Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Make Way for the DC Resplosion -or- Why We Are So Weary -or- Fuck the Morning People

(This is part of a cross-site series of thoughts on the recent DC Whatever-It-Is. If you'd like to read more, please visit my Tumblr and two new articles at the at-least-briefly-revived Seebelow)

Gone&Forgotten isn't a current events blog, but I do think it attracts an audience which itself represents a significant wedge of the mainstream comics-reading population: long-time readers who have a history of supporting these comics and want to continue to support these comics, but feel excluded from them at the same time. 

These are people who have, at the very least, a cogent muscle memory of having been excited and enthusiastic for comics once but who - in recent years - have increasingly felt themselves uninvited to the party and unable to stir in themselves the old passion for four-color escapism. In short, a reliable crowd, consistently shelling out cash money for the muted thrill of familiarity, glumly thumbing through newsprint pamphlets with the lethargic, bovine persistence of a predatory tortoise, looking for the barest morsel of community and wonder. You know, the winners.

In the midst of the recent hubbubbery over at DC Comics and their upcoming Pre-Re-Implosion, this crowd has found itself more on the outs than ever.

At the risk of choosing to speak for that audience, and furthermore at the risk of making that fatal assumption endemic to the well-seasoned human (i.e. “old people”) that there’s no reason they can’t have the same fun and enjoy the same things in the same way as their younger counterparts, might I suggest that the root cause of the exclusion we feel does not necessarily lie with this stalwart audience of the less frequently marketed to. Rather, could the problem possibly be that mainstream superhero comics are inherently young, and like all things young, they wear their jeans too low and they’re too goddamn loud? I think so, yes.

Bombast has always been a part and parcel of mainstream comics. Even if you remove Stan Lee from the equation, there’s no shortage of bold claims made in orange print and braced by a legion of exclamation marks on every fourth or fifth page of our childhood favorites. 

“NOT AN IMAGINARY TALE!” it reads, “NOT A HOAX!” and “Do YOU remember THIS OATH which turned YOUNG BRUCE WAYNE into BAT-MAN?” Full-page in-house ads in garish yellow and orange, “THE LATEST FROM THE HOUSE OF IDEAS,” “the DYNAMIC NEW DIRECTION that will CHANGE COMIC MAGS FOREVER!” … “AMAZING! DARiNG! DIFFERENT! … AN IDEA SO ASTONISHING THAT YOU WILL SHIT YOURSELF! YOU WILL LITERALLY SHIT YOURSELF … AND THEN YOU WILL RUN NEXT DOOR AND SHIT THE NEIGHBORS! PREPARE YOURSELF AND YOUR SHIT AND YOUR NEIGHBORS FOR THE GREATEST SUPERHERO IN COMICS HISTORY! MARVEL’S GOT HER, AND HER NAME IS … DAZZLER!”

The difference is that – back then – you could just close the cover and the noise was over, no one was shoving superlatives, spandex and punctuation into your eyeholes. You put the book down, the sun shone, birds sang, and your friends called for you to come outside. “Come play with us,” they’d say, “We’re playing DAZZLER.”

I kid. We played ROM.

Some years back, however, comics were bought kit and caboodle by major multinational media conglomerates of one sort or another, companies which owned their own news networks, newspapers, magazines, television studios, television channels, radio stations, internet entertainment and movie studios. It was only a matter of time before these companies realized that these properties were eminently licensable – to the tune of literally billions of dollars a year - and therefore they had a vested interest in promoting them relentlessly.

Thirty years ago, if you saw your favorite superheroes in the newspaper, it was most likely an ad for an in-store appearance at Montgomery Ward by some unfortunate minimum wage earner in a tremendously awkward foam rubber Hulk costume. Nowadays, there’s round-the-clock coverage when Wonder Woman wears pants.

The end result of this – and what makes modern day comics so unappealing to readers in this aforementioned group – is that comics have basically become Morning People - relentlessly chirpy, in-your-face and over-positive - and there’s nothing more annoying than a Morning Person.

