spider-Man placed number four in the top five "Lose It" list for males aged eleven and under! Just the age, I assume, that most of us started reading the comic and became fans. Just the sex and age group you would think the Spider-Man newspaper strip is targeting.
Why is this? Well, it could be that Stan's daily strip is too tame for kids these days. It does move at a snail's pace. You can put it down for weeks and still pick up the continuity of the story. And Stan really plays up the "cutesy romance" aspects of Peter and Mary Jane's marriage. Maybe this rubs kids the wrong way. Heck, maybe the kids just don't think it measures up to the Marvel books. Maybe they're reading the comics but ignoring the newspaper. And this was a very unscientific, informal survey which polled only the readers of the Washington Post. Maybe, the whole thing was skewed by a passel of five year olds and their parents.
There really is no way to take this information and say for sure what it means. It probably means absolutely nothing. But still... when kids start saying "Lose It" to Spidey, that's when I begin to worry.