Gail Burt of Metropolis Comics in Bellflower, California has been seeing comments on 'reluctant, pain and drama-addicted so-called heroes' recently, and shared her thoughts.
So, we were talking in the store the other day, and we all were expressing how different comics make us feel today than they did when we loved them. And this during a time when arguably some of the best writers in film, TV and comics are writing comics. Everybody wants to play in the nerd pool, it seems.
I hear all about how ya gotta have angst, conflict, etc. Happy characters are boring characters, super-heroes need to be depowered because if they're too powerful, then where will the drama, the suspense come from... oh, please.
When I was a kid, I read about heroes who loved being heroes. They loved helping people, doing what was right, no matter what the cost to themselves personally. You might really feel for the one who loved the girl but knew he couldn't reveal his secret identity to her, but you never got the sense that he regretted being a hero for a moment, that serving his fellow man was a noble cause, and denying himself was a small price to pay for the privilege. Of course, back then, comics sold in the millions (compare to today's 10,000 - 200,000) -- what did those guys know about writing, huh?
They made me feel so damn good. They didn't just make me feel good about the heroes. They made me feel good about myself. They made me feel that there was value in sacrificing instant pleasures if it meant I could be like them. I caught very early a concept I now call 'The Power of One.' I saw that each and every one of us has special powers, gifts and abilities. Consider Batman. His super powers were... a keen analytical mind, a body trained in many martial skills, and a whole lotta money. What, a kid fought with him? Okay, Robin. Same thing -- smart kid, good attitude, sense of humor, fast, funny, and brave.
So what about me? What about you? I began to identify the things each of us can do to affect positive change in our immediate world. You can be kind. You can be gallant. You can be selfless and true. You can be fun to be around. Seems like a little thing, each of those. But to someone, I assure you, any one of them is a very big deal. I tell my staff we might be the only person some of our customers see all week -- talk to them in a kindly, friendly way. It might be the best thing that happened to them all day. What if everybody decided to use their powers for good, the way I try to, the way I encourage my staff, my nephews and nieces to?
Call me an idiot, but I think it would be a better world for everyone.
So, why don't comics make me feel good any more? Because they're filled with dark, grim, realistic people. Pessimism doesn't go that well with super-heroism. They don't like being heroes, they whine about the responsibility, the fact that their personal needs aren't being met, their fear of making a mistake, the distrust of people around them. It's absolute horses**t. Superman whines like an adolescent girl, Batman is so surly he might as well be the Punisher, the attempt to rehabilitate mass murderer Hal Jordan, while interesting, is an utter failure, in my opinion. I don't trust him any more.
Nobody trusts the heroes any more. Not even in their own comics. I'm sick of paranoia and xenophobia. I'm sick of realism and grit and melodrama.
And I say this: if these writers are really as great as they want us to think they are, how come all they can write is this dark, dreary stuff? If they're so great, why can't they come up with something more uplifting, more optimistic? How about something truly inspiring? Wouldn't that make everyone feel better about everything? Wouldn't comics be more inviting to new generations? Why does it all have to be so damned heavy all the time? There is one guy who is doing something I truly enjoy every time it comes: Grant Morrison in All Star Superman. It's for you if you feel like this:
I want to think about the lightness, the humor, the wonderfulness of things. I want to dream of flying. I want to believe in a hero with certainty. I want to have fun when I read a comic book. Don't they always say, 'You couldn't appreciate the light without the dark?'
Isn't the inverse true, too? Give me back my heroes, dammit!
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.