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?


Anthony said...

Ok, first off, I am proud to be the first to comment on here. Anyway, DC comics, with Dan Didio and Jim Lee had gone out of their damn minds with this reboot. And i could care less in reading the rest of the huge paragraph, do to the fact i might upset myself, but I'll be expressing my anger, frustration and disgust over this reboot.
Dan Didio and Jim Lee are IDIOTS into making money by not only rebooting and white-washing everything but also erasing it's great history, including Superman's #1 issue from 1938, JSA, power girl(And I like Power girl, too!), having Superman's Earth Parents die and Superman's relationship and it's stupid and it's also FUCKED UP! it is the stupidest and most disgraceful and upsetting thing to do and is a bad move to do business!!! if you want to make money, you can write better stories and create a new DCU but at the same time, keeping the originals, instead of rebooting everything and erasing it's great history, which is stupid and messed up.
If Dan Didio and Jim Lee think their going to make money by doing THIS THEY ARE BADLY MISTAKEN!

1 - The new suits look horrible, they suck, Superman does NOT wear armor or wear knee pads, he doesn't need them, he's the man of steel for crying out loud! And wonder Woman's outfit looks bad, too and the pants doesn't look right on her outfit. GIVE HER BACK THE BLUE, STAR SPANGLED SHORTS!!!

2 - It's a bad idea in having Superman's parents dead!

3 - It's a stupid and upsetting idea in having Lois and Clark, the legendary couple in the DC universe being single and divorced is A TERRIBLE IDEA! AS A FAN, I HAPPEN TO CARE ABOUT THEIR RELATIONSHIP!!!!

4 - Superman is NOT suppose to be a rebel, he's suppose to be a symbol of hope that people look up to with values and good morals!!!

5 - It's also a bad idea to take away Superman's American citizenship. Superman is suppose to not only fight for truth, justice and freedom, BUT THE AMERICAN WAY AS WELL!!! GIVE HIM BACK HIS AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP!!!

I had trouble sleeping because of all of this! I was planning to introduce my nephew to comic books with Superman and this "reboot is ruining it for me and for my little nephew!
This is a kick in the face for many fans out there and we CANNOT just stand by and watch this shit happen. The DC universe is part of me and has been with me while I was growing up and have fond memories and because of Dan Didio and Jim Lee, it feels like their all being ripped away from me and I am not the only one who feels this way!

I declare a Boycott for this.
I will not read or buy anything that's crappy, reboot-related books....until they fix this and give us back our originals AND NOT ONLY THAT, THEY SERIOUSLY NEED TO DO IS QUIT BEING LAZY, GET UP OFF THEIR ASSES AND WRITE BETTER STORIES!!!


Maybe then, I will start reading DC comics again.

EilisFlynn said...

I think you have to have a young audience for that. Time for old comics to die down and be reborn. But that won't happen with old comics hanging around. Or, more specifically, old comics fans and creators!

Anthony said...

@Eilis Flynn
Well, the young audience should be introduced to the original because they need to know the first originals and thats what I plan to do with my little nephew.
And like you said, that will never happen. How would you feel if one of the best things in your life you had with good memories with and grew up reading then suddenly not only being white-washed but having it's history being erased and that's not right at all. I'm only 27 but I grew up with the good stuff, starting with the original from Superman the movie and having all of the wonderful memories and the Superman we all know and what he stood for will pretty much be gone, which again is not right and I know what I'm talking about. You can make a new DC universe but at the same time leaving the originals alone instead of erasing everything. However, luckily, I'm confident this project will flop because there too much negativity over it, more so than those who are looking forward to it. And there's more long-time readers than you think and a new generation being introduced by their parents who are long-time readers.

Relic_5 said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Heroes should be heroes, examples of our better natures, and ideals we can all agree are above reproach.
Instead what we get from the people retelling our myths and legends, are violent psychopaths without any regard for the people they're pledged to protect.
I fear that the reboot will be more of the same. Now, I was never a big fan of wonder woman, but I always enjoyed having that character around, as she was always more ethical then batman, and almost as strong as Superman. Having her around helped tie the Justice League together. Strong moral compass and all that.
The new direction DC comics has chosen worries me for the future of the characters as well as the future of the company itself.

Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony said...

