Thursday, February 10, 2005

The present and future of comics


I just read this little smug proclamation, Superfreaky: The Slow, Embarrassing Death of the Superhero by Paul Constant.

Don't bother reading if you're hoping to gain any insight into what's wrong with comics today or what they can do to improve. The author is sadly much more interested in declaring his superiority to people who come to conventions in costumes and declaring the Superhero a creatively dead genre.

Now, I completely agree, that no one has done much interesting with the Superhero comic in some time. It's definitely stagnant, but I'm a natural believer that as soon as people start declaring something dead is just the time when I start wanting to be there to see the great reawakening. And, yes, someday someone will come up with a Superhero story that blows the asses off everyone around.

Personally, I'd like to see other kinds of comics thrive a lot more. Unfortunately, when comic geeks enthuse over non-Superhero comics to impress others, we tend to jump immediately to over-arty bullshit, really heavy depressing stuff or autobiographical human stories... Now, I absolutely love some of the stuff that fits into each of those genres, so I can understand.

Imagine if you will, that you have a friend who has only seen Toho Monster Movies and nothing else, so this friend has dismissed movies as a creatively vital form of entertainment. Sure, the first few were a gas, but there's not the variety and vitality of a real art/entertainment. Now, you're really sure you can prove there's more to movies than that.

Now, imagine that your solution is to bring over a lot of videos of Buñuel, Bergman and, say, Ed Burns. No, of course you don't bring The Maltese Falcon or Die Hard or Ghostbusters or Annie Hall or Star Wars... or whatever.

Now, your friend may recognize the genius of Buñuel and Bergman, and, hell, may even see some merit in Ed Burns and whatever non-actress is fool enough to be touching his wiener these days, but they're hardly going to see a thriving form of entertainment... and if they're an average viewer isn't going to seek it out as their new favorite activity.

Unfortunately, American comics in the last 30-40 years have stopped producing enough of the in-beween. Japanese comics fill in part of the gap, but the cultural gap ensures they'll never become a mainstream interest over here. We need to find something else to have in that broad range of in-between but we haven't found it yet.

And guys like this guy are more interested in trying to laugh at the geeks than fixing any problems with the industry. There's a time to spot the problem, to holler out that the Emperor is starkers. The American comic book industry has been wandering with a dangling ding-a-ling for a decade or more... It's well past being the lonely voice in the dark. If you don't have an idea for a new outfit for the man, then you're just another child saying the same thing over and over because the grown-ups thought it was funny when you said it the first time and you don't know why.

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