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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 

Comics may have come of age, but Marvel and DC's have gone backwards

The Tampa Tribune wrote about this year's SDCC, and says that comics have "come of age". But which ones? First:
SAN DIEGO - Samuel L. Jackson visits Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles twice a month. Employees there keep a box stuffed with the latest comic books and graphic novels.

Does that make him a nerd? Go ahead and call him that. We dare you.

"I don't know who actually defined it as such," Jackson said during an interview Saturday at Comic-Con where he was promoting his fantasy-driven film, "Captain America: The Winter Solider." "I've always read comic books. I've always spent time in comic book stores. I still do. I don't particularly consider myself a nerd. It's just that part of pop culture that I'm also a part of."
I wouldn't call him a nerd, but I do find it sad that he's become a left-wing political mouthpiece, and the SDCC management is perfectly fine with that. As a result, it's hard to appreciate that he's been a reader when he exploits the convention for left-wing politics, much like a lot of comic writers today have at their end of the spectrum.
The biggest rock stars at San Diego's Comic-Con this year weren't the guys in Metallica and Weezer but the fellows named Joss Whedon, Robert Kirkman and Neil Gaiman.

These purveyors of superheroes, zombies and Lovecraftian mystery are smashing records in the film and television world, driving the publishing industry and setting social media afire.

Whedon, the writer-director-producer of "Marvel's The Avengers," "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly," says our current obsession is comparable to the Greek or Norse mythologies, cave paintings and the religious high art of the Renaissance because it reflects our society.

"I feel like every culture has a different version of itself sort of writ large," Whedon said. "In Japan and different Asian cultures, people are floating in trees and doing kung fu, and here we dress up in tights and fight crime.

"These stories have been here in some cases closing in on 100 years and in some cases around 60. They not only inspired a bunch of children, those children grew up, and it's just become part of our mythos, a genuine mythos, a real sort of evolving mythology.

"It's something people can see and key into instantly. They know where they stand. They know what's good, what's bad, where the pain is, how they identify with it. That kind of shorthand is where iconography comes from."
Not all the children he speaks of grew up. Brian Bendis didn't if he exploited Avengers for story angles that detract from the fantasy element it was built on, right down to the time when Spider-Woman became the Wizard's bare prisoner.

And if only I could fully appreciate what Whedon says about keying in, knowing the good, bad, pain and identity, but alas, this only overlooks the real picture, when you have a bunch of Quesadas, Slotts, Winicks, Alonsos, DiDios, Johns, Kruls, Liefelds and Fractions in charge. With people like that who make a career out of blurring differences between good and bad, turn their backs on fans while making no genuine effort to draw new audiences, there's little chance anybody can read the newer stories and see when Whedon sees.

And if the books aren't selling well, how can they be "driving" the industry?
The way these characters and stories are told is getting far more complex as well. Comics are no longer full of silly one-dimensional characters. The stories can be epic and moving and offer a more satisfying creative outlet than the world of "serious" art.
It depends which publishers and authors we're talking about. Some independent ones can tell you a pretty good story now that's worth the effort, though even they can be overly political if you know where to look. But the big two show no interest any longer in giving anybody creativity, or epic tales, and the storytelling they have now is anything but complex. It's more like juvenile in a way that's not suited for younger readers. The characters may not be "silly" any longer, but they have wound up in a situation where they're very one-dimensionally written. And it's hard to fine a sense of humor in them.
"You do your best to write the most fantastic script you can for the most amazing artist," [Neil] Gaiman said. "You want to write a script that not only tells the artist what to draw but also in some ways if you can inspire the artist. You want to get their best work out of them, and you want them to be excited and inspired and thrilled and go, 'Oh, my God, I get to draw that! Nobody else in the world has ever drawn that, but I get to draw this and people are going to be amazed!'?"
As a writer, that's easy for him to say, because he's writing his take on the Sandman for DC's adult brand (Vertigo), most likely as a ploy to get more sales for short terms.
And more and more, everyone wants to be involved.

"People in Hollywood with the power to greenlight now look at comics as respectable a medium as anything - as novels, as plays, as anything," said Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. "They see there are great great stories and great characters to be mined from those issues."
That's a lot more than can be said of the people writing, drawing and editing the comics back on the home turf today. And which stories is he telling are "great"? If it's the older tales, yes, there's plenty, but the newer stuff since the 2000s? Practically nothing coming from Marvel and DC amounts to great.

And less and less do a lot of people want to be involved with the big two, as Bryan Hitch and George Perez made clear. And they're primarily artists! When artists become as disillusioned with the big two as various writers have because the editors are turning the publishing arms into their personal playgrounds where almost nobody who respected the older, better stories they published, is welcome, you know something's gone wrong.

The failure of these TV and movie producers to acknowledge the failures of the comics editors is just what's allowing the dumbing down of comics to continue unchallenged. Comics may have come of age, but the modern writers most certainly haven't.

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"Juvenile in a way that is not suitable for younger readers" is a good way to describe it. A lot of "adult entertainment" that is "suggested for mature readers" is really adolescent porn. They just take the conventional costumed-super-hero-fights-super-villain plot, increase the violence, add some sexual suggestiveness (and maybe some leftist propaganda), then congratulate themselves for having elevated the medium to Fine Art.

I'll stick with my silly, one-dimensional reprints.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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