Friday, August 12, 2011


Today, Matt tells us why he thinks modern comics are devolving.

I guess it's fair to say tastes change over time. Part of my earliest comic reading experiences were pouring over hardcover collections like Superman From the 30's to the 70's, forerunners of modern-day reprint collections.

So even as a child I caught on pretty quickly to the idea that these iconic superheroes that have been around for ages and change through the years. But, to quote Uncle Ben in the first Spider-Man movie, "Be careful what you change into."

Growing up reading comic books, I don't think my tastes changed so much as branched out. I developed a willingness to seek out other things as an addition to the colorful world of the superhero comics and cartoons that I was enjoying. In the Silver and Bronze Ages, perhaps even more accurately in answer to the "Marvel Age," comics were wiggling free from some of the sillier restrictions of the Comics Code. They started slowly but steadily appealing to older readers, but kids were still wisely considered part of the audience for superhero comics.

I think this had a way of allowing a comic book to grow with you. I felt that I got more out of the superhero comics I purchased as a kid when I reread them as an older person, rather than less. When you're a kid and you pick up an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man it's just cool that Spider-Man exists, even if it's only in your imagination. He's in his costume, spinning webs, crawling up walls, talking smack to the bad guys before webbing them up or punching them out and it's all so gloriously awesome!

 As you get a little older, you start to figure out why you like what you like. You attach names to artists and writers. You may reread that same issue and you still love that Spidey is being awesome, but now you're becoming a little more invested in the Peter Parker side of things. As you become a teenager, you see parallels between what Peter is going through and your own life experiences. Coming back to that same issue as an adult, perhaps you see some flaws, or how a few aspects might seem dated, but you can also now see the story mechanics and metaphors the writer was trying to get across. The understanding of those things enhances your enjoyment of the story even more. 

That's a fair bit of mileage to get from a single issue of a Spider-Man comic book that may have only cost a quarter or 75 cents to begin with. So why do publishers now have kiddie titles and adult titles as totally separate experiences at opposite ends of the spectrum? I mean in general they lean heavily adult because the focus is more on presenting violence rather than action. Now Vertigo is inherently an adult line and it doesn't really use mainline superheroes (at least when it's not connected to DC mainline). But take Cry For Justice, to my knowledge that wasn't part of some alternate line of books.

Why not publish superhero comic books for a general audience that readers can keep coming back to at any age? They can not only relive what they liked about the story the first time, but discover something new about it.

Have a great weekend!

- Matt

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