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Thursday, May 14, 2020 

The comics whose value is uncertain for these times

The University of Alabama's Crimson White campus paper published an item citing what the writer claims are perfect reads for the time of Coronavirus. Which predictably include some of the most pretentious recent mainstream publications of the past decade, including Jonathan Hickman's 2015 recycling of Secret Wars:
Jonathan Hickman is writing “X-Men” right now for Marvel, but before that he wrote a story about what it means to be afraid that the things you love will disappear, a story that unfolded across runs on “Fantastic Four,” “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Avengers,” and “New Avengers” and half a decade of comics. It was a story about the end of all reality and the ways in which superheroes – and readers – would deal with the end of the Marvel Universe. It is a grim story. Heroes struggle, and they fail. People die. Over and over again we are told that “everything dies.” And, then, Marvel blew up their universe and canceled all their books for half a year while “Secret Wars” explored what little survived the end. The story shows that the characters, stories and worlds readers had loved and lost could never really go away, because they had loved them. This is a comic book that gives me chills everytime I read it – a book that both makes me terribly sad and fills me with joy. It is a testament to the genre, to the Marvel Universe and to making it through the worst.
The things we love have vanished many years ago, victims to the political correctness espoused by Joe Quesada. Sure, the older stories will never truly go away, and new stuff doesn't have to ruin the older stuff so long as we don't consider it canon, which it certainly isn't. But that's still no excuse for stories so cynical, built on such downbeat elements. That's exactly why superhero comics have become such a mess, and lost audience, because all the contributors seem to care about now is the most negative ideas one could possibly express. For example, I've thought the Phoenix saga from X-Men became far too influential as a wellspring over the years, and the structure of Hickman's crossover isn't all that different.

And on that note, wouldn't you know it, the college propagandist made sure to cite another overrated story from the early 90s, the Death & Return of Superman, along with a few other modern stories that could be similar:
If there’s anything you can say about Superman, it is that he endures. We have to kill him every few years to make sure that he does, and we are always surprised to find that it is true. All of these stories have different takes on what it means for Superman to die. Sometimes, as in 1962’s “The Last Days of Superman!,” he works to inspire a world that can be full of super people who do as much good as they can. Sometimes, as in 1986’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” he gets to live a life for himself, though he lets us know that he will always be there if we need him. In 1993’s “The Death of Superman” and 2016’s “The Final Days of Superman,” he passes the mantle down to others inspired by his power, and the idea of Superman endures. In 2008’s “All-Star Superman,” he discovers that in a world without Superman, we would have to imagine him and so would learn to hold each other up. Every time DC Comics tests Superman by killing him, we discover that what made him special is what makes all of us special, that what we should do in times of uncertainty is look out for the people around us, that when the things we think are forever are brought into question we must find strength in ourselves.
It's not often I come upon lectures this tasteless. Killing Superman alone does not a good story make, nor is it an inherently good example, especially when you think of all the countless other examples that came around the bend since Gwen Stacy originally got sent to the great reward in 1973. Speaking of which, does the college columnist think killing Spider-Man would ensure the ideas he was built upon endure, or that he serve as inspiration? The lack of merit in any such story over the past 20 years certainly didn't. Interestingly enough, 2 notable Spidey stories from better days are cited next:
If there is are any comics about dealing with uncertainty – about dealing with tragedy – that should give us an idea of how to move forward constructively when we can’t see what our future looks like, they are “Amazing Fantasy #15” (the first appearance of Spider-Man) and “Amazing Spider-Man #121 and #122.” These are stories about a person, twice in the span of just a few years, dealing with terrible personal tragedies he feels complicit in and blames himself for. Over the course of those first 123 issues of Peter Parker’s story, he goes from being a scared and angry kid to being someone who really understands that with power comes responsibility, that with tragedy and fear comes an obligation to look out for the people who aren’t gone, to reach out and know that time will show the way.
While those early Spidey stories make far better choices, I don't think you can say a kid who lost all fear of heights in his very first story was truly "scared", seeing how Peter Parker was already crawling up the walls of buildings in his debut. And as for power and responsibility, along with obligations to look out for those who aren't gone, Marvel's modern politically correct staff didn't exactly do that while Stan Lee was still around, seeing how they've deconstructed everything he did his best to craft in the first place. All without being positively constructive. Just look at what Quesada did with Mary Jane Watson. That's what you call constructive? The last recommendation this article makes is for the animated movie Into the Spider-Verse:
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” might be the best comic book movie ever, partially because it knows exactly how to take a lesson and pass it on to a new character effortlessly. It is a film about finding community and acceptance and hope in a world that doesn’t make sense. It knows that when we don’t know what to do, we shouldn’t feel guilty, but take responsibility to try to make things better.
Yet that's not what Quesada did, not Axel Alonso, whose new company formed with Bill Jemas, AWA, should decidedly not get our dollars for their products. Did Alonso and Jemas ever take responsibility for the harm they caused Marvel in the long run? Did Quesada? Nope. They've never apologized for belittling Mary Jane Watson, nor for any other artistic mistake they made when they took up the reins at the turn of the century. So what good does it do to fawn over films and comics written by people who, despite all claims to the contrary, are irresponsible?

Articles like these are just what's wrong with universities today. If these are uncertain times, so is the "merit" of 3 out of 4 examples.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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