Monday, June 04, 2012

Apathy Where is Thy Sting – The Week Not Reviewed

A funny thing happened on the way to the week in review, no books showed up on my doorstep. I get my new books mailed to me. Due to the one day slip in books arriving and my store sending some hard cover collections that had accumulated via parcel post versus the normal priority mail, I have yet to read a new comic from last week. On the plus side for the first time in what seems like a year I’m current on all of my new comics. Yet that still leaves me with nothing to talk about with current comics. Sadly that leaves you, dear readers, with a column that is more of a rant then anything else.

Much of my apathy for regular comics stems from my lack of enthusiasm for the new 52 from the DCU. I worry because as one gets older the loss of interest in your normal enjoyments can be seen as a sign of depression. So I was glad to hear from a reader and my two daughters that my apathy for this new DCU is a shared phenomenon. I was also amused when I realized that DC is grouping their books by families and the group that included Animal Man, Justice League Dark, Swamp Thing, Frankenstein Agent of Shade and four others are all titles I still collect. In other words everything that reflects the actual cape and cowl stuff has fallen in to disfavor for me, except Wonder Woman. Batman is an odd bird, because I like the writing but still feel going backwards was a bad idea.

Of course fellow writer Thomm likes to be a true contrarian and points out that I want change and yet seem to complain when I get it. He also decries that I still get a fair amount of DC even as I complain. Given I tried all 52 and have cut over half the line up, I think it is a severe judgment on their overall quality. Bob Harras continues to bring in Howard Mackie, Rob Liefeld and other nineties failures to try and do something new, seems like an oxymoronic move to me. Back to why the change does not work. Change to me is growth. Bringing Bucky back in the Marvel Universe was done with a sense of remaking the character. He was not just revived as the young sidekick, he was turned into a man with a tragic past of being brainwashed and turned into an assassin. With some deft retro-cons of Bucky’s origin making him over into a sort of teen covert agent of the US in WWII, everything worked. The revival of Jason Todd, was not done as well, but his reintroduction as a new villain for Batman made great comic book sense. Here is a man who believes in his righteousness, trained by Batman and yet a villain in many ways. The best villains are the ones who think they are right as Ras As Ghul and Magneto jump to mind as excellent examples.

The new DCU is change, but all change is not good. DC’s change has provided no growth for their characters. In fact each and every DCU character has been pushed backwards. Every single character is younger in some sense and instead of building on what has gone before we now have the same names, but different people. We have no feel for these people. We did not start over, we started at the middle. That is why I can accept the Earth 2 stuff so readily. Alan Scott is gay, okay; let’s see what is Jay Garrick like, how about Wildcat, Hourman, Doctor Midnight, the Atom? I’m cool with taking heroes who I love and starting them over, it is at least a way I can get to know them from the ground floor. Will I be sad or bothered by some of the changes, sure, but at least I still care about them.

Another reason I care less and less about the cape set from Marvel and DC is the lack of private lives. I think the most private life portrayal I have seen in comic is from the gay characters. The reason of course is to give us the sense that these characters are gay, so we see Batwoman lip locking other woman and Alan this week will be seen kissing his boy friend. In reality I’m not sure we know the sexuality of almost any other character for the most part since 90% of the characters are always in costume and having adventures. The human side of these characters is what made them relatable. The ability to tell heroic adventures and have character development is lost on many of today’s writers. I have recently re-watched the first two seasons of Justified, a great TV show. The amount of storytelling, characterization and action told in a season of 13 shows of around 42 minutes each is amazing. Comics have lost that ability and part of the reason is the inability for growth of a character to be portrayed. It becomes ludicrous to the extreme when you cram all that history into the same character. The burden of the history is so extreme that characters like Cyclops, Magneto, Spider-Man, Iron Man are all so burdened by their past each new story becomes a re-telling of some older story. DC’s solution was horrible and Marvel’s is just to do soft re-sets and tell the same story again and again. While I will follow a character from the big two for light entertainment I have no investment in any of them and again we are back to apathy.

Well I have proverbially beaten this horse to death so many times that the corpse is no longer fit for the glue factory. I guess what is so disappointing is the potential to move these characters forward or tell timeless stories are there. Grant Morrison did great work with All Star Superman and he revived the Bat family until DC flushed 90% of that down the toilet. The Black Mirror story by Scott Snyder is another example of what growth in a character can do and Dick Grayson had a private life. There is obviously a little hypocrisy in my rant, because if I was truly 100% mired in apathy I wouldn’t have written this column, but be aware I needed a column so I could have done a political rant. Of course  no one wants that in a site that tries to entertainment based, we are more akin to E News, then CNN.

Next week’s list is Animal Man, Before Watchmen Minutemen, Dial H, Fairest, GI Combat, Izombie, Swamp Thing, Sweet Tooth, World’s Finest, Stormwatch, Action (the only core DC cape book and it is by Grant Morrison), Age of Apocalypse, Avengers vs X-Men, Dark Avengers, Fury Max, Hulk, Uncanny X-Men, Winter Soldier, Creator Owned Heroes, Epic Kill, Morning Glories, Secret, Thief of Thieves, Harbinger and X-O Manowar.

Matthew recently reminded me that I used to do what I’m getting this week column and I may revive that as at least I have reason to be excited about what is coming out as I always have hope what I have yet to read can be great.

Return again next week and hopefully I will actually have some new books to talk about.


  1. baroquen131 / Rob6/07/2012 12:25 PM

    The new DC isn't so much change as it is a re-run that you're remembering a little differently. Maybe a George Lucas-esque re-run? Everything's been reset and tweaked, but there's no guarantee you're ever going to get your favorite episode or storylines again. Not that interested.

    And in my opinion, it's not so much change as it is the illusion of change. When I read the Avengers growing up, it was one of my favorites, because something was always happening with Hawkeye, or the Vision & Scarlet Witch, or Giant-Yellow-Ant-Man. The villains were just as interesting. Things happened! But now - the same titles have Wolverine, Spiderman, Captain America and every heavy hitter of the Marvel capes (including Xmen and FF incredulously). You KNOW nothing's going to advance for those charaters. (And you also know the ending before it happens... heroes win). When an appearance by Squirrel-Girl has the most impact on continuity it's pretty sad. I actually dropped the Avengers from my pull list because of this nonsense (well, and I was tired of Bendis).

    This has all been pretty similar to the last time I commented. Sorry about that. Unfortunately, the cape comics are even more stagnant.

  2. My comments repeat also, and as you said less stagnant then cape books.