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My Take on Comics

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03 Aug 2015 13:02 - 03 Aug 2015 13:08 #207829 by Mr. White
My Take on Comics was created by Mr. White

Tim Champlin wrote: I hope you're able to get really excited about reading comics again.


Don’t want to derail Egg’s comic thread with any negativity, but want to just talk a bit about how comics and I went our separate ways.

(Note, this all only pertains to superhero comics. The only non-superhero stuff I read was Groo and Conan.)

I was a huge fan throughout the 80’s and 90’s, but once I started reading Astro City I began to feel like being a comic reader/collector wasn’t for me. Now, I _love_ Astro City, but it was what made me have a critical eye towards the rest of the field and here’s what I came up with which led to me eventually giving away bout 7 long boxes and getting out of any monthly reading.

1) The origin stories are the only real important tales. What goes down while an individual gets their power informs the hero they become. Why and how they do what they do. After that story, it’s just an endless parade of fights with bad guys, and for the most part it’s all pretty much the same, for the rest of the title’s lifespan until the book is cancelled. It gets tedious.

2) Ok, so the origin tale is the defining story for a character, then why is it the later tales are the ones that become classics? Because like others have mentioned, it’s the writer and the story they need to tell rather than a specific character that makes a story great. ‘Demon in a Bottle’ could be about anyone. Could be about Reed Richards. My favorite Spider-Man story ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’ isn’t even really a Spider-man tale. Kraven could have had a mad on for the Black Panther or The Falcon and the story would be much the same. There are, however, few stories that are relevant to their hero, something like ‘Armour Wars’, but for the most part you can interchange the heroes. So, following a specific hero became a waste of time. This leads to my next point.

3) Comics being sold monthly is a bad idea. When you _have_ to publish a tale for a character every month for multiple decades, you’re gonna have a bunch of trash in there. It’s worse when said character has multiple monthly books. The good ideas become farther and farther apart and you have writers painting characters into a corner or making what ends up being a poor decision down the road. You wind up with garbage like Maximum Clonage, Peter making deals with the Devil to be un-wed, or Mr. Grimm turning into a stone porcupine. I wish they wouldn’t publish monthlies, but only release comics when someone actually has a good story to tell on a character rather than simply to meet the monthly release quota.

4) Stuff like books becoming more and more expensive while the art got larger and the actual content smaller are all more subjective points, but I wasn’t a fan.

So, back to Astro City. Following solely that title for a bit, pulled me away from requiring a monthly comic fix. It came out/comes out sporadically and only when Busiek has a story he feels he needs to say. The art, while very solid, didn’t take over the pages so felt I was getting value for my funny book dollar. Using 'not-' characters, he could tell a Superman story then next time something with the FF. I felt like I could get all the spandex hit I needed and that every tale would be of a pretty high quality. Don't misread this as me saying that Astro City is the best of the best. I'm sure, and know, there are plenty of superhero comicbook stories better than Astro City, but for my purpose it provides enough of what I need for the genre.

What I'm saying is...I don’t think the format or genre is a total waste and that there are plenty of fantastic stories. I just think the model doesn’t lend itself to greatness and so ‘great’ is the exception rather than the rule.

I thought I heard at one point Peter David railed against the tradepaperback era, or tales being constricted with the idea to later sell the trade, but I do think comics are better suited for that medium. Do away with monthlies entirely and if Peter’s got more great Hulk or X-Factor stories to tell, go beyond the 22 pages from the start and put out a trade.

Anyway, will I get back into comics the way I once did? Very doubtful. I would like to read a few classic tales I’ve missed though and will likely rebuild that Astro City collection.
Last edit: 03 Aug 2015 13:08 by Mr. White.
The following user(s) said Thank You: MacDirk Diggler, OldHippy, Gregarius

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03 Aug 2015 13:29 #207832 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic My Take on Comics
Many good points. I've been a life-long fan of comic books, but I have now given up on following monthly titles twice now, and probably won't start up again.

The first time that I quit comics was in the early '90s. There was a combination of factors. I went through a rough spell financially at the start of the '90s. After my career got back on track, I had a very active social life for several years, which got expensive at times. And I got into multiple CCGs around that same time. Meanwhile, mainstream comics were mostly bad. Bad writing. Terrible artwork. And a plague of grim'n'gritty anti-heroes, inspired by but lacking the depth of guys like Rorschach and the DKR version of Batman. When Neil Gaiman wrapped up Sandman, I was done with comics for several years.

