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I would say that the audience for comics and comics books has definitely changed over the years.
Think back to even 20 years ago to the days before everyone had the internet in their home--families relied on the television and the good ol' Sunday paper to get their news. Every Sunday paper features a section of the comics, which younger children (as well as adults) could read and enjoy. Now, due to the internet, less people read the newspaper and more rely on websites like cnn.com, msnbc.com etc to get their news, and these websites do not feature comics.
As a teacher, I use Calvin and Hobbes cartoons in my classroom to teach Transcendentalism in American Literature, and most of my students have no idea who they are!
I think young children (under 15) still like to read comic books, but most likely gained that appreciation from their parents or because their favorite movies are now based on the characters.
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Good question, Lit. I am a 53-year-old grad student at Florida Gulf Coast Univ. I study humorous cartoon history in the history department. I read the cartoons in our local newspaper and I subscribe to three cartoon services allowing me to see almost every cartoon syndicated in the US and several cartoons from abroad. My Passion for cartoon art is not normal.
I was a teacher at one time and used cartoons to lighten the atmosphere of a test or assignment. Students went to the end of the hand-out to read the cartoon before they even looked at the test or assignment. Cartoons are that attractive. More recently, I have used editorial cartoons to help teach historical sequencing (instead of dates and incidents during the Watergate scandal, I used Watergate era editorial cartoons). The assignment was greeted with laughter and fun instead of dread.
To answer the question more specifically, studies by newspaper readers polls show that the most ardent readers of newspaper cartoons are those who have the most education. Just look at the doors to the offices at any university, and you will see them littered with various cartoons. College educated people enjoy them more than high school graduates. The audience has not changed over the years, but the means of the audience to receive cartoons has changed so that they are seeing what they want on the Internet instead of in the newspaper.
My research has determined that for reasons other than education, men like cartoons more than women. That is also why there are many more men who draw cartoons than women.
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