The State of Superheroics

As the kids and I enjoy the hi-jinks of Super Hero Squad on Cartoon Network, over in comic book land, the storylines of the Big Two have grown increasingly troubling.  Check this summary from SF Signal:

If we are to adhere to DC comics continuity, the version of the Man of Steel lifting that car on the cover of Action Comics #1 was recently turned into a soulless super zombie that slaughtered much of the population of Smallville. He is one of many dead heroes reanimated for DC’s latest mega-event Blackest Night, a story hinging on the fairly idiotic concept that every color of the spectrum mystically corresponds to an emotion, and these are the primal forces of the universe. The Green Lantern Corps now operates alongside the Red LanternsIndigo Lanterns, and so on, and all of them have to deal with super-zombies. It’s like gore-riddled Power Rangers fanfic written by folks who watch too much Japanese horror*.

Corpses rise to take steaming dumps on the work of the many talented creators who have shaped these characters over the decades. Established canons are discarded, the legacy of Jack Kirby is trampled under the feet of the rotting undead.

Meanwhile, in the Marvel Universe, the world is run by bad guys who stage a terrorist act to justify awar on Asgard. The less said about that nauseating mess the better.

The state of “mainstream” comics is downright insulting. The internal logic of these stories fall apart before our eyes. Whole universes are tainted forever (or until the next reboot). This abhorrent stuff is on par, both ethically and aesthetically, with Pokemon, only with more mind-rape and glistening innards.

And the fanboys just keep lapping it up, buying it in droves and spouting glowing reviews with each fresh defiling. And the public doesn’t care. People shriek about the portrayal of Teabaggers in Captain America, but have no problem with the dim-witted idea of 100,000 Kryptonians immigrating to Earth or the Green Goblin being put in charge of National Security.

I have to admit, this sounds pretty damned awful.  In reality, it’s a consequence of one of the major developments of the Aughts for mainstream comics:  the emphasis on trade paperbacks and graphic novels.  As publishers have looked to bookstore shelves to maximize profits, the monthly comic has suffered.  In order to maintain interest, Marvel and DC have resorted to ‘epic crossover’ events designed to tempt the fanboy into buying more and more monthlies to keep it all straight – nearly always at the expense of logic and decent storytelling.

This is one reason why I’ve stayed away from the mainstream hero books for awhile now.  It’s just too confusing and convoluted.   It comes from what I like to call writerly oneupsmanship.  Each new rockstar writer thinks he has to somehow top the previous story arc.  And then you end up with zombie Superman and the Green Goblin running National Security.

But Marvel and DC seem to care more about licensing than the comics anyway, so they’re probably not sweating it.  At some point you hope they move back to the roots, tell decent stories and return to the truth of the characters.  And hey there, editors: if you need someone to write some of those scripts, I’m always available.


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