Around 2000, a friend loaned me a stack of comics that revived my interest. Promethea. Top Ten. Starman. Avengers, etc. For several years, I was back into comics on a regular basis.

Then various trends converged again to cause me to drop out of comics. I was saving up money for the down payment on my house. Decompressed story-telling and constant event-churn ruined Marvel for me. DC started to veer into grin'n'gritty again, then wiped out all continuity with a big and poorly-planned reboot. Two years ago, I lost a great job and replaced it with a worse job after a very long job search. And though it seems plausible that I will land a better job in the coming months, I will still be avoiding at least mainstream comics because both DC and Marvel are rebooting their respective continuities right now.

Beyond that, the price is too damn high these days. If I had a tablet, I might get comfortable with more affordable digital comics, but I think that I would be happier in the long run with trade paperbacks of my favorites. But when single issues are $4 or more, I just can't justify that kind of purchase. Comics are a terrible entertainment value, compared to music, movies, board games, console games, books, etc.

Even so, I still enjoy comics. I re-read stuff from my own collection from time to time. And the local public library has a decent collection that I have not quite finished reading yet. And I still spring for the occasional trade paperback from time to time.

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03 Aug 2015 16:46 #207863 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic My Take on Comics
I agree with a lot of Mr. White's points, although I have to add that Astro City is, in fact, published monthly these days and Busiek would have done so all along if he hadn't been battling a fatigue disorder.

My collecting dwindled to almost nothing when I stopped reading superheroes in the early 90s. Like I told Egg, I only read about 4 or 5 things these days and I get all of them but Astro City in trade paperback form, for precisely the reason noted: trying to keep up in monthly snippets just doesn't interest me anymore for really complex tales like Manhattan Projects and so on. I'd rather read them in big chunks so that I get a better feel for the narrative.

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03 Aug 2015 17:29 #207878 by metalface13
Replied by metalface13 on topic My Take on Comics
Jef, if you like Astro City I suggest you check out Irredeemable and Incorruptible. Also there was this one comic about the last days of a super hero, can't remember what it was called. He had fire powers and found out eventually he was just going to burn up and day. It was interesting.
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03 Aug 2015 18:01 #207879 by jpat
Replied by jpat on topic My Take on Comics
I wish electronic comics were cheaper, but they're largely not, albeit much more convenient and, for me personally, much easier to read because I can run Comixology's guided view and read panel-by-panel (which does lose something but gains more for me).

I think what's left of the industry--which is a relatively diminished industry anymore--has basically reached the same conclusions as Mr. White. Monthly books are increasingly "arced" to fit into five- and six-issue trades. DC and to some extent Marvel have been deemphasizing continuity, at least in the issues-numbered-in-the-hundreds sense that most of us old-timers remember (often fondly). Interestingly, I would've guessed that the rise of the superhero movie would've made the comics substrate more stable and archetypal, but it seems like the comics serials have continued to diverge from the "classic" lineups that dominate the movies and people's memories, perhaps in a desperate bid at novelty and relevance. In some ways, superhero comics could not possibly be more mainstream and in the public consciousness than they are now, and yet the actual ink-on-paper medium is probably smaller than it's been in decades.

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03 Aug 2015 18:51 - 03 Aug 2015 18:51 #207882 by OldHippy
Replied by OldHippy on topic My Take on Comics
I only buy very rarely these days and generally only collections. The last singles I bought were Glamourpuss which I found fascinating. In fact it was probably the most fascinating and original comic I had read in years. Unfortunately it's appeal is limited to a very small group of people.

The only new comics I buy anymore are things my son and I can read together. Tiny Titans (he's only four and with a second due in Sep these books will get some real use) and Superman Family Adventures. Both are great for father son reading time. We bought a few trades of Barks Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge stuff that he loves as well but there are some ... uh... very time period specific things in it that I'll have to address with him at some point (mild sexism, racism and the like).

Once in a blue moon I might pick up something older that I've been looking for like Alex Raymonds Flash Gordon run (amazing stuff) and Jack Coles Plastic Man (still missing one volume) or something new that comes out that I'm already invested in.

Comics, like novels and movies, only appeal to me on an individual basis. That is, I'm not interested in the medium in any kind of obsessive way. A good story that utilizes it's medium is great, but I'm not following everything. I'll wait for the big stuff. Libraries are our friends. Monthly releases hold no interest for me unless I think something is brilliant and probably won't be collected later (I bought Glamourpuss this way because I was pretty sure it was a dead title and would have no life in collection form).