You're out of bed at oh-dark-thirty, sitting on the shitter with a full cup of coffee because it’s so damn early that even your colon isn’t awake yet, and you have to make sure you have time to catch the bus, so you’re shaving too, and then after a while you slump into the kitchen and pour your coffee down the drain because it smells like shit and has beard stubble in it for some reason, and you cram a cold Pop Tart into your mouth where it dangles like a cartoon cigarette as you accidentally slam your hand in the cabinet door blearily putting the dirty coffee cup back on the shelf with the clean ones and BAM, in through the kitchen door comes COMICS! Jogging up and down and beaming with the rosy flush of health! “You missed the best part of the day!” it says through laser-whitened teeth, “I got up at 3:30 and jogged fourteen kay! This month in Superman, the Man of Steel gets a fresh new look, but do these amazing new powers come with a price?

“Is that what you’re having for breakfast?” it says to you, still jogging, “That stuff will kill you. You really ought to try a yeast-germ omelette. Swear by ‘em! In a very special new Green Arrow, the Emerald Archer gets a new sidekick – who has AIDS and Asperger’s Syndrome! Mind if I grab a shower? What fateful decision does Spider-Man make in this month’s Fear Itself? Don’t you dare miss it – it will change the face of comics FOREVER!”

And then Comics all hogs the bathroom while you stand at the sink, blinking hard and trying to remember what it was you liked about that guy when you first met him. This is the thing you think to yourself as you hear it singing Smashmouth really loud through the wall and using all the hot water.

Comics! Fuck 'em!*

==========
Many apologies, folks. The blog has been neglected lately as Your Humble Editor found himself (A) needing to find a new place to live and (B) having found a new place to live (C) had to go get more work to afford the new place to live and then (D) spent a couple weeks packing and (E) moving into the new place to live, which is currently a drawing table and a laptop set up amidst as many filthy, bedraggled boxes as you might recall from the opening half-hour of Wall-E. I’ll be back on the ball shortly, with some bonus material to make up for the absence of content.

* I've clearly never been of the "comics are for kids" crowd, and I've likewise never thought that adults should be ashamed of reading superhero comic, even if most superhero comics are generally intended for an audience of mildly bright children. 

I WILL say, however, that if you are an adult and a comics-reader BUT you only read titles from the two big superhero/mainstream companies, then you're really cheating yourself. Comics are an amazing medium, with what I would consider an even greater robustness of variety than film or written fiction. Even if you've tried the big alternative creators- as a for-instance, say Ware, Crumb and Clowes - and they didn't do anything for you, there are still literally hundreds of other creators, both fresh and veteran, producing books and webcomics worth delving into. You'll find something, and you're only hurting yourself (well, and the creators' pocketbooks) if you've never sought out the alternatives.

As a last note, let me add: DC has said that this sea change makes for "a good jumping on point". Keep in mind that a good jumping on point is also a good jumping off point. If the ride's coming back around to the loading dock and you didn't enjoy it the first time, it's a good time to hop off and find another way to spend your ticket ...

Peace!


4 comments:

John said...

That move sounds worse than most. Hope everything is Ok.

BTW, Smashmouth - perfect. At first, I thought, "why Smashmouth?" And then I realized: it's exactly the kind of thing a Morning Person would sing *in the morning*. Afternoon Smashmouth? Sure, why not? Morning Smashmouth? So wrong.

Don said...

I will give the resplosion a try for 2 or 3 months to see if the change can hook me. But I am not very optimistic.

I love reading Chew and Jonah Hex (Thank God the movie was awful, which has kept it blissfully free of outside influences). But that's about it.

Bottom line - you took the words out of my mouth.

Wilgus said...

It strikes me funny that for a medium that prides itself on the ability to tell long-form stories, these 'big bang' moments are so out-of-the blue and meaningless. It's not like big changes shouldn't happen, it's just that they can't seem to happen logically.

Jayson said...

Heh heh--yes.

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