NOW Is The Golden Age Of Comics!
Comic book fans can tend to shoot themselves in the foot.
They want people to see the greatness of the medium they are in love with, yet are incredibly non-inclusive. They want greater acceptance but are overly skeptical of all who show an interest. And they punch holes in their own medium over the slightest and most minor of supposed faults. We are a hard bunch. I think it comes from our history, from the bad blood spilt in the past where the average comic book fan was also an outcast; a nerd, a dweeb, a geek who could only find acceptance in the pages of their favorite four-color pages and the other outcasts who read them. We can be an embittered mob, angry that the world does not see the inherent worth within the art, the storytelling; that people only see comics as children’s fare and not the artistically meritorious works they really are.
So what do we do about it? Where do we channel this frustration?
At the medium itself. We bitch and moan and stomp our collective little feet because this movie was miscast or because this comic didn’t play out the way we wanted or because the Willie Lumpkin movie hasn’t been slated yet or because that girl/boy in seventh grade wouldn’t go out with us. Whatever! We’re a bunch of whiny know-it-all’s when it comes to comic books and you know the only thing that suffers because of it?
The comic book industry itself.
There are enough people in the world who want to belittle our beloved medium, without us helping them along. We complain about all the bad press aimed at movies like Suicide Squad or initiatives like Marvel Now and Rebirth, without realizing that we are the ones actually perpetuating it. We bitch that after Suicide Squad there will be an influx of Harley Quinn cosplayers now who aren’t really interested in the character or the comics. What we don’t realize is that they are the bread and butter of our fan industry. Check out the next available Comic-Con near you. See how they’ve gotten bigger and bigger over the years? It’s because of the Harley cosplayers and their ilk. Who gives a crap they don’t know what episode of Batman: TAS she first appeared in. They’re supporting the industry by buying their tickets and getting the character out there.
I know many lament the good ol’ days where there were about 500 people at a Con and every single one of them knew what issue Quisp first appeared in (it was Aquaman #1 – The Invasion Of The Fire Trolls! by the way). But times change and without growth, industries die.
Currently, the industry is enjoying some of the biggest public saturation it has ever enjoyed. Sure, comics don’t sell as much as they did, but the industry itself has been fortified in other media, from animated features, series, computer games, web-comics and, of course, feature films. The greater populace know who the Guardians Of The Galaxy are! Guardians of the freaking galaxy, people! That is a minor miracle in itself. One of my all time favorite series is the original Rocket Racoon mini by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola and if you’d have told me then that there would be action figures of him available in my local supermarket one day, I’d have punched you in the throat and called you a liar.
We have a seemingly endless slate of quality comic movies coming up and even though that quality may vary and won’t cater to all tastes, this is something to be excited about. If, like me, you lived through the dark days of Shaq’s Steel, Hasslehoff’s Nick Fury and Heather Locklear’s Swamp Thing then you know that it is not a given that so much money and talent be thrown at such endeavors. Okay, so maybe you thought Suicide Squad sucked, but don’t sweat it, there’s another comic book movie just around the corner. Yet when we run these films down so publicly, so viciously and without thought beyond our own precious opinions, we sour the deal, man! If you care about the medium, check out every film you can which has spawned from it. It all still supports the humble comic book. Yes, I know it actually lines the pockets of inconceivably huge corporations, but they, in turn run the comic companies who pump out the comics we loved in the first place.
If, like me, you lived through the glory days of Rob Liefeld, when the entire comic book universe was ‘Image-ized” and good art and inspired storytelling was replaced with vapid, generic posing and plots devised by a ten-year-old on a Red Bull bender, then you know that things aren’t really that bad at the moment.
Sure, it gets draining when you’re facing event after event, when the whole comic book ground beneath your feet keeps being shifted by comic book companies. But you know what? It will change back. It always does. The good ideas will stick and the bad ones will fall by the wayside. Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop buying, because Rebirth has been really cool and for someone out there, Riri Williams as Ironheart might just be as important as the introduction of the Silver Age Flash.
Yeah. Deal with that.
For myself, this has been a golden age, where the thrill of new comic book experiences is matched by the uncertainty of change. Yet, change is good. The Silver Age would never have happened without it. The Dark Knight Returns would never have happened without it. Watchmen. Maus. 2000AD. Famous Funnies. Spider-Man. Metal Hurlant. Robert Crumb. Perhaps even Riri Williams might join the list one day. If not she’ll be relegated to some z-grade team and die during the next ‘event’ to fake some type of emotional resonance. Don’t worry about it.
Just enjoy the ride, because you know it’s not going to last.
Comics have always ebbed and flowed on the tide of popular culture. They have their moment then they recede. For a while. Then they find a new way into the minds of people. They are eternal. They are things of joy and wonder and excitement and reach far deeper than most would realize.
Revel in them, their past, their present and their future. The crowd will move on and they will return, only to leave again.
Comics and you will still be here, where it matters.
In the heart of imagination. Within the greatest medium there is.