I don't have anything against superheroes and think that those stories are no more limited than any other genre of story telling... it's all up to the writer..or probably the whole creative team really. But the fact that a story contains super heroes is neither good nor bad in and of itself. But the genre does command a certain audience and sometimes it can be tough to sell good super hero books because the regular audience has certain demands and the more 'serious' crowd dismisses them out of hand.
Last edit: 03 Aug 2015 18:51 by OldHippy.

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03 Aug 2015 19:29 #207883 by boothwah
Replied by boothwah on topic My Take on Comics
Collected and read up through the mid 90's - College / Work / Babies combined with completely crappy output for both companies (marvel /DC) - The 90's were the worst thing ever for comics - They were the follow-up to the trading card boom - Variant Covers! New #1's - 183 X-Books! POCKETS AND BELTS! (thanks Liefeld)

When I finally started reading again it was to pick up Thunderbolts. And then to read the Busiek/Perez run of Avengers. Picked up an odd run here and there (Quiver / Smith's run on Daredevil / Priest's Black Panther, etc) then completely swore off ever buying a monthly book ever after the horrid overbloated crossover editorial wankfests that have become the industry norm started cycling through every 2 to 3 years - HOUSE OF M! CIVIL WAR! THE CRISIS BEFORE THE NEXT CRISIS! BLACKEST NIGHT! REASON TO RETCON EVERYTHING UNTIL NEXT SUMMER !

This summer's Marvel batch of Full Retard is possibly the worst....since the last time DC did it.

I'll stick to reading trades every now and then.

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04 Aug 2015 01:00 #207900 by Tim Champlin
Replied by Tim Champlin on topic My Take on Comics
Good points Mr. White. 90% of my reading is in trades and I usually just follow writers and story lines that I hear are great. It's saved me a lot of disappointment and kept me excited about the medium. I was trying out Dan Slott's new Amazing Spider-Man monthly, but have only really enjoyed a handful of issues out of the 15 or so I've bought so far. Your post has inspired me to jump off. It was also incredibly frustrating when characters would go off to do something and then you would have to buy a whole other comic from another series to see what happens to them. Yeah I'll stick with reading in trades.

I've heard that Mike Mingola is also someone that won't write a Hellboy story unless he feels he has a good idea.

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04 Aug 2015 04:40 #207905 by Sevej
Replied by Sevej on topic My Take on Comics
I don't really follow superhero comics due to to several reasons such as multiple versions and meaningless deaths. I still read them casually, and for me I've changed my paradigm that in superheroes comic, I don't care on what happens, more on *how* it happens.

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04 Aug 2015 08:28 #207907 by Legomancer
Replied by Legomancer on topic My Take on Comics
I want to reiterate a point in the first post: "Comics" are not just superhero comics.

I've read more than my fill of that stuff, and I just don't care anymore. I'm not interested in superheroes, superhero homages, superhero pastiches, superhero deconstruction, superhero parody, antihero superheroes, just plain villain superheroes, and such. And that's fine, that's my taste and it's not other peoples' tastes and if they want that stuff there's plenty of it out there.

But there's plenty out there for me as well. The world of comics is HUGE. There's so much out there and it's dismaying to see how many people dismiss the medium because of one niche corner of it. I've never heard anyone say that they're really not interested in novels because they don't like science fiction. (It's also frustrating that people assume I'm seeing all these superhero movies and tv shows because I read comics.) I hate seeing "top ten" lists that include absolute garbage like "Kingdom Come" or "Identity Crisis" to fill them out because otherwise we might have to put in something not superhero.

There are so many people out there doing amazing things with the medium that it's distressing to have so much attention instead paid to someone desperately trying to make Batman or Spider-Man interesting again. I know people here like various genres in movies, TV, and books; why stick with only one in comics?

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04 Aug 2015 09:30 #207913 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic My Take on Comics
I absolutely agree that there are a lot of great comics that aren't about superheroes. And I have grown weary of the never-ending churn of the monthly superhero titles. But there is one specific way that superhero comics tend to trump other kinds of comics in the long run: the costumes. On any long-running title, change of artists tends to be necessary. People change jobs, or retire from the industry, or whatever, and non-costumed characters can become difficult to recognize from artist to artist. This is why I had trouble with the Sandman series. Characters from early in the run would come back later on, but with several artists in rotation with dramatically different styles, those returning characters were just random faces in the crowd assigned to a previously-used name. Superhero costumes (and supervillain costumes) make for immediate identification.

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