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What Price Super-Heroics?

Last week John asked my opinion on the recent highly-publicized Superman/Batman comic book auctions.

Comic fans are a chatty lot, and there has already been quite a bit of debate over the sales and the goodly sums paid. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, the most infamous occurrence being the advent of the speculator boom in the 80s and 90s.

I prefer to interpret it (read: delude myself) as showing love for the comics of an earlier age. Yes, they were a tad naïve, and orders of magnitude inferior in both writing and art to much of the product generated since. Same can be said for a lot of art forms. But at the time they were new and exciting, a frantic burst of adventurous escapism spawned almost fully-formed from the pulps that preceded them.

Given current events in comics, I’d welcome some of that right now.

Consider this: If we are to adhere to DC comics continuity, the version of the Man of Steel lifting that car on the cover of Action Comics #1 was recently turned into a soulless super zombie that slaughtered much of the population of Smallville. He is one of many dead heroes reanimated for DC’s latest mega-event Blackest Night, a story hinging on the fairly idiotic concept that every color of the spectrum mystically corresponds to an emotion, and these are the primal forces of the universe. The Green Lantern Corps now operates alongside the Red Lanterns, Indigo Lanterns, and so on, and all of them have to deal with super-zombies. It’s like gore-riddled Power Rangers fanfic written by folks who watch too much Japanese horror*.

Corpses rise to take steaming dumps on the work of the many talented creators who have shaped these characters over the decades. Established canons are discarded, the legacy of Jack Kirby is trampled under the feet of the rotting undead.

Meanwhile, in the Marvel Universe, the world is run by bad guys who stage a terrorist act to justify a war on Asgard. The less said about that nauseating mess the better.

The state of “mainstream” comics is downright insulting. The internal logic of these stories fall apart before our eyes. Whole universes are tainted forever (or until the next reboot). This abhorrent stuff is on par, both ethically and aesthetically, with Pokemon, only with more mind-rape and glistening innards.

And the fanboys just keep lapping it up, buying it in droves and spouting glowing reviews with each fresh defiling. And the public doesn’t care. People shriek about the portrayal of Teabaggers in Captain America, but have no problem with the dim-witted idea of 100,000 Kryptonians immigrating to Earth or the Green Goblin being put in charge of National Security.

(It needs mentioning here that Hannibal Tabu, who writes The Buy Pile column at Comic Book Resources, has been diligent in finding this stuff offensive. Kudos, Hannibal)

So I take a degree of comfort in the fact that someone was willing to pay a million bucks for some old comics. It gives me hope. I’ve given up movies and most SF TV already, and my weekly stack of comics has been getting shorter. My downtime options are dwindling. Some meaty excitement would be appreciated.

Still, Marvel is promising the return of The Heroic Age, and Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s work on the current Realm of Kings is yummy space opera eye-candy. DC trumpets the coming of The Brightest Day, and they’re also making a pulp superteam of Doc Savage, the Spirit, and Batman. Kevin Smith is revamping Green Hornet. The ongoing Farscape and Doctor Who comics are both a lot of fun. John Byrne’s Doctor McCoy mini-series is coming soon. There may be a future for comics where the rich legacy of all that came before is fondly remembered, and tripe like Blackest Night sits forgotten in the quarter-bins.

Then maybe the shambling undead Superman can rest in peace.

*If you’re intrepid enough to want to see what that would be like, go watch some episodes of Garo.

5 Comments on What Price Super-Heroics?

  1. Bravo Jeff. While I’m not quite as jaded as you, I agree that these “cosmically-proportioned” story lines have got to end. You can’t keep changing the face of the universe with a mini-series, and then forget about it until the next big event. While parts (albeit very small parts) of this “Dark Reign” storyline have been interesting, the entire “Blackest Night” story has been just awful. How about just writing some half-way decent stories and forget about the multi-issue crossovers for a while? Of course, if they did that, they’d loose the trade paperback market that every comic writer now strives for.

  2. Jeff P. // March 1, 2010 at 7:51 am //

    I once wanted to pitch an idea to DC that at the edge of the universe lived an immortal, unchanging entity immune to reboots, who decides he’s had enough of the universe reshaping around him just when he gets used to the view.

  3. Kapture // March 1, 2010 at 9:31 am //

    Is it the season to bitch about grim and gritty again? I thought the new golden age had come? Oh, well. It will come again.

    I just stuck SF Signal into my RSS feed because it has lit reviews, unlike Techland. But I’ll go roving again if the lit reviews consist of a bunch of “bad fun” raving about Fanboys. Oh noes!

    The public does’t care. Seriously? Is that a  serious observation? And what sort of suggestion is it that good sales are somehow responsible for bad art?


    It’s almost painful how far this website has fallen (“Teabaggers”? Really?).

    Hit the archives and look back a couple of years to see what SF Signal used to be and then shake your head at what it’s become.

  5. Much like politics, the world of comics was never as glorious or noble as some would misremember. Please to enjoy:

    When writers get bored, they try to see what they can get away with, and bad things happen. A cheap way to increase the thrills is to increase the scope of the drama.

    Has there been a villain that eats Galactuses yet? If not, there will be.


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