Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by retailer Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett talks about the bad and good in recent superhero comics:


I moved to Cincinnati.  I have friends here, genuinely like the city and it's only an hour away from Super-Fly Comics in Yellow Springs.  While that might seem like quite a ways to go for your weekly comics, on average I've been experiencing roughly forty-five minutes of being lost every time I get too far from the highway so I figure the drive is worth it.  Hopefully I'll become familiar enough with the area I'll soon be able to check out the local comic book shops.


So last week I made my first trek to Super-Fly in quite a while and was warmly greeted by staff and customers.  One of the latter made a particular point of telling me he always reads, and even enjoys, these columns, after which he asked, "Are there any comics you like?"


I admit I was taken aback.  I don't want to be that guy, the one who doesn't seem to like comic books any more but can't stop complaining about them.  I don't mean to be negative, but there's a lot of negativity to be negative about.  Like the recently concluded "Without Fear" sequence of Daredevil where the villains only leave our 'hero' alive so they can torture him some more later.


And I'd be remiss if I didn't share with you this page from Mighty Avengers #11.  I suppose the way I've whined about super-villains recidivism in the past I should be pleased with the ending where Dr. Doom gets taken into custody, but I'm having trouble getting past the part where he calls Ms. Marvel a whore.


You know I don't care if this Dr. Doom is the real thing or turns out to be a Skrull, robot or even the insane homicidal dick that went around wearing his dead girlfriend's skin as a fashion statement.  I don't think Marvel understands a line has been crossed here when it comes to what is acceptable in a superhero comic book.  Anyone wishing to argue that his language makes the situation more "realistic" should be advised that if it were realistic, Dr. Doom would just shoot everyone in the head and we could all go and sell stamps or something.


I understand we live in a culture where depraved and indifferent are now business as usual so the line might be difficult for them to see, and if they don't see it I don't think I can explain it to them.  But I'm guessing their new corporate partner in the children's shoe business, Reebok, would be happy to.

from All Star Superman #11

But of course there are superhero comics I like enough to buy, like Fantastic Four, Legion of Superheroes, Clandestine, Project: Superpowers, The Twelve, and Justice Society of America*.  And of course there's All-Star Superman; in sharp contrast to the page above is this one from #11 (which, oddly enough, is very similar to one from Justice Society #10 that I wrote about in a previous column).


It's beautifully simple and uplifting and if I could work my will I would have it stuck in the face of anyone wanting to write Superman.  Because this is who he is, this is what he does and this is what he's for.


In the past I've been accused of preaching and I really don't want this to be a sermon but once there was a popular song called Swingin' on a Star, sung first by Bing Crosby in the movie Going my Way.  In the refrain the listener is repeatedly advised they could either be a fish, mule or pig or instead "be better than they are."  It's been running through my head for a while now, mostly because I'm afraid that in a world of TMZ and The Hills there are an increasing number of people who'd much rather be pigs and anyone saying otherwise are suckers and losers.


I suppose to be fair things have always been that way but once upon a time superheroes were, as Tom Spurgeon so elegantly put it recently on his Comic Reporter Website, icons of moral instruction.  But as this issue of All-Star Superman proves they can still be that way, if we let it be known we want to read more stories like it.


Or would you rather be a pig?


*You probably noticed what all these comics have in common is they feature superhero groups.  There's a reason for that going back to my childhood where my family hung onto our middle class status by our fingernails by doing economical things like always buying Neapolitan ice cream.  The theory being you got three flavors for the price of one; it didn't seem to matter that they all tasted like chalk.  In much the same way when it came to our comic purchases my brother and I usually used a numerical process to pick our comics; i.e. the Legion was clearly better than the Fantastic Four - there are so many more of them.


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