So here we are 2004....nothing new...just finished taking down the decorations...
Been doing some reading...I've got a pack of reviews I'll be putting up on Thursday, mostly comics from previous months and a few things I picked up online and from some friends of mine.
Anyway, onto a topic I've been meaning to get to;
A lot of commentators have said that the superhero comic is dead, and that we should stop spending time trying to revive it.
Well, are they right? Yes and no.
Yes, major corporate superhero comics (DC and Marvel) are dead dead dead, and have been for a long time. And simply put, that is just fine with the publishers, who are more interested in using the property in other media where they will be much more profitable and reach a broader audience. So, keeping that in mind, the corporate mentality is to keep the books consistent, stable, and pretty uninteresting. This is how Chuck Austen and Geoff Johns draw a paycheck, get over it.
However, whenever I hear that the superhero genre is dead, I have to smile ruefully. I point them to some really interesting indy superhero works such as The Forgotten or Sentinels, or even some of the more impressive genre work being done by Ed Brubaker or Micah Wright. The superhero genre is growing up, but it isn't dead. It is however, fighting for survival, and things do need to be changed drastically in order for the medium to survive.....
Here's what I think needs to be done.....
1) IMPLEMENT THE NICEZA RULE - Something I picked up from then-Marvel golden boy Fabian Niceza. If a comic doesn't hold your interest for two issues straight, DROP IT!
2) DON'T TAKE CRAP - You know that NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING Chuck Austen does interests you, drop it, let it go...
3) FUCK CONTINUITY - This is probably my biggest personal thing. When dealing with fictional realms, we shouldn't let some perceived notion of "the way things are" get in the way of telling a good story. Grant Morrison wants to tell two years worth of Superman stories, but he doesn't want to be tied down to things like the Lois/Clark marriage, then let him tell his story. Reboot continuity as often as you like to make the writers tell the best possible stories they can. This will allow for good storytelling.
4) SUPERHEROES FOR KIDS, NO REALLY - Stop trying to get both 8 year olds and 22 year olds to pick up Avengers. It's hard to appeal to all ages in any industry, but most of them know who their audience is, and they aim for it. you want kids to pick up comics? Take some lessons from Justice League Animated series, keep the stories and art simple, but not simplistic. If you want to do superheroes, do them right. Make it good, but make it cheap, disposable entertainment. If someone has to choose between $3 for a 22 page comic or $3 for a movie rental, comics will loose every time.
5) COMICS FOR ADULTS, THE POST-SUPERHERO (AKA THE NEO-PULP MOVEMENT) - Something like the Forgotten, or books like Sleeper and Stormwatch work because they are appealling to the same type of people who liked the old-sci-fi and mystery pulp magazines that predated comics. They were well written heroic sagas. It may be hard to realize, but remember that something like The Shadow was a major hit long before the advent of the modern superhero. It seems that by incorporating some of the elements of both superhero and old pulp genre, we arrive at a model that might bring back some of the larger audiences these formats once enjoyed.
6) FORMAT FORMAT FORMAT - Ok, let's face it, the current format HAS TO GO! TPBS and OGNS are a step, but we have to find a way of creating a format for comics that is ideal for large scale distribution again.....
7) DEATH TO THE DIRECT MARKET! - Kill it before it kills the industry.
8) THE SECOND GENERATION SUPERHERO? - This is more of an observation than any kind of suggestion, but I've noticed an increase in the second-generation superhero idea in recent years (JSA, Invincible, the aforementioned Sentinels, etc.). Now, while you'd have to look at the demographics here, I have a theory I'd like to suggest to you. The original superheroes were created in the 40s and 60s for the most part, ages of extreme turbulence, conflict, and rapid social and technological change, with each generation treating their times as being unique. Well, now it seems that we also live in such times, BUT, unlike previous generations, we have the advantage of looking back with a clearer perspective, and understanding that there are similarities to what has happened in the past and how to avoid some of the mistakes and failings of the past. If the superhero of 40's and 60's were a metaphor for how those generations came to terms with their times, perhaps, and just perhaps, the second-generation superhero is a metaphor for the generation of this age. Of course, I'm an engineer, not a sociologist, so I'm probably wrong on this one.