I’ve been at the beach, so I haven’t been making posts. I raced Hurricane Sandy up the East Coast, so I could be in Virginia before it made landfall. I’m back, and here’s a post…
I know many people think of comic books as a second-class entertainment medium. I’m bemused by this attitude because some of the most popular movies lately have been based on comic books: Batman, Spider-man, The X-Men, Iron Man, and The Avengers—just to name a few.
But, there still is a stigma, and I understand it. When I was young, I learned how to read by reading comic books like Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Spider-man, and the Legion of Super Heroes. (A side note: my school district’s English department was horrible. My mom taught me to read using flashcards and comic books. By the 8thgrade, I tested as reading at a high school senior level.) At that time, the stories were fun, yet simplistic. Superman is quintessential example. He’s too powerful. The only thing that can harm is Kryptonite, which started as green and became a rainbow of colors, all with different effects. Logical question one: How much debris of an exploding planet will ever reach Earth? Hardly any to none at all. Logical question two: How fast was this debris travelling? Superman arrives on Earth as a baby and we see him in his 20s and 30s. This means that the debris (Kryptonite) travelled at a significant fraction of the speed of light, assuming the planet circled a close star. If it was far away, it would have had to travel faster than light. A bad character design (too powerful character) introduces a bevy of plot problems just to keep the story interesting.
The other heroes had the same problem, though not to the degree of Superman. Batman, for instance, had no super powers, yet was burdened with invincibility. Whatever the problem he faced, he had a Bat-whatever gadget to get him out it. How big is that utility belt anyway? Wasn’t it convenient that you have metal cutting torch, sized to fit your belt that works underwater!
As I grew older, I started to figure this out; the story-telling didn’t hold up. I moved on to Clarke, Asimov, Clancy, and Grisham.
Then, in the ‘90s, I found Babylon 5, a TV series, that the creator, J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), designed to be a novel told over 5 seasons. He accomplished what he’d set out to do. He announced that he was going to write comic books. Two of his books that interested me were Rising Stars and The Amazing Spider-man. Over the 24 books of Rising Stars, he told a continuing story (beginning, middle, and end) about real characters with flaws that had super powers that weren’t all encompassing. It was entertaining. Furthermore, the ending of the story on Earth (issue 24) was the beginning of a story like issue 1, but elsewhere. I still remember that—it was a nice touch.
The key was that he told a story where actions have consequences and characters have motivations and limitations. In short, he told a good, solid story.
His run on The Amazing Spider-man was much the same. Peter Parker/Spider-man became a three dimensional character with desires and flaws. His actions had consequences that he had to live with. His villains were interesting and three-dimensional also. I truly loved this run until the last book associated with JMS. In it, I can almost point to the panel where JMS stopped and his co-writer picked up. It seems that Marvel wanted to “open up” the Spider-man stories, so they did a grand reset of everything that JMS did.
Bad writing Marvel! I dropped the book immediately. It’s like watching Dallas and being told everything that happened in the past season was all a dream. Sorry, I’m not buying it.
Last year, DC did a grand reset (no comment on what happened before—I wasn’t paying attention), and I jumped in on a few relaunched books like Justice League, Green Lantern, and Legion of Super-Heroes. So far, the story telling has been good. The writers haven’t insulted my intelligence. In fact, they’re keeping me engaged. These stories aren’t the type I remember as a kid.
Here’s the thing: If a good story is being told, I don’t mind the medium (novel, TV, movie, comic book, etc.). If the story isn’t good, I’ll drop it, regardless of the medium. In the future, I’ll probably touch on the subject more as developments in the industry/stories pop up.