Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh, We Can't Have Nice Things

Man, I am getting so tired of writing abut stuff like this. Fortunately, I get to come at it from a different angle this time.

For those who came in late, last week Bill Willingham posts this long screed last week wherein the few good points he makes gets subsumed because the fandom saw the words "superhero decadence" and saw red. The general tone of their response (especially among people who hadn;t read the damn thing) was "burn the heretic." I talked about it last week at some length (just like always--now that we're two weeks into it, you may have twigged that Witless Prattle doesn't do the brevity thing very well) and was kind of hoping things had moved on sufficiently to where I could maybe talk about something else this week.

Then, Chuck Dixon weighs in on much the same thing. And, like Willingham, he makes some good points about the state of things in superhero comics and why all these constant stories about moral ambiguity and such might not neccessarily work best for every superhero. Obviously, there are some superhero stories where they works well, but we may just be into "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" territory.

Mind you, he does himself no favours by drowning it in snark, but there it is. Given everyone's (myself included) tendency to act like a completely jerkass on the internet, to make glean anything useful out of any of it, you have to dial that stuff down, like ambient noise.

And so, the responses come in. Never have so many gotten up on so many K-Boxes. And I'm "appalled." With two "'p's."

Because it's less a considered debate than 30% defensive whinging, 20% throwing Dixon under a train ("journeyman writer" and "out of touch") 25% accusing him of wanting the Silver Age back (hauling out stuff like "The Anatomy Lesson" and other good stories from 25 years ago to justify the lousy echoes of them we see today), 15% trying to work out which of his fellow creators he was throwing under the bus, and a whopping 10% who actually picked through the good points he made and wanted to talk about them.

But as to the rest, wow. It's like this fell through a hole in time or something from when Fanboy Rampage was still going.

I'm not going to go into great detail or anything, but what came to me in reading these replies was that people either sadly shook their heads and said "well, the market's shrunk a lot, so that approach really isn't valid, and it's not what's selling," (as if it were a Good Thing that comics have retreated to the Direct Market, curled up in a fetal position, and hoped everything would turn out OK in the morning) and "Well, superhero comics evolved as a medium when Alan Moore started doing them, so really, going back wouldn't be good."

The latter argument is rubbish, for two reasons:

1) Even Alan Moore would say the success of superhero comics comes from a multitude of voices and approaches.

2) Not everyone is goddamn Alan Moore.

I don't know. I really don't. If things are at such a sorry pass when we don't even consider there might be approaches that might appeal to more than the steadily dwindling fanbase and actually, I don't know, perpetuate the medium to a generation that's not pushing 40, we're in trouble. If we can't even have have a discussion about this kind of thing without pulling each other down like crabs in a barrel, if we're so selfish that we don't even think about the readers that might come after us . . .man, we're in Real Trouble.


Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

What's more, even Alan Moore pulled an about-face on that one. And if the architect of the modern superhero comic says enough is enough...

I wish I could say I'm surprised at the backlash, but my current theory is that most of the intelligentsia has already bailed out somewhere between "Civil War" and "Secret Invasion", perhaps recognizing that Marvel and DC both need a Time-Out and it's better to just stay away until the current trends burn themselves out. The only people left who actually bother to participate in forum discussions are the crazies and the reactionaries and the frothing fanboys.

Kazekage said...

Yeah, the entire ABC line was, more or less, Moore saying, "Y'know, this kind of thing has really gone too far, let me try to get across some of the things I like that comics can do now.

It's hard to give a damn--yet another symptom of the Endless Crossover is that after while it's ground on so long the only emotional reaction you can get is either numbness or absolute apathy. It's the same sort of grinding futility that finally got me to drop the X-Books during Operation Zero Tolerance.

I'm pretty much in that camp, I think. I feel like I spend a lot of time waiting for something to break loose. The next big thing to get excited over and really get enthusiastic about.

Been waiting for quite a few years now. *L*

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

And we'll have longer still to wait, I imagine. Not the most cheerful thought, but we've got plenty to tide us over in the meantime. :)

Kazekage said...

Well, in the meantime we have Stupid Comic Tricks to laugh at. Those are always fun. :)