Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett talks about timeless comic stories:
Well I didn’t get to this year’s New York Comic Con either but my sources (i.e. people actually in attendance) tell me it was crowded, busy and a lot of fun, which is good news given just how little good economic news there is these days (you know you’re "living in times like these" when every other commercial attempts to convince you to spend money because you are "living in times like these"). I’ve studied the blogs and checked the usual suspect news sites, YouTube footage and podcasts and while there were lots of media presentations, celebrity appearances and announcements there was a decided shortage of ideas.
It probably says a lot that the best one I heard was for Pet Avengers.
X-Men Forever doesn’t even qualify as a contender but it is interesting, seeing as how in my previous column I hectored DC to produce comics geared closer to the actual age of their audience, then Marvel ups and produces an X-Men title exclusively intended for people in their late 40's. It's unfortunate but understandable if "kids today" consider Chris Claremont’s writing old fashioned ever since Brian Bendis reinvented the superhero comic*, but it's weird thinking they think the same thing of his collaborator on the title, Tom Grummett.
Only a couple of years ago he was considered the quintessential midrange Marvel artist, equally adept at action and soap opera, able to orchestrate the vast crowd scenes of superheroes and villains prevalent on his long tenure on Thunderbolts.Then little more than a year after his run came the Warren Ellis All-Bastard version of the title and soon Grummett was even off of Claremont's previous not plugged into continuity title New Exiles.
But then age is the elephant in our room nobody wants to talk about -- DC won’t even acknowledge Superman is having an anniversary this year for fear of further alienating the young crowd who aren’t reading his comics to begin with (which has brought us to the startling new direction on his titles; Superman comics without so much Superman in them).
There've been reports about a drop in interest in DC titles across the board since the release of Final Crisis #7 and given my current condition (nearly fifty) and position (a retail consultant more interested in downloading copies of House Of Secrets and Little Archie than what’s coming out this week) it’s a little hard putting myself into the shoes of the rank and file reader.
But if I had to hazard a guess I'd say it's because Final Crisis #7 was the perfect jumping off point; it did a nimble job of summing up what DC Comics were and had been but gave us zero insight on what's coming. Besides getting Aquaman back on top of that giant seahorse where he belongs (hopefully he now has 'hard water' powers -- there just has to be a better way of putting that so it doesn't sound like he has the power to stain clothes with mineral deposits -- the way he does in cartoons) Final Crisis didn't accomplish much.
It didn't rouse the masses; get them pumped up about DC's incredible plans for the coming year. Yes, I know about the return of Barry Allen (the absolute first thing on his to-do list just has to be: Find Rogue’s Gallery, destroy their costumes and ray guns, put them in jail, keep them in jail) and the Black Lantern business but so far there hasn’t been a whole lot of backchat at Super-Fly Comics about either series.
If nothing else Final Crisis will give people a good excuse to read the comics that inspired it (it's nice knowing I actually share something with the unparalleled genius that is Grant Morrison; a love of Sonny Sumo), like I just did. And, in another one of those wacky coincidences I'm prone to, I started to do it on the fifteenth anniversary of Jack Kirby's death.
Dan Didio recently said something about not wanting to "timestamp" his comics, the idea being that a lot of topical references prevents a comic from being "timeless." He has a point. There are some comics so much of their time they're actually painful to read now, but then if we did things his way we'd never have had Forever People. Happily except for a couple of "dirty hippy" jokes the stories aren't that dated, especially #1 where now it's clearly about a man in his 50's (Superman) having a midlife crisis that falls in with a bunch of kids who offer him a literal "trip" -- to their home, Supertown. Or #2 where the gang takes a break from the war on Darkseid (funny; you'd expect a bunch of "space hippies" to be protesting the war against ultimate good and evil) to get to know who they're fighting for in the form of young Donnie and his Uncle Willie.
So, maybe it's just my age talking, but those are the kind of stories I'd call "timeless."
* I suppose we can't give him all the credit but if you don't believe me read an Avengers story published a year before Avengers Disassembled and one after and see if you don't see a radical change in how superhero comic books both look and read -- that's been widely imitated.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Column by Steve Bennett
February 12 2009 @ 12:46 am CT
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