Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Comics Don't Suck. We Suck.

I saw a post the other day in a group and wanted to comment on it.

(I'm entitled! I'm entitled! Teehee.)

Someone lamented that we should keep comics out of manga and manga out of comics. Other than "manga" meaning "comics" in Japan, even if you divide them into two separate things, I still have to disagree.

It's just the old fanboy sense of entitlement that "nothing should ever change" repackaged in an anti-east sentiment.

It's the sense of entitlement that comics were made for me and me only and if other new readers want to enjoy them, they can enjoy my favorite style of art or my favorite versions of the characters.

It's the sense of entitlement that all comics should still look as if they were drawn by Ditko and Kirby, or at least by those who draw just like them.

It's that sense of entitlement that modern comics suck and old  (defined by whether you are a Silver Ager" or a "Bronze Ager" typically) comics are masterpieces. It's gotten to the point that far too many blogs and articles online use headlines like "Ten Comics that Don't Suck" or "Looking for Comic Books that Don't Suck?" simply because of the old-timer zeitgeist around this sentiment.

I ran into this mindset all the time when I worked at the comic book store. Older, long-term fans very vocally resented the changes made to their favorite book's character or art style, no matter how many new readers it may be pulling in to keep said character or title selling and alive in the market. Almost as if we'd rather see a book fail than change (as long as it stayed the way we liked it).

And let's be honest, the fail-scale for comics is a different world now than in the "good ol' days" because there's so much more immediate competition for the newer generation's time. But that's an argument for another time.

The trouble with our cast in iron disapproval of the new is that it doesn't take into account the constantly changing nature of art. Art, by its very nature, is re-interpreted by each successive generation, and it's our job as old-timers to adjust, not to make sure new readers succumb to our interpretations.

By art, I mean both visual and the story itself. Things change.

For example, viewers (to use a movie example) need more from a sci-fi flick now than Rocket X-M. They demand a more character-driven story, more research, etc. It doesn't mean we can't still enjoy Rocketship X-M, but the industry were to make something similar today, it would have to adapt to modern film and story standards.

It's the same reason that a lot of the story types we enjoyed in the '60s and '70s just don't hold up for a modern audience. (Cue the "Oh, no! Lois is about fight Lana about marrying Superman again, and this time she's got ___________!" headline for the cover.)

Besides without changing styles, we wouldn't have many of my favorite artists from comics, such as: Mike Apparo, Cliff Chiang, Mike Allred, Dave Gibbons, Jeffrey Moy, John Paul Leon, Tony Shasteen, Denys Cowan, or Dave McKean.

Besides, you probably didn't complain when you were a kid that Silver Age comics had a different style than Golden age comics, I'm willing to bet. Why not? Because you were the target audience. They changed comics -- gasp! -- for YOU! (So why shouldn't they do it again?)

Does that mean all comic book art should look like it's inspired by manga? I'd prefer not, no more than I think all comic book art should be inspired by Kirby or Eisner (as monumental to the medium as they were and are).

But, guess what? It's not my world anymore. It belongs to the new generations, and the work of my generation is still out there for me to enjoy WHILE I also dip my toe into the new stuff and find what I still like and perhaps don't like.

I think it gets down to the Boomers. That's the first generation to be in a real position of power to keep the world the way they liked it and not allow the next generation to really affect much change. Sadly, I think a lot of that mindset transferred over into the arts. But I could be wrong. I'm not a cultural anthropologist after all.

So, to summarize, let's all stop our bellyaching about if our favorite person behind the costume is still the same because, we all know that thanks to the established licenses, those will always revert, and let's just try to be a little more open to the way comics are changing.

Because I'll tell you this straight-up -- Comics don't suck now any more than they sucked then, which is to say, some suck and some don't. Comics today are as good and in some cases far better than the stuff we oldsters remember through the hazy gaze of nostalgia. Some of the best stuff ever published in the medium has been published in the past five years -- yes, even better than that favorite LSH or F4 story we remember so fondly.

Party on, dudes, and be excellent to each other.