Comics. What are they good for?

For the discussion of Movies, Television, Comics, and other existential distractions.

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markabaddon
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Comics. What are they good for?

Postby markabaddon » Fri Jun 02, 2006 1:50 pm

Some might say they are good for absolutely nothing, but I have been reading them since I was 6, just got my 4 year old his first comic, and I think they are a wonderful way to instill a moral compass within a child.

Having said that, I gotta say I have no idea what is going on with Marvel right now. This series, Civil War, takes place during a time when heroes may be forced to register if they wish to continue fighting crime. Notwithstanding the fact that this story lines has already been done before a couple of times (when the Justice Society was forced to disband, the Mutant Registration Act, etc.), how would the government realistically force these super-powered beings to comply?

The heroes in DC were also having difficulty. In Identity Crisis, we discovered that the wife of a super hero had been raped by a villain and that villain then had his mind altered to forget her identity. This eventually lead to the DC event called Inifinite Crisis

My comments on that series can be found elsewhere, but the state of the heroes as the mini-series closes is one of hope. I think the writers in DC realized that Batman should not be that much of an asshole, Superman should not be that dense, and Wonder Woman should not be committing murder. Taking a break from the super hero business to clear their respective heads and to rediscover how and why they became super heroes made sense in that context.

DC has had some missteps along the way, as Infinite Crisis was a botched opportunity, but they have been getting some stuff right. Marvel just seems to be floundering right now, rehashing old story lines and not having any consistency between their comics. Example: Emma Frost is a villain in Astonishing X Men, yet is a hero in the main X Men title. It makes no sense.

However, I will concede that I am not be reading some of the better titles in Marvel. Does anyone out there have any recommendations?

For me, I would recommend 2 new series that just came out of Infinite Crisis: Shadowpact and Secret Six. The both recently had their first issues come out and both got me immediately hooked with great dialogue and some very unique characters (both Detective Chimp and Catman rule in their respective books)
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Postby Moderator » Fri Jun 02, 2006 2:41 pm

I have, unfortunately, lost touch with a lot of the monthly ... make that ALL of the monthly titles. For a while there I was a big fan and constant reader of Legion; Teen Titans; X-Men; X-Flight and others. I always seemed to gravitate to the team books (though many moons ago I collected every issue of Vigilante).

Now, however, other than the periodic graphic novel, I'm hard-pressed to get very excited about anything I'm seeing. About every six months to a year I wander into the neighborhood comic shop and pick up a few to see what I'm missing and, frankly, nothing's grabbing me.

And I think the BBC article may have hit on why. I want my heroes to be somehow greater than me. I don't want to follow the story of someone who's having problems making the bills every month. I don't want to follow the story of someone who is conflicted morally -- as a villain or cohort, yes, fascinating story, but telling me Superman is fighting his inner demons or Wonder Woman isn't quite so wonderful lessens the magic for me. As heroes, they have to stand for something.

For those people who argue that these things make the characters "more real": It's a comic book. They aren't real.

I'm not saying we can't have a Wolverine cast amongst the heroes, he makes things interesting and is, in his own way, more of a hero than many of the more "tragified" and "conflicted" heroes in the comics.

Moral ambiguity exists in real life. I don't see the real world the way Dubya does, but when I'm escaping this world into the fantasy of flying women and lightening-throwing men a little backbone and righteousness is appreciated.
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Postby robochrist » Fri Jun 02, 2006 3:42 pm

Steve,

One of the staples at Marvel is moral ambiguity; the heritage of the Lee/Kirby creations is the hero asking himself "what's it all FOR" and "why do I knock myself out for this murderous ratpack called the 'human race'" (and STILL goes out of his way to try and do the right thing; THAT'S what really makes a hero); I think Marvel was the first to come up with the anti-hero in comics by the name of Namor. And that's what I find FAR more intriguing, personally, than a 1-dimensional archetype whose moral compass points in ONE direction - when NO ONE'S does. It's not that this feature makes these characters more "real"; it's that we recognize these human fallibilities in them and therefore connect with them more deeply.

Give me a wretch who loses his cool, picks fights sometimes, questions his purpose now and then, loses friends, feels out of place, and has trouble paying his bills to a boy scout ANY day.

I guess I felt your summation there fell a bit short.

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Postby David Loftus » Fri Jun 02, 2006 4:21 pm

Having grown up with the first 100 or so issues of Spider-Man, I regard him as the first pop existential hero; that is, he was constantly questioning what he was doing and trying to walk away from it, as distinguished from Superman and Batman (in their original incarnations, in the 1930s and 1940s) who did what they did simply because it was the right thing to do.
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Postby robochrist » Fri Jun 02, 2006 5:46 pm

"Spider-Man...the first pop existential hero"

...I suspect one of the momentous aspects to the newcomer of his day was his motivation: not even as honorable, when you think about it, as revenge (as was Namor's drive), his was a guilt complex; it wasn't out of some humanistic drive (in fact, he disliked most people outside his aunt and uncle), but an understanding and great pain that he'd lost a loved one due to his action (or in his case INACTION). An incredibly compelling character.

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Postby Eric Martin » Sat Jun 03, 2006 5:18 pm

>Now, however, other than the periodic graphic novel, I'm hard-pressed to get very excited about anything I'm seeing.<

It's called growing up.

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Postby Ben » Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:58 pm

Eric Martin wrote:>Now, however, other than the periodic graphic novel, I'm hard-pressed to get very excited about anything I'm seeing.<

It's called growing up.


