Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Disconnect

So I'm at Atomic Comics today (they're my back-up store - don't ask) and as I'm standing at the register, the dude in front of me is looking in their display case where they lovingly show off all their high-value comics that are the bane of comics' existence, in my opinion. So this dude says, "Eighty dollars for Amazing Spider-Man #36? Wow." He then lets the clerks know that he bought five copies of it. (This is the one that came out a few years ago, not the old-school one. This one is the famed "Spidey feels bad about September 11th" one.) The manager (or owner, or someone in authority) says he'll buy three of them. The dude says something to the effect that he's saving it for when his daughter needs money. I think to myself that it's probably not going to go much higher than $80, so if he wants a college education for his daughter based on four copies, he better be sending her to a community college. He also said that he let 15 other people read it, and because of that issue, they all got into comics. He said it's a perfect example of what the medium is capable of.

After he left, I shook my head and said, "But it's such a lousy comic." The clerk gave me a look and asked me what I was talking about. I said it was a stupid issue because no way Doctor Doom cries over terrorists taking out 3000 Americans. He said that Doom wants to take over the world so he doesn't kill people, which is just about the dumbest thing about comics I've ever heard. I said that Doom is usually just as bad as the terrorists. I don't own the issue, and it's been a long time since I read it. Doesn't Magneto show up crying too? Magneto has probably killed more than 3000 innocent people over the course of his life, and he doesn't give them a second thought. Moreover, the people in the World Trade Center were regular humans. What the hell does he care if they die?

Okay, I'm reading too much into it. I remember that the issue was lousy for other reasons. It was all that is bad about sentimentality. It panders, it manipulates, it implies that if you don't grieve as much as Spider-Man that you're somehow a horrible person. It's not a good comic. At least the way I see it.

Anyway, this clerk looked at me with a mixture of pity and scorn. Pity because I couldn't see the transcendent beauty that is Straczynski's writing, and scorn because I must be an Islamic fundamentalist sympathizer. I left thinking about this.

I don't think it's a huge thing to say that people who read about comics on-line are a little more adventurous than those who don't. That's not to say they're more elitist or snooty, because I don't think that's true. As I have mentioned dozens of times on this blog, I love superhero comics. However, I also know that I was probably the only person at my regular comics shoppe who ordered Captain Gravity and the Power of the Vril #6 and Action Philosophers #3. The only reason I got those is because I started reading more about independent comics on-line and decided to start looking for them. When I do read superheroes, I'm more inclined to read Noble Causes than Uncanny X-Men, even though I love the X-Men. Noble Causes currently is just more interesting.

If I want to get people more interested in comics, I'm certainly not giving them Amazing Spider-Man #36. I wouldn't even think to do that. I would give them Big Numbers. I'd give them Persepolis. I'd give them Maus. I'd give them Different Ugliness, Different Madness. If I'm giving them superhero stuff, I'd give them Watchmen before I gave them Amazing Spider-Man #36. I'm sorry if that makes me elitist. Hell, I'd give them Essential Spider-Man volumes 1-6, which collects the first 137 issues of the series. That builds actual relationships between characters over ten years, so when Gwen Stacy buys it, it has an actual emotional impact.

It's interesting, though, the disconnect. I have no interest in New Avengers. I just don't. It might be a good book; I certainly think Bendis has talent; I think his Daredevil is excellent. I find myself losing interest in superhero stories more easily than in other stuff. Again, that's not to say that I don't like superheroes, I'm just losing interest more quickly. At the end of this month's New Avengers (I'm not really picking on it, I just happened to flip through it), the next-issue box says "Hundreds of ninjas!" (It might be "thousands" - I can't remember exactly.) My first thought was not "How fuckin' kewl!" but "Again? Didn't Millar do this in Wolverine a year ago?" I don't think that's the response Bendis was going for.

I don't know if I really have a point; I just found this fascinating. First of all, this guy thinks that Amazing Spider-Man #36 is this generation's Action Comics #1, and the owner/manager agreed with him. Second, this guy looked like he was older than I am. Assuming he's been collecting for a while, didn't he ever hear of the early/mid 1990s? Maybe he still has X-Men #1 at home, thinking it will put his daughter through college. Third, superheroes are not going to bring more people into comics. They're just too insular. Fourth, it annoys me when I buy something from an indy publisher that's not even too weird, and people act like I'm all bizarre and different. Step outside your stupid comfort zone for once!

I'm coming off as a snob, aren't I? Well, sorry. I just wanted to point out that when I'm writing for this blog or cruising around the Internet, I find interesting discussions about comics that make me actually use my brain. Then I go out in the real world and people are discussing how many different costumes Cyclops has worn in his career.¹ Sigh.

