Trying to Understand Comics

After reading some of Ryan’s posts about the state of modern comic books, I ventured, for the first time in probably 20 years, into a comic book store: the legendary Al’s Comics here in San Francisco.

I spent $30 on a variety of comics, from Fantastic Four to The Eternals to Ms. Marvel (probably because of this cover–holy cow–but more on that later.). Al even threw in a copy of a Superman comic because I told him I never liked Superman and he took it as a dare.

Holy crap: so much has changed. The sheer number and type of titles has completely changed. It’s bewildering and hard to simply get started picking up a comic book. For one thing, comic books seem like they have completely been overrun by fanboys over the last 20 years. Titles like the X-Men have splintered into a vast series of titles, many seemingly in different universes with different storylines that don’t mesh together. Characters who are alive in one universe are dead in others, or have a different name or are evil or good or both. It’s really confusing. Just check out one of the wikipedia articles to get what I’m talking about.

Comic books have ratings now??!

And why are the credits and title at the end now?

Boys, boys, boys. Nearly every female character in superherodom now needs a Brazilian bikini wax. I’m throwing away my Victoria’s Secret catalog for being too demure. Even poor old flat-chested Kitty Pryde and Sue Storm are now crazy hot.

The art in general has completely changed. The influence of anime and more experimental pieces from the 1980s are everywhere. The old Kirby style is definitely long gone.

Here’s some mini-reviews of the issues I bought, in case you are interested in checking these out:

  • All-Star Superman #1. Not bad. Comprehensible, with some neat riffs on the tired Superman cliches. Kind of a sci-fi Superman. I’ll probably pick up another.
  • Fantastic Four #30. Dull, except for the Namor-Reed tension. Pass.
  • Green Lantern #11 and Green Lantern Corps #1. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here. Seems intriguing and layered, but I have no way of getting into these.
  • Uncanny X-Men #475. Lame. Thin story, weak characters.
  • Astonishing X-Men #14-15. Ah, now here’s the X-Men I remember. Nuanced, emotional, with a core of humor and humanity. I’ll buy more of these, and go back and buy the old ones.
  • Ms. Marvel #1. Ok, but probably won’t continue.
  • Eternals #1. Interesting, but slow-moving. I’ll probably give this one more read and see if it picks up.

I realize after writing this (“Can you believe what the kids are reading these days?”) that I must sound like the most out-of-it old fart, and man, that sucks.

3 thoughts on “Trying to Understand Comics

  1. western popular comics are very super hero based. pick up french sci fi works by Moebius or manga works from Masamune Shirow. the depth of their works will astound you.

  2. There’s only one “superhero” comic I even moderately enjoy, and that’s Ex Machina. I stay away from anything featuring underwear perverts.
    For my money, the best recent comics are the HELLBOY and BPRD series. They explore really interesting folkloric tales, are smart written, brilliantly drawn, and even somewhat literary.

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