Sorry, Eric, but unless you get out of this "all comics are strictly for kids" mentality of yours (the operative word being 'all'), you're the one who's still adolescent at heart.

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Postby Eric Martin » Tue Jun 06, 2006 10:08 am

Not all comics are just for kids, Ben. Only the ones you read.

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Postby markabaddon » Tue Jun 06, 2006 12:31 pm

Eric, is there anyone on this board you have not been an asshole to? I understand that you seem compelled to make a smartass comment anytime Barber posts something, but could you, just once, try to say something constructive without taking potshots at Barber, Ben, me or anyone else.

If you do not have anything to add to a conversation about comics, please shut the hell up. Thank you.

Steve Barber, there is still good stuff being done, but the overall quality of the comics seems like it is in a down cycle. I enjoy almost anything written by Gail Simone (Birds of Prey, Secret Six) as she has a great ear for dialogue and I have liked the work done by Greg Pak on Phoenix: Endsong, but a lot of the monthly comics seem stale to me.

As a huge Buffy fan, I was very excited about Joss Whedon writing Astonishing X-Men, but that really started to lose focus after the first 6-8 issues. Now, it is just a complete mess, with Joss having the X Men act in a way totally contradictory to their normal behaviors.

While I have not been reading many monthly comics, I think there has been tremendous work done in the limited series recently. Examples of this include Villains United, Identity Crisis, and the aforementioned Phoenix:Endsong. When the comic is focused on a single often self-contained storyline, they often have been of a higher quality lately.

Robochrist, I absolutely agree with you on the guilt complex being the key motivating factor behind Spidey, but I am not sure I agree that he disliked most people outside of his aunt and uncle. While it is true that he did not have many friends in high school, he became friendly with Robbie Robertson and Betty Brant at the Bugle. I saw it as shyness, rather than misanthropic tendencies.
Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristrocratic forms. No gov't in history has been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy develops, gov't tends more and mroe to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class

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Postby robochrist » Tue Jun 06, 2006 12:40 pm

The argument that holds up best in court is even if material IS written for juveniles or adolescents, it doesn't mean it can't have breadth - things we can relate to in adult life. From Grimm's Fairy Tales to authors like J. M Barrie and Exupery, Its themes can include irony, tragedy, character, family woes, and even political satire. It can be humorous but wise; or dark and downbeat. For all its supposed simplicity directed at children - mistaken as a requisite by some - it may and often does successfully connect with the adults too, and sometimes in a potent fashion. The question "Who is this story written for?" becomes almost meaningless. It is written for "me", the inward voice of the reader (child or adult) declares. It is written for me and I am reading it.

In turn, the authors often do the material for themselves, allowing their inner voice to "let it out". Lots of Lee/Kirby stuff was the case; EC Comics was the case; Alan Moore is certainly the case; the old Warners Jones-Clampett-Freling-McKimson animation was the case. You could turn to endless examples.

So, enough of the archetypal boyscouts of the comics; give us the pathological existentialists who can't pay their bills and question worthiness of the human race: because their reactions to such quandaries is what holds the real lessons for us all in both our childhoods and adult years. (Incidentally, aliens - like the Silver Surfer - are a great metaphor for the child within us, and for growing up; the naive whose lessons must be learned through painful experience)

(I have a feeling that more among us learned deeper lessons in our childhoods - ones we've taken far into our adult years - from Spiderman than Superman. One reason we keep turning back to look at the Parker character is because he was developed over the years; his views, attitudes, biases, even frustrations, reshaped in many ways. His experiences altered some of his perceptions as they do for us. So, it isn't that these characters are more real but that we connect with them in more personal ways)

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Postby Eric Martin » Tue Jun 06, 2006 12:53 pm

>Eric, is there anyone on this board you have not been an asshole to? <

God no, I hope not. I believe you were one of the recent ones, too. Hmm, it's like PLUCKING VIRGINS, my friend. Of course, that you were busy sobbing about the frightened ones at Weeniecon made it a little easy...try to be more sporting in the future, 'kay?

I wasn't dissing Mr. Barber about comics. Just noting that his own disinterest in the medium reflected a welcome maturation of taste. For those of you who haven't yet obtained such a level, don't worry, there will lots more Buffy to peruse. And I'm sure that X-Men will continue to enrich your literary life, as it has already done for so many.

Yours in assholery, Eric

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Postby Eric Martin » Tue Jun 06, 2006 12:54 pm

>I think there has been tremendous work done in the limited series recently. <

Are they still wearing their underwear on the outside of their pants? Just asking...

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Postby robochrist » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:01 pm

markabaddon,

"Spidey, but I am not sure I agree that he disliked most people outside of his aunt and uncle. While it is true that he did not have many friends in high school, he became friendly with Robbie Robertson and Betty Brant at the Bugle."

My summary, of course, was stated in the most general terms. My last post elaborated a little more (to the effect that his experiences reshaped many of his attitudes over the years); but when I said "he didn't like people much", I was referring to the beginning issues, particularly the origin ("the rest of the world can hang for all I care", in reference to his aunt and uncle); his contempt from the abuse he took from peers is what led to his arrogance when the burglar ran by. His attitude is what dictated his actions, just as ours does everyday.

(Eric is dense. He has nothing to say about anything. Being a pointless wiseass here seems to define his meager day-to-day existence)

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Postby Jan » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:04 pm

Eric, if you need fashion advice, open a new thread.

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Postby DVG » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:08 pm

Perhaps I can pass on Mary Ping's phone number.


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