Secret Identity 'Writer At Large'
I enjoy talking about comics. I'm not as knowledgeable as I would like, but I like tossing around ideas and beating up plot lines, past and present.
Most of the best sessions I get to be a part of are during the travel to and from a convention. I travel with the same group of guys almost all the time; Matman, Brian, Billy and me and the three of them really know their comics. And then there is me. These guys throw around origins and arcs from the 70's and 80's involving some pretty obscure characters and my contribution is often just listening. But, recently, on the way home from the Boston Comic Con we had an interesting discussion about the difference between comics and how they handled storylines back in the day versus today.
My biggest issues with comics today are mega, multi title, crossover events that seem to exist for no other reason than to sell as many titles as possible because you know that however many months after the event ends, something will happen to change or undo the result of the event. Take, for example, the wonderful, back to zero DC craptacular. My problem regarding this event, which set all the DC “New 52” (which of course is the result of another super event) back to issue 1 while still having each character retain varying degrees of their history, is that – why did they need to do that and other history altering re-storying instead of just keeping a reasonably snug reign on the writers? Isn't that what editors, and the like, do?
How many times does history have to be rewritten?
How many times should history be rewritten?
Now, I will say that I do not currently read any of the books from the ‘Big 2.’ I read much less than I used to, and only read independent books now, and I am told that books like All Star Western are as good as they have ever been, but, and this is where they lose me. Can't they accomplish this without the ultra, world changing super saga?? One of Matman and Brian's biggest arguments to my opinions (and it's probably a strength for them) is that if the story is good, then history be damned! For me, a change through good story telling within a book or book family works better. If the characters start getting old, can't they be slowly phased out naturally and a new hero installed? To Kyle Rayner from Hal Jordan, and to Connor Hawke from Oliver Queen, among others. At a certain point isn't it time for most heroes to, in some way, be replaced? Barbara Gordon was shot and paralyzed and from Batgirl was born Oracle. A wonderful character who was more powerful and important than her “hero” persona. That is how storylines move ahead. But now she is Batgirl again...how wonderful...not.
Let's take Batman. In a Sunday conversation between Matt, Billy and I, we were talking about the ages of the characters. We were all very close on our estimations. Batman/Bruce – 30-35, Nightwing/Dick – 22-26, Robin/Tim – 16-19. This is after more than 6o years of DC history/continuity (and for simplicities sake, we ignore all mega stories). So, here we are, Batman is getting a little long in the tooth, hero wise. Where should we, as a book, go with the character? I say that Dick Grayson is the logical, natural choice to take up the Mantle of the Bat. The story has so many avenues to explore, both emotional and action wise. But to just wave your hand and **bam** it's five years back and some of history has been wiped seems like such a cop out, such an easy way out. Billy thinks it should be like the Simpsons, where no one ever ages, but because comics has allowed us to read, watch, and even care, we are invested in the characters and the twists and turns of their life.
The other part of the conversation we were having was about how when we were reading books in the 80's -ish, and let's use Spiderman as an example, you could read Amazing Spiderman, Web of Spiderman, and Peter Parker the Spectacular Spiderman. You could read any of them or all of them and not miss anything. The stories from each book generally stood ‘on their own’ and did not encroach on the others. Sure, you may see a battle damaged Spidey limping into his apartment in the morning and referencing his bad night, but there would be an editor’s note saying “see ASM #(insert issue number here)”.
All in all, my point is that, in general, I believe comics are darker, in both story tone and color tone, less readable, and too full of maxi, mega epics. I liked them better when years had a 1 in front of them. Matt calls that the “Hey kid get off of my lawn” factor.