Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Editorial Diatribe from the Catacombs

In case you didn’t know, the Battle for the Cowl is over and the original Boy Wonder has now succeeded his former mentor in the role of the Dark Knight. Sadly for every old-schooler out here, with the exception of Newsarama voters who overwhelmingly favor the rebooted "Batman and Robin" title, yet another irritating brat has adopted the mantle of Robin. Didn’t we do this all before with Jason Todd? And we’ve all seen where that ultimately led. (Hint: think "Hush", or since DC quickly changed the identity of that more recently revealed villain, I guess not!)

Firestorm, the Atom, the Question and the Spectre (among others) have had their classic, heroic roles ceded over to more politically-correct, ethnic versions who’ve co-opted their names through editorial fiat and happy hordes of non-Caucasians have purchased those series in such vast amounts that sales across the line have been bolstered to much success. Oops! I spoke too soon, that hasn’t actually happened, but at least fans of the original "models" can take heart in reading all of their old adventures. Yeah! That’s a bunch of bullshit too.

Lest we forget, characters are also coming out of the closet left and right, so we’ve been treated to a round of male and female heroes coming to terms with their own sexuality, often in the guises of established identities that were apparently ripe for the plucking.

Now, I’m not going to smear any of these efforts, that is, beyond the implication that as a reader (of, let’s say at least a few decades) I am just not "pleased".

It’s really not as if comics couldn’t stand to introduce such characters, and reach out to every demographic. Hey, it’s been done before. Don’t believe me?

Let me throw a few names at you: Black Panther, John Stewart, Luke Cage, Falcon, Storm, Vixen, and Shang Chi, uh let’s see, maybe …. Northstar. So it can be "effectively" done if the intent is there, and you know, none of these terrific characters stepped on the toes of any hero who preceded them. Now, it IS interesting that it has taken the latest generation of editors, writers & artists to finally strip away the conceit that us old-timers didn’t quite understand that the former Hero for Hire’s original yellow & blue costume was actually the pussy-whipped version, and imply that a shaved head, goatee and regular street threads were all that was necessary to "validate" and "redeem" Luke Cage as a truly heroic character. Sweet Christmas, I’m so damn glad that they cleared that up for us (and let’s not even mention the silver tiara). Okay?

I suppose readers can take heart that Wonder Woman, and some of the other established super ladies of comics, haven’t yet succumbed to graphic rape and other forms of sexual coercion while in the line of duty. No. That fate fell to poor Sue Dibny, but as much as I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, it is bound to happen sooner or late.

Before I close out today’s rant, let me clear up one point that some of you may be curious about: What’s the point of all this?

Nothing, really! I’m just saying, what was the point of all of that jockeying of characterization over the last several years. Well-established heroes were tossed onto the compost heap, just so the same gang of idiots could "say" that they were the "guys" who did this, or did that. I mean just how special is it to be the writer or artist of the fourth, eighth, or twelfth Superman, Batman, Spider-Man or X-Men title each and every month?

Back when each of those properties were featured in only a single title (or two), the "events" happened within the pages of their monthly adventures. Now marketing gurus have stripped all of that away, and given us an unending assortment of crossovers that lead nowhere, except to the next crossover. No wonder today’s creators write story "arcs" for the "trades"; it’s the only way to get noticed within the vast miasma of the comics industry’s massive pile of publishing pabulum.

I am actually not in a bad mood as I pen this ramble. I am gearing up for next weeks Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC. and I know that for the same $3 and $4 dollars that typical comics currently sell for per issue, I can walk in with a minimal amount of cash money and walk out with a stack of 1970’s stuff in highly collectable condition that is FUN to read, beautiful to look at and that feels like it belongs to the same fictional universe that it is supposed to be a part of.

Today, at Marvel for instance, I wouldn’t know where to begin; their regular line of books (if they even still have such), their Ultimate line, and Marvel Adventures stuff. I don’t even know where to begin, and just when I do opt to purchase something that they publish, it has to be something like "The Twelve" and we all know what happened with that top-selling, unfinished series.
Random art above; left by the late Art Saaf.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with everything you've said here! I can't stand some of the things they've been doing to cherished characters over the last few years. I'm an old comics reader from the 70's as well, so I know exactly where you're coming from.

I have often wanted to start reading comics again, but, like you, I wouldn't know where to start. Which line is the "official" line? Is the Ultimates line like a "what if?" Do any of these characters have a single established history anymore? Someone in the comics industry should wake up and realize that, while having lots of titles might increase sales margins in the short-term, they ultimately confuse would-be devoted readers (like you and me) and lead to a loss of reader/customer loyalty and, eventually, revenue. In other words, because I don't know where to begin getting back into comics, I don't. So, Marvel and DC are driving away a potential customer that can afford to buy more titles per month now than I could when I was a kid in the 70's.

A regular reader from High Point

Wayne Skiver said...

Well Said! I've wanted to rant about the very same thing, but each time I get angry while I'm typing it and delete the whole damn thing.

The whole "going PC for PC's sake" vibe in comics lately has really turned me off AND in my opinion shown no regard at all for the established characters.

Anonymous said...

Word Up...silver & bronze for me...I'd rather spend $12 on a VG+ Steranko SHIELD than $4 for any of this new crap they put out...THEIR LOSS, not mine.

cash_gorman said...

Agree with everything you said. Pretty much why I read so few new comics these days. I have so little faith in DC and their handling of the MLJ and Street & Smith pulp characters considering what they have done to all of their characters and others they have "acquired" from other companies.

Another reader from NC. Won't be going to Hero Con though. Little money and the girl-friend's birthday.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this work done by my dad, Art Saaf

Steve S