Thursday, April 8, 2010

No More Superheroes

Among my many geeky interests, the pursuit of ongoing superhero comics is one that comes and goes. Usually, by the time some film adaptation reignites my interest, I can no longer remember why I stopped reading. So it was that, following the very exciting releases of The Dark Knight and the Iron Man movie, my enthusiasm for superhero comics crested again, and I thought I would try to get back up to speed on current stories.

This went on for some time, but eventually I was reminded that, while these stories could provide occasional thrills, they were mostly pretty juvenile dead ends, and I didn't care enough to read twenty books a month, let alone pay for them. Until just recently, I was down to following only four superhero titles. On the DC side, I was reading Green Lantern and the Blackest Night crossover event. Similarly, the two Marvel books on my reading list were Thor and Siege, Marvel's big crossover.

Well, no more. As of now, I will not be buying another new issue of a superhero comic (unless you count Ex Machina, which I only read in collected editions). After seeing Marvel's equivalent of Superman literally rip a man--a god, actually--in two, I felt only intense shame. Seeing this incredibly graphic, on-panel mutilation as the centerfold of Marvel's biggest title, I was compelled to take a look behind me and check if I could even still see that line that we crossed over--way over--without my realizing it.

Who exactly is this stuff marketed toward? I would never dream of letting a child read today's stuff, yet neither does it come close to my idea of adult. I can only picture some geeky, emotionally stunted manboy getting off on these images, but I'm not sure if I'm picturing the reader or the writer. Why is it that the so-called mainstream titles of American comics seem to be the ones that target only the most deviant subculture? What kind of backward industry is this? I cannot pick out any single image quite as shocking on the DC side, but the overall attitude is the same. If its biggest, most high-profile titles may be considered representative, then the superhero genre has come to a self-perpetuating cycle of machismo and superpowers pornography. God, why did I ever think that stories of flying men in tights could be anything greater?! The stories are more complicated today than they were fifty years ago, but I wouldn't say they are any more artful or sophisticated as literature. I won't deny that the action can be titillating, and even after Marvel Superman made a piñata out of a fellow hero, I did still read the next issue, which turned out to be stupid. Titillation is fine, and I will not think less of anyone who goes into superhero comics looking for that. All I'm saying is that I personally am done paying $4 for five minutes of dudes in capes clobbering one another; there are cheaper and/or longer-lasting thrills that I would rather waste my life on.

Understand, I still like superheroes, and I remain excited for the movies. But if some budding fan should come asking me for comic recommendations after seeing Iron Man 2, I will maybe suggest some story from the '70s.

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