Thursday, August 19, 2010

The One I've Been Avoiding

I’ve put off writing this post for a while now.

I’ve even started and stopped a few times along the way. I just didn’t want to make the thoughts public; I didn’t want to put the words to the screen. They go so much against the purpose of this blog that I felt like a hypocrite every time I would stare at that blinking, mocking cursor.

I’m the Comics Guy, after all. That’s kind of my thing.

But the more I think about it, the less negative I see in the issue I’d like to talk about. And the more I think it needs to be said. So I’ll write about it. Today.

Here goes.

I’ve been kinda bummed out about/with mainstream comics--particularly those produced by DC and Marvel--for the past couple of months or so, and I think that’s been reflected in my Waiting for Wednesday recommendations of late.

More than that, I’ve been disappointed in DC and Marvel for, in my opinion, telling the same story twenty different ways and selling it to us as All-New and All-Different. They’ve been giving us--for the past couple of years now--the same characters in the same situations, month in and month out.

Yeah, yeah. I know. That’s just comics, right?

But, my goodness, let’s allow a few new writers into the mix, huh? A few new voices. Some new blood. Because, really, I don’t mind the same characters in the same situations. It’s those characters in those situations--Gotham City is under siege and Batman needs to save the day; the X-Men are being persecuted, but despite that, they rise above and prove that they’re true heroes--that make comics so much fun.

And such high drama.

But I’d like to hear a different voice, every now and then, please. A different take on the characters. A different trajectory in a story that, while we likely know the conclusion from the beginning--good guy beats bad guy--can take us to new places before we get to that familiar ground.

Something new. That’s all I’m asking.

And again, I don’t want this to come across as a tirade against comics. Because, as I said, there’s no bigger, louder advocate of comics than me. Mainstream, underground, mid-line, whatever. Fanzines, magazines about comics, interview collections with comics people?

Bring them on. All of them.

If it’s good, I’ll talk about it and recommend it to people who have never picked up a funny book. Because I think comics are great. Because I think comics are essential.

They’re our myths. Our legends. They’ve given us the heroes and villains of our generation, and they’re the same heroes and villains of our fathers’ generation. And that’s pretty cool, and utterly unique in fiction.

As much as we’d like to claim him as our own, James Bond is not ours. He belongs to another time. Another generation. Same goes with Holmes. And Dracula. And Dupin.

But comics are different.

Sure, Batman might be a hero of the late 1920s. And Superman is deeply rooted in--and intimately associated with--World War II. But as times change, so have these characters. There have been many different Batmen over the decades. There have been many different "definitive" runs on the character.

You can’t say that about Bond, or Dracula, or Holmes. When their creators passed on, their characters simply were not the same. But in comics? In comics, we have creators that become vital to the history of a character--and these creators pop up decades apart.

Take Batman.

Remember when he was campy? That Batman belongs to a different generation than did Bob Kane’s "mysterioso" figure of the night. What about when his back was broken? Or when Jason Todd died? Or when he returned, old and mean and at his very best?

My Batman is Jeph Loeb’s Batman; either in Hush or in the Halloween books. That was the first Batman I read as I got into comics. That’s the one that will stick with me.

That will likely always be my Batman.

I love Frank Miller’s Batman, and Brian Azzarello’s Batman, and Denny O’Neil’s Batman. But Jeph Loeb’s is the one--because of timing, because of happenstance, because that’s just how comics are.

These days, Grant Morrison is writing a new Batman for a new generation. And that’s cool. Morrison’s voice is unique and intriguing and he possesses a wealth of ideas. He’s a great writer--one of my favorites, and a literary idol of mine.

But he’s steered the ship for a very long time now.

In sports, every athlete faces the moment when he or she needs to leave. It’s just like anything else in life--endings come just as surely as beginnings. But in sports especially, the end doesn’t necessarily come when you’re ready to go.

Sometimes it doesn’t even come when you’re at the end of the rope, physically.

The end of a veteran’s career--even if he or she is still productive and is helping the team win--comes when the Next Big Thing is ready.

The comics industry is funny. The publishers tend to wholly disregard older creators once they’ve passed their "prime," once they’re no longer "hot." Though, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how age on a writer is a bad thing.

But at the same time, comics publishers are incredibly wary of changing the status quo. Either in their books or with their stable of talent.

It’s a weird contradiction.

The publishers--and, when I say that, I mean specifically, the editorial teams working today--do not want new blood coming into the industry.

And why should they? Imagine how hard it must have been for them to get where they are. Comics is such an incestuous industry that it’s incredible anyone manages to actually break in.

And once they do? They hold on for dear life. I can’t say that I blame them.

In comics, unlike almost any other form of entertainment, the line between professional and fan is quite thin. Just check out any convention. It’s literally a matter of which side of a table you sit on.

But the truth is, getting to the other side of that table is about as unlikely as winning a spot on the New York Giants offensive line.

But that’s not where I want to take this post. Though, admittedly, it feels good writing the words. Because, even though only a handful of people read this blog, I think it’s a notion that many out there are frustrated with.

And I don’t mean this as a, “If only I could get my hands on these characters--I’d show ‘em how to make comics!” kind of thing.

Clearly, the people making the comics know just what in the heck they’re doing.

My point here is to say this. I’m bored with mainstream, super hero comic book adventures. Only so many times I can watch the bad guy mess up, and the hero pull it out in the end.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Harvey Pekar. And Joseph Michael Linsner. And Richard Moore. And Trudy Cooper.

But I don't want to not read super hero books. I want to keep following the weekly and monthly adventures of characters I love. I would just much rather Marvel publish one great Avengers book, instead of four good ones. And I'd love Marvel to pick up more creator-owned books like Scarlet and Incognito.

I dunno.

Comics are great, and I love them. But I want All-New and I want All-Different from the publishers.

That's my story. What's yours?

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