Sunday, October 2, 2011

Comics aren't just for idiots anymore

I just joined Twitter a few weeks ago. I resisted for a long time because I believed I'd just be repeating what I do on Facebook, and my life's not exciting enough. It turned out to be a different animal. I just assumed “followers” would be the same thing as “friends” but in this case I don't have to reciprocate. I don't have to re-open a dialogue with people I haven't talked to since I was five. It gives people the opportunity to say what's on their mind at any given time, and there's not that Orwellian presence (yet).
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The one thing that bothers me is that everyone is talking about “The New DC” right now, complaining about how Aquaman's penis is showing or Batgirl, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman are in a three-way or whatever. It's okay within the confines of comics criticism or a magazine/webzine about the industry as a whole, but people legally old enough to vote and drink seem to forget one thing about these comics: these ads for movies are meant for a junior high audience.
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Up until I was about fifteen I read the typical Marvel and DC fare. Towards the end of high school they were doing all these publicity stunts like The New Universe and mini-series and the notion of all these characters existing in the same world. I gave up these comics because they were making all these changes and they weren't what they used to be. Then I realized something: It's not that the comics got worse, it's that I outgrew them. They weren't meant for me anymore. At some point I wasn't expected to believe in Santa Claus or play with toys anymore, and now there were comics not meant for me anymore either.
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Up until college I read Epic and Vertigo comics. (They weren't called Vertigo yet but used the same premise), but then I realized they were just an R-Rated version of the same shit I outgrew. They were drawn by some of the same people and used some of the same characters, except they had some curse words and the occasional nudity, and still made sense without them. What's more, I'd read them only once and then forget about them. Why not only read comics that stayed with me, and I'd also save about $20 a week that could go to better things.
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When I was about thirty, I had another revelation. Why bother with new comics day? Every Wednesday is the day the new comics come in and people line up like they would a methadone clinic. If they can't make it, they have their comics saved for them. They can't just wait until Saturday to get their comics like they would any other product. I'm typing this on a laptop now, but I didn't buy it on “new computer day”. The pants I'm wearing weren't bought on “new clothes day”. I can't remember what day of the week I bought them and have no idea when the store got their shipment.

Now another notion about comics comes to me at forty. Why should I have any interest in something because it's a comic? I read books, but nobody expects me to have any interest in the Twilight series. I watch TV but don't have any interest in Dancing With the Stars. Yet it's expected that because I read comics I'm expected to want to read all comics. Relatives will get me a book in comics form for Christmas, sometimes it's something I like, sometimes it's something I don't care about. It's assumed that I appreciate some things because of words and pictures and not regardless of them. It's as if someone got me a pair of shoes that didn't fit, and they said “Yeah, but you like shoes, and these are shoes.”

When something like the New York Times Magazine prints or reviews comics, it's not as if they're dumbing themselves down. They don't print action comics that look like van art about mutants from other planets, they print stories similar to their literary aesthetic. There are different magazines for different people, racks put different publications on different parts of the rack, and nobody thinks because they all have the written word they're the same thing.
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“But that's not the point”, you might say. “I already believe all that, but I have kids that read these comics. How do I explain these suggestive changes to them?” First of all, you sound like one of those bigots against gay marriage with their slippery slope arguments, and I presume you're not. Second, if comics are to be treated like any other medium it follows that times change with them. The idea of just reading novels was at one time considered vulgar. Comics that were once considered lurid and causing juvenile delinquency are completely innocuous today. Couples, even married ones, were not allowed to have the same bed together on TV, and now people can say the word “fuck” in most prime-time shows as long as the vowel is bleeped out. Movies that were rated X when they came out could now pass as PG. Things you couldn't have in Playboy in the 50s are now in Mad. Point being- Yes, comics are more suggestive than they used to be, but so's everything else. Get over changes in life, Grandpa. You're reacting to these new comics the way your grandparents reacted to this new rock and roll. What's this world coming to?
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People wonder why comics are still looked down upon, why the general public considers people who read them a fringe group, why unless you live in a coastal city or college town, you'd rather be seen coming out of an adult bookstore. If you're one of those people, then stop reading comics meant for people younger than you. My own tastes are pretty juvenile, but if I don't like something I realize it's not meant for me. Publishers don't have a responsibility to entertain me. This is one of the times I agree with the slogan “let the market decide”. Some of you are a few years from collecting social security and still feel the need to read heroic fantasy comics aimed at eighth graders. Thirty years later, there are still articles about how “comics aren't just for kids anymore” (though thankfully not as many), focusing on comics that if not for the gratuitous taboo subject matter, still are. Just ignore these comics. They're not meant for you. When you go to a bookstore you don't look at every single section. Look at comics the same way. The reason “others” think all comics are the same is because you look at all comics. Get only what you like, stop collecting them, and just read them. Keep them in mint if you want to out of respect and not because they'll be valuable. And for god's sake put down that Filet-o-Fish and have some grapes.
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Update #1- Though I don't think it's a particular day of the week and it's not clockwork, people do go to Apple stores religiously when a new product comes out.

Update #2- I'm through with Photobucket. Sometimes they censor something particularly pornographic. I can understand that. This time they censored the image above from Seduction of the Innocent where a guy's shoulder supposedly looks like a vagina. It's from 1954. My Blogger storage has inexplicably gone down to 0% anyway.

Update #3- Another argument against these comics is that they're degrading to women. I agree with that 100%. But they always have been, so has most media for that matter. This time they may be more risque, but nothing has changed. See my previous comment again : "They're just not for you."

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