A Conversation for American Superhero Comic Books

Tough Subject

Post 1

Garfield

An overview of American comic books eh? You sure like to pick the tough ones! I read through some of your responses and there's some valid points made (plus one or two not so valid). Like to court a bit of controversy, or do you just not like comics / comic readers?

The Golden Age...Yeah, there was a whole load of xxxxx vs. Hitler stuff, most of it pretty dumb by modern standards. On the other hand, there was some excellent stuff as well. If you don't believe me, check out some of the original Captain Marvel comics...there are reprints available.

The 50's...I have to admit this is my favourite era. Horror comics like Tales From The Crypt, science fiction comics like Planet Comics, just plain weird stuff like The Purple Claw plus loads of graphic war and western stuff. Some seriously blood-curdling stuff was published then and a lot of major writers and artists got their starts or made some money in these books. Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Frank Frazetta, etc, etc.
I know you don't have a lot of space but glossing over the US Senate hearings on comic books, The Seduction Of The Innocent propaganda and the introduction of the CCA means you miss out a major slice of modern US political/social history. Oh well.

The Silver Age (The 60's)...A return to super heroes. National Comics becomes DC and publishes Showcase, a series which re-vamps Golden Age characters like The Flash. Timely Comics becomes Marvel and uses pre-CCA comics like Amazing Fantasy, Strange Tales and Tales Of Suspense to introduce more "human" heroes like The Amazing Spider Man. The difference between the two rates a major book by itself. Other companies struggled to survive.

The 70's...A strange time when comics were trying to establish a new audience while kids were becoming more sophisticated and TV was proving to be massive competition. Some awful flops like DC's Sandman or Marvel's Devil Dinosaur and some real successes like DC's Swamp Thing and Marvel's Conan The Barbarian.

The 80's...Right at the beginning of the decade, the re-vamped X-Men (updated from the 60's group) appeared. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles took the US by storm (Eastman and Lairds original black and white comics, not the idiotic Archie version that was changed to "Hero" Turtles in the UK). Dark Horse Comics. DC's Sandman, Hellblazer, the re-vamped Swamp Thing. Elfquest. Marvel's concentration upon talented artists such as Frank Miller and Todd McFarlane. The Crow. And so many more. The market was bound to collapse under the weight and it did eventually.

The 90's...Yet another revival! This industry just won't lie down. Spawn. The revival of Turok, Dinosaur Hunter. Witchblade. Men In Black...

I've had about enough of this myself now. No doubt you've stuck me in one of your boxes. Closet reader, fanboy, whatever. I've read comics for over 40 years now. Basically since I learned to read. I've never been to a convention and I just ask for a particular comic when and if I visit a store. I don't collect them any more (I sold most of mine a few years back) but I do hold onto a few 50's horror issues. I don't wear T-Shirts.

One last point. Comics aren't something strange, they're just pictures and words that tell a story. Isn't that what movies and TV shows are when you boil it down? But I don't hear the same levels of sarcasm levelled at those folks who enjoy movies like Unbreakable (a classic "origin" story) or TV shows like Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman - if I have to explain that, I've definitely wasted my time!).

Sorry to go on. I'd better just go and have a quiet cup of tea.

Stay cool.

Garfield


Glossed Over

Post 2

Misty

I just wanted to say that as a young female who works in a comic shop in Canada, I'm always interested (and a little afraid) to hear about what the outsiders think of the field. The Guide entry for comics is accurate, if not just a little glossed over, and the evaluation of readers as either "closet readers" or "fanboys" is funny, if a little divisive and not entirely correct. Yes, there are fanboys (a LOT of them) and yes there are a few "closet readers" but stereotyping is a dangerous thing, especially in such a tiny and maligned industry. Everyone makes fun of us, always! We are the butt of the jokes of the world, and though we bear it with quiet good naturedness, we are always a little stung by it.
I guess I just want to point out, as it has already been stated, that comics are just another form of story telling and entertainment, and in today's world, that counts for a lot. As a civilization that has mostly met all it's requirements for basic needs, we essentially work for money to buy STUFF and after you've filled your life with furniture, basically all that's left is entertainment. This is an appalling reality, I know.
At any rate, in a society where media is so prevailant (and if you don't believe me I want you to think about how many times today you saw or thought about TV, films, radio, newspapers, books, music, cell phones, etc, and the fact that you are currently hanging out on the internet on a website that draws it's origin in a cult radio/tv/book/movies-that-never-got-made series, that, incidentally has it's own comic book. Though not a very good one at all.) it's really a shame that there is a perfectly viable medium that is so universally looked down upon. The reality is of course that 99% of all other media is also crap. For every "Citizen Kane" there are a hundred "Gigli's", for every Beatles we've got a staggering amount of Brittney Spears'. Basically all TV is crap, to the extent that no one, not the actors, networks or producers would argue with the statement.
Now, I get to hear all day long on a professional basis what's wrong with comic books, and don't get me wrong, there are a LOT of problems with comic books. It's an industry that desperately needs to diversify, and I say that though I firmly believe that there is a comic book out there for every (literate) person, if they'll only give it a chance.
As for stereotyping the readers, all I can say is that the very first thing that struck me when I started at my job was "Wow, I can't believe how many of these people are very . . . normal>'
And I'd only been a reader myself for 7 years before I came to that conclusion.

Uh, who needs a cup of tea now? Misty


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