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8.30.2008

Sick of Comics (Again)

I've collected comics since I was 10 years old.

I was fortunate enough to be a kid in the glorious 80s heyday of comics. I stopped collecting in the mid 1990s once the quality had collapsed and the prices shot way up. I resumed buying new comics in 2001 and have continued through to today.

Unfortunately, I'm getting to the point where I no longer look forward to getting my pull bag from my excellent local comics shop and am planning on ceasing to collect new comics altogether once several threads run their course.

Here's why:

Crossovers - There was a time when crossovers mattered. That time is now long past. The neverending mega-events with multiple weak tie-ins has destroyed any enthusiasm I might have for these. First, there was "Crisis on Infinite Earths". I thought the story pretty much stunk, but at least it changed things in the DC Universe for a good long while. A couple of years ago, it was "Identity Crisis", a murder mystery which darkened the DCU to a point not seen since the 90s. Then "Countdown", a weekly series in which not a whole lot really happened but was billed as "epic". The storyline was incoherent. Then came "Infinite Crisis" itself, which apparently returned the multiverse concept with 52 parallel earths. Now there's "Final Crisis", the title of which is a transparent lie. Another weekly has been launched---"Trinity", featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. There are a number of "Final Crisis" tie-ins as well. All of it is a way for DC to rip off obsessive fanboys.

Marvel's done the same thing with "Civil War" and now "Secret Invasion", two utterly incoherent crossover events which will last precisely 10 minutes in Marvel Universe continuity.

Crossovers are overdone, and often utterly ridiculous.

Celebrity writers - The only celebrity who ought to be writing comics is Joss Whedon. Everyone else has been terrible, especially D-list reality "star" Judd Winick. What's especially egregious is that the celebrity writers often don't bother to learn anything at all about the characters they're writing---they just flail away. It's the equivalent of Chris Carter writing a week of "Days of Our Lives" where Bo and Hope become FBI agents investigating the supernatural.

The death of continuity There are now so many unique versions of iconic characters that one cannot see the construct for all the deconstruction. It's all fanboy onanism---new readers drawn in through the popularity of the movies have no chance at following any of this.

The movies and trade paperback collections When I started collecting, "Done in one" stories were the norm, Now everything's a five-parter, all the better for trade paperbacks and movie spec scripts.

No respect for the past The current generation of comics writers do not possess the same notion of stewardship over a franchise their predecessors did. Whereas previously the editors would fulfill the role as custodian, now the writers simply do whatever they wish. The result is a race to the bottom. Steve Rogers a bit staid? Kill him off! Not enough buzz in The Question? Replace Vic Sage with a lesbian. When in doubt, make 'em all Skrulls.

There are a few exceptions. "Walking Dead" is still a solid book, provided Robert Kirkman tempers his amputation fetish. "Amazing Spider-Girl" is like a trip back to the 70s, thanks to Tom DeFalco's realization that there was an untapped market of folks who longed for old Marvel. Bill Willingham's "Fables" is as innovative, charming, and thrilling as his spinoff "Jack of Fables" is not. "Justice Society of America" is uniformly excellent, perhaps because it has a reverence for the Golden Age.

There's one big upside to getting out of comics now---they've gotten so expensive (some monthlies now $3.95 per) that cutting them out will leave ready cash to lay out for some of those Omnibus and Archive editions collecting issues from back when comics were fun.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Cullen said...

I read a total of TWO mainstream mags: Thor and She Hulk. I love the characters too much to give them up. I love indy mags. I'll never give up Goon. Best thing on the shelves and you don't have to worry about any of the problems you listed.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Teflon said...

"I love the characters too much to give them up." Man, how many bad issues I have bought and skimmed at most for this reason!

I enjoy a number of indy mags, but they have their own problems, not least of which being you don't know if the current issue is the last.

I think comics as a whole is in trouble because they have not found ways to bring kids into the fold. Free Comic Book Day was a good start, but there have to be enough kid-friendly books to sustain it.

Character licensing has been tremendously successful the past few years, but my comic shop isn't seeing crossover in the form of video game playing or movie watching kids reading comics.

This is not a problem for the comic companies so long as the licensing makes money hand over fist---they can produce comics at a loss if they have to so long as profits are to be had there. Indeed, Marvel and DC are no longer comic companies but licensing companies if you look at their annual reports.

The problem is that comic readers are skewing older. I suspect that as with newspapers, we'll soon seen the demise of the printed comic. Unless some thought is given as to how to make the online comic reading experience more fruitful (I've got a whole bunch of those Gitcorp collections---not quite the same as reading the books), comics as a form is going to be dead within 20 years.

8:28 AM  

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