Today’s Comics   2 comments

Escalation!

 It’s the name of the game.  Where will it end? Will it end?  Let’s hope not!

 Surely, if you read comics today, you’ve noticed that Marvel and D.C. are caught up in a war of mega-stories and special events.  Once upon a time (a long time ago, admittedly, getting back to the sixties and before) a writer could tell a satisfying story in 8 pages,  The story would be something simple—something like Pulverizing Man needs money to pay a parking ticket, so he robs the local candy store and is thwarted by Super-Jughead.  The story is over in 8 pages and 4 of those are pin-ups of Hetty and Moronica.  There used to be three, sometimes four such stories in a single comic book.

 What do we have today?  We have stories that take 80 issues crossing over through the entire company line and 8 months to tell.  Saving the world isn’t enough any more.  Saving the whole galaxy has become the new bottom line for the super folks, and if the galaxy isn’t enough, then our heroes must save the universe.  For D.C. one universe wasn’t enough, last year’s event had 52 parallel universes on the line, and I have no idea how much of creation is being threatened right now by the Blackest Night crossover event that has been building up in Green Lantern comics for the last 2 years.

 Marvel does the same thing.  I just finished The Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares.  In the course of the story there are terrorist attacks that take out giant skyscrapers and whole sections of cities—the casualties are in the thousands.  Tony Stark, who has single-handedly changed the face of the Marvel Universe with his Registration Act, has to run 20 Iron Man suits by remote control to finally defeat his enemy. 

 Comic companies slide from one mega-series to another.  I don’t even try to follow Marvel—I just pick up graphic novels at the library and browse the covers at the comic book store—but it seems to me they’ve gone through Civil War, the Initiative, The Secret Invasion and now Dark Reign in about the last 2 years.  Back in the 80s we used to have one double issue crossover event a year.  Now we have two (or more) multi-issue crossovers every year, and one hasn’t really ended before the next one begins.  To try and read all the tie-ins would cost a person hundreds of dollars a month.  Not to mention Spider-Man, whose story and personal life had so escalated out of control that they had to do a deal with a devil and reboot the entire nature of reality in the Marvel universe to give him back his secret identity and a bit of operating room.  A deal with the devil that rewrites the entire nature of reality?  Come on! 

 Are all the comic writers playing games of Top This If You Can?  It certainly seems like it.  The whole phenomenon reminds me of a Catastrophe Theory graph.  That looks like an ascending curve until suddenly the line just breaks and plummets down to the base level again.  Where will it end in comics?  Possibly with the bankrupting of Marvel or D.C. when they finally try to do too much and nobody buys their overpriced fantasies any longer.  It has to happen—if not this decade, then sometime in the next 50 years.  Will they crash back to a manageable level and survive, or will they just be replaced by some cheaper and more satisfying form of entertainment?  Time will tell.

 In other news, I’ve finished reading:

 The Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares—very good story for all my railing about escalation above.

Spider-Man: With Great Power—a re-imagining of the Spider-Man origin story, and much more complex than Lee’s original origin.  Peter Parker, Spider-Man, puppet of organized crime—oh my!  Beautiful painted art throughout—a masterpiece of comic storytelling, really, and I don’t think anyone will even notice.  This level of production values has become commonplace and expected now.  It isn’t only the size of stories that is escalating, but production values, customer expectations, everything is just going up and up and up.

 Found this morning at the library, all of these I intend to read:

Superman/Brainiac by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

Justice League of America: the Injustice League by Dwayne McDuffie and others

Chaos by Ted Dekker

Renegade by Ted Dekker

Usagi Yojimbo: Bridge of Tears by Stan Sakai

Svetlana Chmakova’s Nightschool: the Weim books. (an American manga that deliberately apes the Japanese style, pointy chins big eyes, spiky hair and all)

 

I might add here at the end that the independent comics give me some hope.  They’re not all about the cataclysmic saving of the universe—they are about stories of people in difficulties or unusual circumstances.  I’d migrate to them, except that I really do love superheroes.  I guess that’s because I always wanted to be one.

 

End.

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Posted August 20, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Today’s Comics

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  1. I think that it all started with Marvel’s “Secret Wars”, which was a 12 issue muli-hero crossover that ran from May ’84 to April ’85. That was really something of a precursor; the plot line was pretty much limited to its own books. The real stupidity didn’t start until “Secret Wars II” the next year, which is when they introduced the idea of putting little bits of the plot in nearly every comic they published. And THAT led to both of the majors doing annual summer crossover “events.

    The thing is, comics has crashed and more or less recovered several times already; there was a huge speculator driven bubble in the late 80s that crashed hard. I think the long term direction of the industry is already here, in the form of web-comics followed by small press bound volumes, in the style of “Girl Genius” and “The Order of the Stick”.

    In the meantime, my wife and I continue to spend about as much on comics every month as we do on internet service…

    ~G’Noll

  2. I agree that it got waaaaaay out of hand, right about the time they decided that nobody could deal with the story being a mere what? 25 -30 pages long, and therefore that they had to write ‘novels’ in comic-book form. Never mind novels, some of these puppies surpass War and Peace for sheer page-count. Ane yes, eventually, nobody’s going to buy them anymore.

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