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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Gripes with the Comic Book Industry

As a boy, I was always in a rush to read the comics in the newspapers. Seeing what kind of mischief Calvin and Hobbs were getting into never failed to bring a smile to my face. When I turned thirteen, I started picking up comic books, really getting into Spider-Man and X-Men. In the years that followed, I found out more about Marvel and DC's world than I'd previously known. I wasn't a the go to guy for happenings in the comic book world, but I was still very much a comic book geek. These days, well, not so much. I mean, I still like comic books, but I haven't paid a dime for a Spider-Man comic over three years. Four industry practices have pretty much burned me out on mainstream comic books to the point that I've been looking elsewhere to get my fix.

1. Reboots/Relaunches

DC said their New 52 wasn't a reboot. I'm calling bull on that one. Why? Because they told us it wasn't a reboot. When you cancel all of your comics to relaunch them with new number ones and the Justice League is coming together for the first time, that's a reboot. DC is the biggest offender of this. They wanted to draw in new readers (that's what they say, anyway) so once Flashpoint was done, they rebooted their entire comics line. I'm a fan of a lot of DC's super heroes but I've never actively purchased their comic books like I did a few of Marvel's titles. Most of the Superman and Batman comics I own are trade paper backs. I was thinking of getting into DC's books but when I heard they were pulling this stunt, my interest dropped faster than Mega Man when he falls through those platforms in Guts Man's level.

I miss the red underpants.

Marvel is no saint when it comes to this either. I've lost count of how many times Dardevil has been rebooted. The Ultimate Comics line, wasn't even safe from this. Though to be fair, many pretty much agree that Jeph Loeb was screwing it up with Ultimatum. Still it was irritating to have Ultimate Spider-Man get reset back to early numbers, only to have it revert back to the original number again and then reset once more when Peter Parker died. Yeah, he died in the Ultimate world as well, but he died a comic book death.

Reboots can increase sales and draw in new readers and DC's New 52 has been a huge success as far as money goes. I've peeked in on a few of the books and really haven't been impressed. If the first issue of the new Justice League was any indication, I don't know if I'll enjoy the DC animated movie Justice League: War, which is supposed to be based off off the first six issues of the New 52 Justice League.

2. Death is a Joke

The Joker, great arch villain that he, used Joker Immunity to escape the Grim Reaper's scythe once more in one of my favorite episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Batman asks him how he survived. The Joker's response?

"I've been blown up, dropped down smokestacks, fed to sharks. I'm the Joker, I always survive."

It's just a flesh wound, he'll be all right.

Without question death is the biggest laughing stock in comic books. It doesn't matter how someone dies or how convincing it looks. They'll always be back. Even the Grim Reaper must yield to a higher power and that power is sales. It's the only reason anyone in comic books "dies" these days.

When Superman was killed off by Doomsday in the early 1990s, everyone on the planet heard about, even those that don't read comic books, because, well, it's Superman. That story made newspaper headlines, had spotlights on the TV news and just about every news outlet can think of. Supes dying was terrible but DC was laughing all the way to the bank about it because big blue's death made them truckloads of cash. When Captain America was killed in 2006, it was the Death of Superman all over again. Everyone heard about it and it made the news. Of course, just like Supes, Cap didn't stay dead. Or in some cases, they were never dead in the first place. Sometimes they're locked in a deep coma or are last in time or whatever contrived plot device the writers can pull out of their butts.

I no longer feel sad for the passing of fictional characters. What I do feel is annoyance. Johnny Storm, AKA the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four was only killed off so Marvel could boost sales. After hearing of his death, I merely rolled my eyes, wondering how many months we'd have to wait for him to return. Spider-Man died earlier this year. To anyone feeling upset about that and having Doc Ock running around in Peter's body, to that I say, chillax. Peter will be back and this farce will be over eventually.

One of the few cases where a comic
book death has actually stuck.

Death in comics is nothing more than a means for publishers to see more dough. Ever since Superman kicked the bucket, death has always been about the almighty dollar. Rather than trying something new, giving readers more creative stories, or further fleshing out characters, writers take the easy way out and kill off a big name character for nothing more than shock value and a sales boost. Death has no impact, no lasting effect and no power in comic books anymore so I no longer give a crap when someone dies. In this medium, killing someone is easy. Keeping them dead? Now that's the tricky part.

3. Big Events

What used to occur every now and then has turned into a yearly thing. I didn't mind this at first but after House of M and Civil War, I had my fill of these big event crossover stories, but they've been a staple for both Marvel and DC for years.

Now some of my favorite comic book tales actually stem from big events and crossovers. Marvel's original Secret Wars may have been all about selling toys, but it really was a pretty sweet tale. We saw, Spidey trash the X-Men, Dr. Doom get god-like powers, the Hulk holding up a couple billion tons to keep the heroes from dying and a lot of other good stuff. And if it weren't for crossovers, Mega Man and Sonic never would have teamed up in Worlds Collide this year. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was based off of the main five issue mini series, Flashpoint, and I really dug that animated flick, as violent as it was.

