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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Raging Feedback -- Here's a selection of responses in the wake of my guest-stint this past weekend on All the Rage:

Probably the most detailed response was a negative one, spurred on by this quote from me:

"Now's the time when retailers will go two ways -- the visionary, forward-thinking comics shops will continue to welcome in new readers, genres and formats, while backward superhero fetishists (who essentially maintain their shops in order to get "free comics" featuring their favourite zombies like the Alan Scott Green Lantern and the shambling, undead Paul Jenkins Spectacular Spider-Man) will seriously begin to suffer the pains of their willful ignorance and defiance of logic. As a result, it's likely many comics readers will have to start looking elsewhere for their comics, as the superhero-oriented shops begin to die off, and yes, it will be a painful time for the industry, but it's a cull that has been needed for over a decade, and in the end, the artform will be vastly better off for it."

That prompted this response:

  • I've never seen a more succinct, concise, or declaritive example of what is so mind numbingly wrong-headed with the 20-30 year-old (and older) comic "fan." This is the mentality of someone who arrives at the biggest party of the year, only to find that it's winding down, and most of the cooler people have gone home. Rather than enjoy the leftovers, and last drops of liquor, this fool wants to crank up the music and trash the house.

    How was I spared this type of group-think? These are people of my generation, yet I'm able to appreciate the fact that the medium that I loved as a kid should stay accessible to kids. I walk into a comic shop today, and this is the foul acid spewing forth from most of the "fans" in my age group. "Manga is the answer!" they all cry. "Ultimize the entire Marvel line!" they declare. They claim these ideas are necessary for the future of the medium, but the truth behind that lie is that these changes are only necessary for the continuation of their medium. The Superman that was idolized by an 8 year-old must now be the Superman that can be analyzed and dissected by the 28 year-old. And yet, I'm the one said to be suffering from "willful ignorance" and "defiance of logic".

    This thinking is anathema to the superhero comic book. The reason Superman is an icon is because he represents the very best that people can acheive. The reason Batman is an icon is because he shows you can overcome even the worst adversity in life, and succeed. These are simple ideas, simple notions that work precisely because of the age group they are intended for. You don't try to deconstruct these themes. You don't try to adapt these notions to your narrow-minded viewpoint. You accept that these were the ideas and stories that shaped your world as a pre-adolescent, and you take that development with you.

    There's nothing wrong with an adult reading a comic book. Just realize that you are using that entertainment as a window back to your childhood. We look back to examine our own selves at a fundamental level. We don't insist that our past changes to better suit our future.

    The kind of thinking that ADD suggests (and I can't think of a more apt set of intials for someone like this) will most certainly end superhero comics if more of the powers that be agree with him.

    But, that looks to be exactly what he wants.

There's obviously a bit of an over-reaction there. I don't want to see the death of superhero comics, necessarily, I just want to see (and believe it's inevitable that) graphic novels created by adults and focusing on adult themes continue to grow into new markets, necessarily marginalizing the superhero genre and market, but opening up vast new vistas of adults who aren't ashamed to admit they read graphic novels, because there's nothing shameful about them. Unfortunately, while we still have many regressive retailers eschewing the best adult works from publishers like D&Q and Fantagraphics, and even more to their peril acting with outright hostility to the best-selling and most popular comics in the world, we still have a long way to go. So, no, I don't want to end superhero comics. I just want them to take their proper, proportional role in a world filled with full-service comics shops that cater to readers of all interests. Anything else is, indeed, "mindnumbingly wrong-headed."

My thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to the column. Doing it really fired me up with some ideas of what I would do with a regular, weekly comics column apart from the ADD Blog...perhaps something will develop in the year to come.


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