I'm a manga fanatic, but I also consider myself a reasonably invested North American superhero comic enthusiast.
It must have been some time in 200...3? 4? I went to a bookstore in North America during a family vacation (honestly forgot where we went), and came across some superhero comics. Marvel comics.
Jean-Paul Beaubier stole my heart and has a special seat there forever.
I clearly remember that when school started (this was in middle school), I brought my newly acquired Uncanny X-Men TPB and went "lookie here, friends, this is awesome!" and no one really understood me.
What is really intriguing about comics from North America is that there is a slight gap between the comic world and 'mass entertainment'.
It's such a nebulous and difficult thing to put down in words, but I feel North American comics are very... I don't know. Niche?
Japan has its extensive categorization system according to age and gender lines (shonen/boys, shojo/girls, ippan/seinen/general audience (male)...), and each category reflects a slightly different social reality. Of course there is stigma to breach those lines (especially the gender categories), but there is such a wide variety, and people acknowledge there are 'comics for girls' and 'comics for boys', despite how problematic those gender-bound concepts are. What I'm trying to get at is that, sure there are a bunch of problems (often sexist), but the public is aware and understanding of "comics as a mass entertainment medium for everyone".
In North America, I feel comics are more ambivalent. When I was first exposed to them, I was very surprised to find a gay character (Jean-Paul) in a major role in UXM, as well as how X-Men as a concept dealt with issues like discrimination and oppression. But still, the preconceived 'audience' is staunchly male (hence those weirdly sex-oriented female figures - which I learned was the 'male gaze' several years down the line), and comic-readers in general are considered, y'know, 'geeks'. Sure, superhero comic-based movies are doing fantastic and all that, but the original comics seem to be still a 'niche' thing.
I feel it is hard to categorize yourself as a 'casual reader of comics' in North America. Well, there's that with superhero comics, and then there's graphic novels, which is another interesting and very potent medium.
So after this long and rambly rant, I think what I wanted to say was that North American comics (and graphic novels) - mediums that are not solely reliant on words - is complex and nebulous and I wish there was an easier way for people like me to be exposed to them? Because really, aside from the big names like all the DC and Marvel, it's been hard for me to even find out what I want to read.
I am starting to confuse myself, and therefore I will stop.
((PS: This turned out rather a downer rant in retrospect. I know it's hard to find out what you want to read in the sea of Japanese comics as well, so I guess it's a matter of luck and knowing the language enough to be able to pick and choose and articulate your preferences.))