Not a world war by any means.

Still, I honestly don't think the comic book industry needs to have this big event stories every single year, especially when they result in some pretty underwhelming stories. I never read DC's Blackest Knight, but from my understanding, it sucked hard. Joe Quesada said Marvel's World War Hulk was said to rival Civil War in impact. You'd think that having the words "World War" in the title that the scope would be much more grand. In reality, a very peeved Hulk comes back to Earth after being sent out into space by the Illuminate, beats up the Marvel Heroes and gives New York some more collateral damage. That's World War Hulk in a nutshell.

4. Marriage Makes You Boring

Many people in the comic book business tend to (foolishly) hold firm to the belief that when your star character gets married, the story is over. Lots of movies end when the two people that are in love get married so I can only guess that that's where that type of thinking comes from.

In the case of Spider-Man, the folks at Marvel felt it limited Spidey's potential for good stories and made him older. One More Day, the four part story line made for the soul purpose of killing off Spidey's marriage was released in 2007. By the time the story was finished, Spidey had been married for twenty years and had remained one of the world's most iconic super heroes. So Quesada's fears that a married Spidey damaged the character were very much all for naught.

As someone who is not married, I never once felt Spidey being wed killed my ability to identify with him. If anything, I thought it was cool that he could be a super hero and still hold down a successful marriage. But to Quesada, that took quite a bit a drama out of the books. By "drama" I mean all sorts of ridiculous Threes Company crap and will they won't they nonsense.

Yes, Spidey was made single so they could rehash the same headache inducing romance subplots that grew stale eons ago. Such pathetic attempts at romance were done with Michelle Gonzales, the feisty Latina, and on an even more vomit-inducing scale with Carly Cooper. Carly was fellow science nerd that was named after Quesada's own daughter. Make of that what you will. Carly actually wasn't so bad in the beginning. She was one of the new members of the supporting cast that didn't bother me. But when the writers constantly threw her in my face and had long-time supporting cast members harp on and on about how great she is, I wanted to jump through the pages of the book and strangle her. When Carly and Peter did get together it felt so forced and fake, wreaking of editorial mandate, because well, that's exactly what it was.

Superman wasn't spared the same fate that Spider-Man suffered. When the new 52 was set in motion, Clark's marriage to Lois Lane was given the axe. But hey, it's all good because now he's hooked up with Wonder Woman. I mean, that's got to be a better pairing because both are in the same line of work, are super strong and OK, that's enough. Even I can't drag that out any further. The only reason Superman and Wonder Woman were thrown together is because it was the obvious pairing. True, they do have things in common, but Superman has loved Lois Lane since 1938. DC is never going to truly convince us that he belongs with another woman, even one as wonderful as Wonder Woman.

I don't expect someone like Batman to get married because, he's got serious issues and is arguably more dedicated to the cause of being a hero than anyone else. But heroes like Spider-Man, the Flash and Superman? Oh, yeah, I can totally buy the idea of them being married. Yet so many writers want them to be single so they can keep their iconic status. If someone can tell me how unmarried equals iconic status, I would be ever so grateful.

Just how does being married limit the potential for good stories? There was all sorts of drama between Peter and Mary Jane during the twenty years they were married. The same goes for Lois and Clark. I think a lot of these writers are admitting their failings as writers if they can't find anything to write about for a married couple. The only reason Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman were left alone is because they were married back in the 1960s. If you were married after that time, you'r marriage in the comic book world is not safe.


I'm still a comic reader, but not on the same level that I once was. These days I'm only reading a handful of comics, two of them which star video game characters and the rest are through trade paper backs. Maybe someday I'll get back into mainstream comics but right now, I'm doing just fine without them. I've got The DC Animated Universe, and a plethora of other DC and Marvel animated shows to watch for my super hero needs.

1 comment:

Sol (Frederick) Badguy said...

"Arrow to the knee"
I think this line is fitting to say in a gaming blog presenting accuracy, with Skyrim being big and quoting that line in Lego Lord of the Rings

Bucky returned, became Cap, is alive.
Gwen might return
How many months do you give until Damian Wayne make his return?

Grant Morrison made a big impact as a Batman writer, and his first story in that recent run of his was returning Batman & Talia's child, "AGING THE CHARACTER, DAMIAN MUST GO"
But Bruce had 3 different wards before Damian, all birds grew and flew off the nest, why keep his wards in continuity? They aged the character, yet they need to stay?
Bruce had two love interests capable of coping with him
And he can't get married? Even to Selina?

"Marriage is boring, ages the character", unfortunately they did that with the Flash
Flashpoint strikes three of these gripes
Barry's death canceled
Major crossover event
No more marriage, or Wally West, dude was a married man with twin children, now he and his family are gone
Four strikes to one story, cause it led to a reboot

I stopped getting new comics as well, they repeat their usual mistakes and shoot their logic filled with the worst kinds of gaps