Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Just Sayin'--News of the Weird

 Hey y'all. Apologies for the lack of updates but honestly, I've found that the more I talk about comics the more I find the whole thing a loathsome, depressing waste of time and years for the days when I was still doing Mad Men reviews and could languish in the happy optimism that was it's existential depression, sexual degradation, self-destruction and promises of suicide. You know, the good old days.

 It's almost not even anger any more so much as it is an awful, sobering epiphany that what you hoped for is never going to come and you are alone in the universe, only since this is superhero comics, there's really no need for Claremontian highfalutin' bullshit like that. It's just this general annoyance and irritation about superhero comics that I can't shake. Nevertheless, I am here to entertain you, so let's look at the news, shall we?

 Did anyone actually like Before Watchmen? It's out now, so I guess we're past the "preliminary debates" to the "so how bad does it stink" phase now. I've been reading the reviews--not because I give a shit about the reviews (I know what happens before Watchmen, possibly because I read Watchmen), but because it's an interesting psychological study. The few sites that have review it so far seemed to be doing a sterling job of apologising for its existence, and I'm amazed so many can hold their nose and type, but after a few weeks, one imagines someone who is not me would have brought up the singular burning question about Before Watchmen (besides the "where the fuck did all these experts on Charlton comics come from all of a sudden?") namely, WHAT IS THE FUCKING POINT OF DOING A PREQUEL THAT IS COMPRISED OF FLASHBACKS WHEN THE ORIGINAL BOOK WAS 60% FLASHBACKS ALREADY?

 I know the reason, of course. Money. Obviously. I remember Bill Hicks, after lambasting Hulk Hogan as a "pituary retard," followed it up with the observation that "that retard makes more money than you" and suddenly snapped, "IS THAT ALL IT IS--FUCKING MONEY?"

 Guess so. Sorry Bill.

 And today comes word of Marvel Now We Put 2012 on the Cover And Hope You Don't Realise It's The Same Shit By The Same People (Now With Musical Chairs!) I think, after a certain point, if you've rebooted and relaunched and rolled back and fuck I'm out of euphemisms this much, you really might as well not bother pretending that comics should be in any way shape or form sequential any more, so just cram whatever random bullshit you want in there. You know--one month every word balloon is just "potzrebie" over and over again, the next issue is just a big foldout of a stick figure with enormous genitals with the and arrow pointing to "MY NUTS" Marvel has all but declared war on logic, common sense, and the notion of respecting anyone's intelligence, why not go all the way?

 But guys, it's not all terrible. Nope. I refuse to drown and froth in rage--we're gonna finish on a high note. The estimable Kelly Thompson has been sharing excerpts of her future book (and current Kickstarter success story), The Girl Who Would Be King at her blog, and I've been reading along and I must say . . .it's great stuff y'all. There's a little bit of Unbreakable in it, what with how she's grounding the tropes of superhero comics in a real-world setting (while still using to the tropes of superhero comics to shape the perceptions of what having superpowers would be like) but without the dour joylessness that Unbreakable had. No, the characters who get superpowers in this book think it's really damn cool to have them and have a bit of fun with them, even as they try to grapple with the real-word downsides of things like super-strength (namely hitting someone without super-strength might actually kill them)

 It manages to do the exact reverse of what injecting "realism" into comics generally does--bog them down into grim blatherskite and general impotence, and show up the self-consciousness that seems to drive most superhero books nowadays. With The Girl Who Would Be King, the real world refracted through the superhero prism is a place of hope, danger, heightened possibilities. It's exciting.

 I don't wanna say too much because I don;t want to spoil it. I will say this--it doesn't feel like the glum "deconstruction of superheroes/OMG what if superheroes were like, real?" stories that we've been living in the black shadow of lo these many years. It feels like--and I apologise if this is a really silly metaphor, like someone took the Lego blocks of superhero comics and concepts and instead of building the 747 that was pictured on the box--built this cool otherworldly spaceship that looks really sleek and badass. Both could fly, but one takes the past and makes something interesting and makes you excited about what may come next. The other's just a 747.

 It does not feel like Watchmen leftovers, or Johnsian devotion to a past that never really existed, or Bendisian homogenization--it's got some real thought in it, some heart to it, and a lot of fun in it. It's well worth a read, and I highly recommend checking it out.


C. Elam said...

I've been lax on commenting here. Must...fix...this.

I exhausted all my anger over superhero comics a few years ago, I think. I mean, a lot of those creators seem like nice folks. I follow Tom Brevoort on Tumblr. I don't think bad things about most of them. But man, I just cannot work up an ounce of excitement over any damn thing in mainstream superhero comics. It all feels like a lot of frantic plate spinning to forestall the inevitable shutdown by the corporate overlords.

I am heartened that there are a lot of good comics being produced in this day and age. It just takes work to find them (not a complaint, more an observation). That's what will carry the medium as an artform, not the 20,000 people who will buy UNCANNY AVENGERS.

Part of me still wants to believe DC and Marvel can produce a lot of high quality material. But I've come to accept that this is unlikely. In fact, I doubt it has ever really been the case.

Kazekage said...

Well, it helped a little that I actually started POSTING new stuff. *L*

I think that's where I am too. I'm alternately sad and annoyed, but not angry. My feeling about Marvel and DC is like going to see that one aunt you hate and she hates you and you have to plaster on a fake smile and be polite when she visits when all you really want for her to do is take her bitch ass away from you.

Yeah, and the work is sometimes too much of a hassle to do, BUT, when I find it, I like to support it. Because the day I buy anything called UNCANNY AVENGERS is the day I run the hose from the exhaust pipe of my car into the cab and turn the engine on.

There's always been stupid shit around. There's always been stupid shit that was still somewhat enjoyable. Then things got so small that all that was left was people trying to sell you the stupid shit in the most desperate, obnoxious way possible.

C. Elam said...

Yeah, I think it's how small and yet paradoxically huge it's gotten. I mean, The Avengers movie made a metric fuck ton of money and Marvel can't even pull numbers on any of those books that wouldn't have made Martin Goodman grimace in pain, cancel the whole line, and publish more issues of Swank? Something is fundamentally broken.

I eventually got to the point where I didn't much think about what was going on in the books as something that affected me. It's a weird sort of disconnect I have, but it allows me to happily read my comics without fretting about what they've done to the Scarlet Witch or the JSA this week.

Kazekage said...

I think Marvel and DC could both do with some time pondering the question "So why do people seem to like our comic book heroes in every format except comic books." I hate to say it, but half the problem I have is what Mark Waid alludes to here--you can't find the damn things anymore and they're just talking exclusively to the die-hards now.

And paradoxically, this has made me stop being a die-hard.