So I went to the comic book store in Silver Spring today (as I write this I am in the Borders in Silver Spring – and here’s the funny thing my choices are paid wifi or free wifi from the city – which do you think everyone is using?) and I have a feeling that the comic book industry is sucking wind. In the last ten years I have severely cut down on my comic book purchases – not because of maturity, I will always be 10 – but because it’s so darned expensive. $2.95 for a comic book buys you a short 24 pages, whereas a magazine would bring you 100 or so pages of content. I also preface my comments by saying my primary interest is in superhero comics. I read other stuff, but frankly most of the time if I want grand introspection on life I’ll read a novel. I read comics to see people who can pick up a bus (That’s also why I’m not wild about Batman and other costumed vigilantes. If you’re dumb enough to run around fighting crime in a ridiculous outfit you should at least be able to pick up a bus, and no smaller than a school bus at that).
That said, today’s comics feel like they have all the life sucked out of them. I don’t know if it’s the popularity of manga or what but so much of the artwork is flat and lifeless. The coloring, now done on computer cannot do the work on its own. While they suffered bad writing at least the comics of the ’90s had sweet art (I’m speaking of the Image era). Furthermore the stories just seem like they’re kind of flailing. Marvel just ended its Civil War thing where they killed off Captain America (he’ll be back) and I saw something where Spider-Man has gone through three different costumes in a two-month period (conveniently going back to the black costume mere months before the movie is released – synergy!).
Things aren’t much better in DC. There’s yet another relaunch of Justice League (I bought it but I’ve seen this story so many damn times), Batman is brooding over something, and in the Superman issues I bought I’m not expecting anything earth shattering and the art is very blah (where the heck did Ed McGuiness go?).
An outgrowth of this was the guy at the comic book store checkout desk. This is the second time I’ve shopped there and I almost think it’s everything screwy with the world of comics. Usually he’s chatting with his other comic book buddies about some movie or story arc and doesn’t say a word to me the entire time. I don’t expect more than a “hi” or “thanks” but don’t even get that. And that’s just it. While comic books are never going to be a mass medium, the advent of the comic book store – as great as that is – seems to have created an amazingly insular world. There were some demerits to writing comic books to be read by children as they mostly were from the ’30s – ’80s, but the upside of that was that comics created a world of wonder. But I feel as if today’s comics are just about making the comic book store guys chuckle and leaving everyone out, yet the box office receipts of the Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men and Superman franchises clearly show there’s an entire universe of people who even a sliver of them would give comics a chance.
But the comics have to be open too, and sadly they are not.