Mar 30, 2011

Five Things I Would Love to Not See for At Least Five Years in Comics

We all have things in our favorite hobbies that we'd all like to not see for a while, simply because there's been so much of it. If you're a basketball fan, you might not want to see the LA Lakers in this year's Finals, or see the Miami Heat, like, ever. If you're a wrestling fan, you might be sick of John Cena or TNA screwing everything up. If you watch Smallville, you may just want the show to end already. If you love poetry, maybe you're sick of way-too-experimental-that-no-one-but-the-poet-can-understand poetry.

Well, there are things I hate about comics too, and I'd be happy to not see them for, oh, at least the next five years. Here they are.

5. Self-reference

That panel is from THE ADVENTURES OF UNEMPLOYED MAN, which is an otherwise excellent satire on the current state of the world's economy, using superheroes. It's also really nicely drawn, and I really hope the artists (one of whom is Rick Veitch) get more steady work in the future.

But then there's that panel. That panel that says "Look at this, we're making fun of comics, while simultaneously showing that comics can depict something other than what it's stereotypically known to show. It's a way to make it show that comics can convey serious stuff." It's trying to be ironic. I get it.

Here's a panel from ASTERIOS POLYP, which every regular reader of the blog knows is one of my favorite comics of all time.

That's not a new trend. Here's a panel from an issue of PROMETHEA from earlier in the century. This is by Alan Moore.

All right, guys. I get it. I'm sick of the self-reference. Comics can say something serious. I know it, you know it; the world's been catching on. At this point, after all these years, it just looks defensive and reeks of trying too hard. Let's stop doing it now.

4. Metafiction

Metafiction is tied into self-reference, but I thought I would set it apart in the sense that self-reference just talks about one-off jokes and sequences in otherwise straightforward stories, while metafiction actually makes the story about comics, in some sort of allegorical way. It's been done for a long time, most notably back in the late 80s and early 90s, in Grant Morrison's ANIMAL MAN:

And it's been a frequent topic of many comics since then. It was even kind of subtly hidden in Neil Gaiman and Greg Capullo's ANGELA series in the mid-90s. You read this and tell me they're not talking about working for DC and Marvel.

The two most notorious culprits of this lately are the DC architects, Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns. Johns is responsible for Superboy-Prime's recent characterization, where he's a fanboy who bitches that the universe isn't the way he'd prefer it to be. In the final issue of FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS, there isn't even any subtlety to it whatsoever.

And of course, there's Grant Morrison's FINAL CRISIS, a story that even on its most superficial level you know has hidden meanings. And of course, they're about the comics industry.

My favorite anecdote about this is that a friend read FINAL CRISIS, got that it meant something more than what was directly on the page, and asked me what it was. When I explained it to him — my interpretation, the popular fan interpretation, and Morrison's own interpretation — his reaction simply was, "Huh. Okay. But what about people like me, who don't care about that stuff?" I didn't have an answer.

Enough already, guys. Let's just have straightforward stories.

3. Batman

There's always that one guy with each company who just shows up so goddamn much. For Marvel, it changes — there was Spider-Man, Wolverine, Deadpool, and the next guy — but for DC, it's been the same damn guy since 1989. In the 90s, Batman went through a series of big events. And then in the 2000s, he lay low for a while, and then 2006 happened, and now he's everywhere. Again. All the time. They even killed him and he was still everywhere, with something like three separate series dedicated to finding him. In November, DC Comics took 8 spots out of the top 10 (the other two belonged to NEW AVENGERS and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN). Five of those were BATMAN books, two of which were #1s. I'm glad that DC's method for succeeding is to flood the market with Batman. That'll sure promote variety and originality in the industry.

Seriously, I'd love to see Batman go away just for a few years. Just give us the time to miss him, damn it. See what else you're capable of in that time period. And then you can bring him back, and when you do, you have a larger bag of tricks.

2. Iron Man

Marvel has a different go-to guy every eight years or so when they want someone to be a cash cow. In the 80s, it was Spider-Man; in the 90s, Wolverine; and now you have either Deadpool or Iron Man. Iron Man makes this list because he just has so much more exposure. Also, he sucks as a character.

(Before anyone comments and says that someone created by Rob Liefeld can't be better than someone created by Stan Lee and Don Heck, I'm going to say that Deadpool was created by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, and Fabian Nicieza.)

Does anyone really think that Rob Liefeld
did something other than rip off Deathstroke?

1. Big events

I said it here, and I'll say it again. Big events cause event fatigue, alienating potential new readers and exhausting current ones. At the end of the day, you don't get complete stories and everything always has to lead to something else.

Give me the done-in-one stories and the occasional two- or three-issue story. Give me Dick Giordano's "There Is No Hope in Crime Alley," or Roger Stern and Ron Frenz's "The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man." Give me Len Wein and Ross Andru's "The Longest Hundred Yards," or give me a random two-parter from Mark Waid's run on THE FLASH. Give me George Perez and Jill Thompson's "Chalk Drawings." Give me any of James Robinson and Tony Harris' STARMAN "Talking With David" stories. Give me the freaking LAUGHING FISH.

Just, please, give me complete stories.

You might be wondering why I named two characters I've had enough of over the last few years in items 2 and 3, while I omitted Green Lantern (seemingly again on a list), when half of DC's output has revolved around him. The reason is simple. Ever since 2006, when they brought back Hal Jordan, I've actually wanted a string of solid and good Hal Jordan stories. Instead, I keep getting the continuation of a long-as-the-Great-Wall story, a good portion of which doesn't even focus on Hal Jordan. ENOUGH ALREADY. Give me a series of one-issue stories about Hal Jordan. Maybe they can all link together, like they used to, but don't give me eight issues of a special series with tie-ins that you need to get to get the full story, with other supplemental issues around the rest of the DC Universe, only to have the ending pretty much say "Buy the next big event." Stop it already.

Do away with the events. Just give me actual stories. With a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Comments? Let me know.


Jericho said...

Huh? Rob Granito's not on this list?

Duy Tano said...

Rob Granito (or fraud artists for that matter) are not IN comics, so they can't make the list.

Besides that, I wrote this last week.

MOCK! said...

More and more often these days, "Big" events really aren't big in any other way than the impact they have on my wallet.

"Secret Invasion" did absolutely NOTHING over the stretch except bring back Mockingbird and set up the next "BIG" event.

I will take a big event that can be self contained (a la the original Crisis) or ignored (a la "Siege") with no impact on the books I am reading.

Don Hudson said...

Duy,I'm new to your blog! I'd like to know what comic storyline excites you? Dark Phoenix? Death of Superman?

The Professor said...


I generally agree with the idea behind your list, but I'm going to stick-up for Animal Man. There's no doubt that the post-modern approach gets old very fast, but back in the day, Animal Man was really quite fresh and I think it worked for about 20 issues or so.

Duy Tano said...

Prof: After your comment, I reread the metafiction section and realized I didn't really mention this part: I actually have no problem with ANIMAL MAN or anything that did it in those early days. I am quite sick of its being a very common theme in recent years though. It seems that you can't tell a big comics story without discussing either the nature of comics or superheroes, which is really just good for talking about . . . comics or superheroes. So yeah, that's just a longwinded way of saying what you said. The postmodern approach gets old fast. If one must go postmodern, I think they should do it in a layered fashion so you can enjoy it even without the "meta" part of the fiction.

Don: The two titles I'm collecting today are LIFE WITH ARCHIE and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Generally, I just like good stories, and I'm not a fan of big events. And also, most of the time, I collect for the artist, then the writer, then the character.

Mock: My wallet keeps telling me to boycott these crossovers. Seriously.

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