Your right, heroes should be heroes and this reboot ruins so much of what the characters stand for and the morals. I will not buy any of those rebooted comics and there's is a good chance the reboot'll flop.
Maybe then, I will start reading DC again :)

Carol A. Strickland said...

I think that young readers should have very positive role models presented to them if those role models will be starring in long-running series and can be considered "icons." (I'm really getting tired of that word.)

Readers who are a little older can handle the occasional harsh hero, even an anti-hero—but they shouldn't be given a steady diet of such.

To veer a bit off-track: Here at Adam & Eve we have therapists telling us that no study has ever shown that porn (with cheerfully consenting adults) in and of itself has ever psychologically harmed anyone. However, you put a little violence in that porn and people's brains can indeed get a little screwy.

I'm waiting for studies concerning the huge amount of violence and worse, shock-violence that we are exposed to from TV, videogames and the movies. I don't want comics included in that list. If there is violence in comics, I want it to come with just as horrible consequences, and not just a "hero" who wrings his hands for one panel and then has his world magically clean up behind him so he won't be bothered by the event in the future.

I want a little hope in my world. I want more than a little beauty, goodness, and positive growth.

Anthony said...

@Carol A. Strickland
Your right, young readers should view positive role models such as the superman charter(the one we all know!)that give moral certainties and brings out the best in all of us and is a symbol of hope. Not an anti-hero.

Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EilisFlynn said...

Problem is, the comics you see now (before the reboot) isn't the comics I grew up with, nor is it one that I'm really all that interested in -- the gore and misogyny turned me off (and I worked at DC at a time when they were both at their height). Sadly, I don't think the reboot (or Nottaboot) is going to change that, from what I've seen: More of the same. Same people, after all.

Anthony said...

@EilisFlynn Well,thats not the way I saw it. It's still the ones that I know, it's just more modernized. But then they were not only running out of ideas by also being lazy about it and that's not fair. And their making a story of Wonder a horror comic???? Come on, that just NOT Wonder Woman, seriously, it's ridiculous, man!
And with this disgraceful reboot, this can't be too much of a success because there's too much negativity with too many long-time fans than those who are so-called looking forward to it. Personally,I'll give it less than a year. Otherwise, they should have got up off their lazy butts and start making better stories. But I now this will not be a success, so I'm expecting them to give us back our original DCU by making a few special stories to do so.

Anthony said...

They still are, their just up to date. This reboot however, is not going to lats, being how white-washing it is and is a big disgrace to DC and I hope Dan Didio gets fired, along with the rest of those who are beind this reboot in the first place.
I'm telling you, this reboot will not be a success, being since it's driving a whole lot of long-time readers, more than the ones who are interested in it. I'll give it less than a year.

Jerry Ferraccio said...

If I can comment, so far after the original post . . .

Four issues into the new WW, and it is an abysmal mess. Carol, I remember when Perez re-booted WW's origin way back in the 80s, and you wrote a fantastic article (Nov. 1, 1986 (#106) issue of Amazing Heroes) pointing out, among other things, that if you get Hippolyte wrong, you get the Amazons wrong (... Hippolyte is the symbol of Paradise Island, and Paradise Island the symbol of Wonder Woman's ideals...") And what has Azzarello done? Gotten them wrong, of course. He's added ridiculous, nonsensical angst for Diana:"they call me clay, I've never felt like one of them"-- forgetting that ALL ORIGINAL AMAZONS ARE MADE OF CLAY (GA and SA) or the earth at the bottom of a "Grecian lake" (Perez)!

The whole reason WW is WW is because she is a LOVING, KIND, PEACEFUL warrior- she's not interested in punishing (Batman) or protecting (Superman) as much as PREVENTING ("let's not fight and talk about this"). She is literally and figuratively shaped by her mother and thousands of peaceful, loving surrogate mothers! Not buying an issue (what does it say that I can walk into a bookstore and read a whole issue in less than 3 minutes?) until this dreck is fixed. Hey, if DC would let me, I'd write it for a year, free, just to fix it!

Ormfamily said...

I agree with the sentiments of keeping Superman heroic. He's my favourite hero because he is what a hero should be. I'm not keen on giving him the costume that looks like it needs a good wash (same goes for Wonder Woman). There is a problem thought. A few people have commented on the original series but what is the original series? In Superman is it the golden age, the silver age, Post crisis etc?