Wednesday, August 3, 2011
On the sorry state of today's superhero comics...
Over the years I've read articles about how heroic fantasy interests people who want to see justice done. Heroic fantasy = good wins over evil, right?
It used to be that way in the superhero comics (mostly DC) that I read. Those comics were almost never marketed at me, a girl. These days they're marketed for an even more different market, or perhaps I should qualify that by saying it's a "perceived" market.
Superhero comics tried to get more "realistic" back in the, oh, late Sixties and Seventies. That was perfectly okay with me. But in the late Eighties they took a decidedly dark turn (gee, thanks, Frank Miller) and then they began to get sadistic, especially at DC. The year 2004 was punctuated with Identity Crisis, which (let's go to Wiki) "according to Publisher's Weekly, 'This seven-issue miniseries... was both wildly popular and reviled.'"
Why? Because of pervasive shock-value violence. A beloved character was shown not only to have been raped in the not-so-distant past, but now, pregnant, is brutally murdered. The shock was the important thing; the logic of the plot and how the characters worked within it, was not. Heroes were shown to be more than the good-guy vigilantes they'd always been; now they judged and carried out dreadful punishment that, years on, would come back to bite (and maim) them.
This series was followed by event after event, each darker and more violent than the one before. Writer Mark Waid promised the fans that all this was leading to a "light at the end of the tunnel." That light never showed.
It struck me as if DC wanted to grab onto the gory themes and popularity of EC Comics of the Fifties. We all know how that ended, don't we?
So now because of severely declining sales (due mostly imho to the propensity for the comics companies not to seek out new readers, but rather to cater to their existing, aging, and shrinking audience), DC is about to reboot/relauch its entire line come the end of September. I first heard the term "Nottaboot" from my friend, Chris Companik. I like it; don't you?
Of course the message boards are lit up with guesses about what this Nottaboot will entail and how long it will last. Me, I'm highly skeptical of it. I don't see my favorites, Power Girl and Donna Troy, listed as appearing anywhere. Dan Didio, DC's co-publisher, has stated in so many words that he doesn't see the difference between Donna and her big sis. Well, Dan's the one who has allowed Wonder Woman to slog around in the bog her comic has been for years now (with a few shining moments in there, no thanks to him). If he doesn't even realize Wondie's potential, how can we expect him to figure out Donna's appeal?
Since my crystal ball has been sent out for repairs this month, I came up with a list of things I DON'T want to see in the Nottaboot. Do you agree? Disagree? Have additions? You tell me.
• I want heroes again. Real heroes who have ethics and who see a majority of successful and happy endings to their story arcs. I want good ultimately to conquer evil and be stronger than it.
• I want heroes who have a range of powers. Thus, anyone who has super-strength doesn't automatically have the strength of Superman (who should be DC's unquestionably strongest hero). There should be mid-ranges, even low ranges and higher ranges of power.
• I want basic continuity of major points (at least) so I can ground myself in the heroes' world without having to step out of their stories in confusion.
• I want scientists who have specialties. I'm tired of scientists (be they hero, villain, or supporting cast) who know every damned branch of science, and are experts at it all.
• I want to see feminine traits celebrated. Yes, even in males, as men aren't supposed to be complete machoheads, even in superhero fantasy.
• I want less sexism. Much less (if not an absence of) shock violence. I want to see a comic book world of people who reflect the ratios and types of people we find in our real world.
• I want kid types to act like kid types. (And look like them, too.)
• I want comics that will make me think. I want comics that will have me celebrating the glory of humanity. I want comics that will inspire me and keep me enthralled.
• I want art done professionally. I want editors to do their job.
• And I want a Wonder Woman whom I can point to and say, "Yep, definitely Wonder Woman! No doubt about that!"
Is that too much to ask? Would today's young and diverse potential audience go for something like that?