¹ I am so not making that up. It was a few years ago, but still. A bunch of people at the shoppe I frequent were actually arguing about it. ARGUING!

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12 Comments:

Anonymous Eli said...

But...9/11...and they were so sad! It made me realize that it was ok for me to feel helpless because even Dr. Doom did!

9/29/2005 12:03:00 AM  
Anonymous ArizonaTeach said...

Hey, Atomic? Which one? I'm pretty regular at the Metro store (but, like you, it's only my backup), and I can't imagine the manager there agreeing with you. He has opinions, that man does...!

9/29/2005 12:42:00 AM  
Anonymous ArizonaTeach said...

That should say, agreeing with him. Damn my excitement about finding another Phoenician!

9/29/2005 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger Marionette said...

No, internet comics fans are in no way better or more special than any other type of fans, they just own computers.

Two examples: one of my best friends reads obscure indy stuff I've never heard of. He doesn't own a computer.

I now rarely visit an online comics meassage board that used to be my home on the net because every third discussion these days seems to be "Who would win in a fight between (A-superhero) and (B-superhero)" or a list of "best" or "essential" comics that always degenerates into "favourite, but with no objective merit".

9/29/2005 01:56:00 AM  
Blogger Pól Rua said...

In a lot of ways, you get used to the same ol' same ol'. If you've read Frank Miller's Daredevil and Ben Edlund's early Tick stuff satirising it, it probably takes more than a hundreds of ninjas to float your boat.
Admittedly, if you haven't it might still be pretty cool.
As for Superheroes/Not Superheroes, it depends on the person. Some people might groove on Vol.1 of Morrison's X-Men or DC: New Frontier more than Watchmen.
I try and pitch my stuff at audiences. Sometimes it's non-superhero stuff (Sandman, Bone, Maus, 100 Bullets) and sometimes they dig on the superhero stuff.
Different strokes for different folks.

9/29/2005 05:45:00 AM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

that wasn't Doom, it was a crying Doombot.

If you love someone and want them to get into comics, you steer them away from male power fantasy.

9/29/2005 07:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

My litmus test for comic readability for people who don't read comics is my wife. If I'm embarassed to show the book to my wife, then I don't think it has much chance of finding a reader who is not a natural super-hero fan.

I've been able to get my wife (who kindly tolerates the fact that I'm a comic book geek)to read Why I Hate Saturn, Concrete, Sandman, Pedro & Me, Barry Weems (what the hell happened to Judd Winick? Can he please go back to indy work?) and a few random non-super-hero books. The only super-hero books she has read are Supermans (from Greatest Supes stories & For All Seasons).

I think the adolescent-power-fantasy nature of most super-hero books, especially the way women are portrayed (and my wife is no prude) keep her from mustering up any interest in most modern super-hero comics.

If she ever wants to read a super-hero comic, I wouldn't give her Watchmen to start. The rampant deconstruction and narrative tricks are more enjoyable if one is already a super-hero fan.

My suggestions for a super-hero starter books: Golden Age. It's very well-written & drawn with characters that grab the reader's attention and interest. Additionally, you don't need to know past continuity, and it's fun without being goofy.

9/29/2005 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

It was the Mesa store, ArizonaTeach - I live on the East side. I had never seen the guy before, so I'm not sure who he was. Even if he didn't like the story, it's still a valuable comic.

And that's a good point, Marionette, and one reason I don't go anywhere near message boards. I'm just speaking from my own experience, and if it hadn't been for the Internet, I may not have become more adventurous in my buying habits.

Stupid Doombots!

9/29/2005 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what book I'd throw at someone to get them to start reading comics. Probably not any Spiderman titles that are coming out today, not even the Ultimate book, which the last time I picked it up was almost totally incomprehensible with about a thousand word ballons per page.

Most titles I'd be embarrassed to show non-comics fans. The regular Batman titles are grim without being fun, Spiderman is dull, Superman is boring, the X-Men are complicated and uninteresting. I might turn 'em to Archie Comics. Either that or Kill Your Boyfriend by Morrison, or even the All Star Batman & Robin title, which is so corny and over-the-top it would be good for a laugh.

9/29/2005 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Well, my first thought upon reading New Avengers #11 was "Three dollars for two scenes? You've got to be kidding!"

And they're not even good scenes...

9/29/2005 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

I just hated the JMS story because of the whole "we deserved it because we're arrogant and evil" undercurrent running through the whole thing. We've gone from Superman and Batman fighting Hitler and early-Marvel heroes bashing commies in in the Lee/Kirby/Ditko days to this mealy-mouthed apologist hippie crap? Nigga please.

johnnytriangles.blogspot.com

9/29/2005 05:26:00 PM  
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