Saturday, May 20, 2006

Losing Faith

I remember when I was a kid and I really honestly believed it the first couple of times I read a story in which a major comic book character died. There was one time I spent weeks puzzling over why Superman's death (no, not The Death of Superman, another one) hadn't seemed to have caused any repercussions in other comics, and was quite relieved to find everything set right in the second half of the two-parter.

As I read more comics it became apparent that hero death was a regular occurance and not to be taken too seriously. With big-name characters like Batman or Superman it was either a fake out, or at worst an "event" (yes, I do mean The Death of Superman this time). In some ways it felt a bit of a cheat, but I realise now that deep down it was very reassuring to know that however bad things looked, my heroes would always come through, somehow.

It's not like that now. Sure, the iconic name brands are untouchable, but Wonder Woman hasn't been able to hold a supporting cast since before Crisis (the first one), Batman's been largely unreadable for years, and Superman gets retconned so often that I have no idea what Krypton is now supposed to have looked like or whether Kandor is currently only available in bottled form.

And gods help you if you are a B list character. You can vanish from history with a lame explanation, or none at all, and nobody even notices when you are replaced a month later by someone else with the same name. Or you can be built up for a couple of months so that readers will care more when you become the sacrificial goat to make an "event" more... Meanspirited? Depressing? I don't know what the hell the point of that is.

At least once you hit the C list they just use you as dramatic cannon-fodder to show how evil the villains are. Your death may be brutal and violent, but it's usually quick.

So when I read Robin #150 I wasn't excited; I just felt a little nauseous and depressed. It may be, as Kalinara suggests, a misdirection, and Cassandra may yet be saved. But DC already cancelled her comic and they have a new Batwoman all lined up and ready to roll. So I have no deep down tingle of anticipation over how Batgirl is going to get out of this one. No expectation that the clever writer is going to resolve the impossible situation with a surprise twist that I should have seen coming. No faith in DC any more to give me a happy ending.

It's times like this I wonder if maybe I've grown out of comics.


Brett said...

I have been disappointed in the DC slasher comics of late. Unlike some I don't regard the rolling head of Pantha as a good thing or the arm of the terrorist that Black Adam tears off to be cool. I think it is laziness to an extent, the easy way to show a supervillain is really bad is to jump to gorey violence or to kill someone. After awhile it just starts to feel like Friday the 13th Part 14 to me, we aren't supposed to care that the victim was a human (or alien or whatever..) we are just supposed to go 'Awesome!' when we see some blood. Just feels out of place to me, but I am an old geezer in comics terms.

Why in my day youngsters we had heroes who..

Yeah, yeah old dude, just fascinating.... Oh man cool! Look Deathstroke rips this guys guts out and makes him eat it! Awesome!

Snard said...

You point out the precise reason why I no longer buy (or download) current comics. Golden age is where it's at :)

Marionette said...

I know I'd be diverting my comics buying funds largely in the direction of Showcase Presents if they only produced something slightly more mainstream than The Haunted Tank.

Although to be fair, dogfights between a german fighter and a tank in a parachute are beginning to look way more attractive than anything else available this month. Big Bob Kanigher, how could I have ever doubted you?

Anonymous said...

American superheroes have it easy.

Japanese superheroes kill their enemies, only to have them come back sometimes, and have to kill them again.

Japanese super-villains are all irredeemably evil, of course. :)

Shawn Fumo said...

Just remember that comics don't equal superheros. The reasons you stated is why I don't read much of them anymore, but I still find plenty of "comics" to read.

Just in manga alone, there's tons of interesting stuff. Medical thriller (Monster), Thoughtful sci-fi (Planetes), violent fantasy (Berserk), innocent fun (Yotsuba), hilarious parody (Cromartie High), etc. And something like One Piece or Naruto remind me more of the energy and adventure I remembe as a kid than most of the modern western superheros.

Plus lots of indie stuff like La Perdida, Scott Pilgrim, Hellboy, etc. I've been burning through tons of GNs from the library and local shop lately..


Marionette said...

Shawn, I totally agree. There are lots of fine non-superhero comics which I enjoy on a regular basis, but I would like to be able to enjoy superheroes too. And not just any old superheroes, but the ones I've read all my life.

They don't have to be multi-layered and deep. They don't have to be witty and clever (although that's always a bonus). They just have to tell me a little story that takes me out of my mundane everyday world and give me a glimpse of something exciting for 10 minutes.

I don't need comics to make me feel depressed. I already have that covered.

Anonymous said...

We're trying to save Cass at A single letter is all that's needed, just one more, one letter at a time.. please help...