I love comics, but have always found myself at odds with them despite my fondness for them and their characters for exactly the same reasons you described above.
Thor’s font is looking a bit better these days, but back a few years ago, it was damn-fucking-impossible to read, especially if there weren’t any non-Asgardians speaking on a page. Then it was a whole panel covered top to bottom in slanty olde english font. And we all know how many speech bubbles the writers liked to jam into one box back in the olden days…
These days though we hear editors and other important comic planning people at Marvel and DC whine about how nobody’s buying anymore, and it’s all the internet’s fault, and how can we possibly be expected to adapt to an ever-changing and growing audience when we refuse to change our storytelling methods and our marketing gimmicks?
The fact is, comic books simply aren’t accessible anymore. They haven’t been for a while. There’s a reason why those big summer movie adaptations and animated series’ and video game franchises are so successful, and it’s not because they’re simply distributed to a wider audience. I mean, they are, but the point is that most of the time (when they’re good), these mainstream adaptations are feasible in the economic sense. They don’t expect anyone to go out on a limb and spend more than fifty dollars a week just to catch up with Iron Man or Batman’s adventures.
They also aren’t afraid to take risks. Batman: Arkham City takes a bold step in the death of a character who’s name I will not mention due to spoilers. Did it diminish the quality of the game? Not by a long shot.
These various adaptations and non-comic franchises take risks, and most importantly, they adapt to change. They don’t retconn it the first chance they get. That’s why Batman the Animated Series is often considered the best animated television show of all time.
I’ve been expecting the death of comics since I was about ten years old, when I picked up my first one and realized that Wolverine was in about three or four different places at once in the Marvel Universe. He’s in about twelve now. Every year I see the medium become harder and harder to access, and that’s coming from a die hard fan. I certainly haven’t been able to read X-Men in about a decade without becoming incredibly confused or frustrated. Marvel can write big crossover titles all it wants, and DC can reboot it’s universe to it’s heart’s content but that’s never going to get that elusive “new reader” to pick up a book when all they see on the shelf is seven different Batman titles.
IF they see a shelf of comics at all. Remember when they used to be on newstands everywhere??? I don’t. I wasn’t born yet, or at least, that’s what my comic-loving dad says.
Storytelling and presentation is a whole other issue. Any of the major events that occur mean absolutely nothing in the end because dead characters never stay dead, and nothing permanent can happen to a character. Let’s not even get into how women are constantly packed into fridges, only for their sacrifices to mean nothing in a universe where no event is of actual importance because it’ll just be rebooted or retconned.
Wanna know the rules to any comic book universe?
- Nothing permanent can happen to a main character. By main, I mean a superhero. By superhero I mean a male adventurer in a costume.
- A character can’t reference something in the past. Unless of course it’s a flashback that contributes to the current story. For instance, Spider-man can’t be like, “Damn it Green Goblin, you did a variation of that same evil plan like three issues ago!” Except for Deadpool. Deadpool knows he’s in a comic books and doesn’t give a crap about the rules. Which is why I love him.
- You can make anything happen.
- But at the end of the story, the world has to be in the exact state that it was in before you made that thing happen. That means ordinary people go on with their lives without worry, despite the fact that New York was destroyed fifty times and it’ll be destroyed another fifty more times.
And that’s why comic book storylines end up losing all depth and meaning, because no one learns or grows as a result of those events. Sure, some go through character arcs, and they’ll even occasionally remember the ordeal they went through, but because the world has to revert to it’s untouched state they’ll eventually forget and behave as though nothing of the sort affected them. Hence retconning and reboots.
My open letter to the comic book industry. I love you! But I can’t keep paying your bills on my own! This means you have to innovate or die.
And by innovate, I don’t mean making Starfire sleep with everyone.
This above? Exactly why I can’t get into comics. Movie-verse and much of the fanfic has more depth and emotional punch than any of the originating comics I’ve tried to read. Which is depressing, because I want to like the source material so bad.