Thursday, November 1, 2007

You Know What Bugs Me?

You know what bugs me? Well, as a Republican, and a Conservative, not to mention a Mets fan, I could go on for quite some time on that topic. So instead I will focus specifically on something which bugs me about the comic book "blogosphere."

What bugs me is how some bloggers use the term "superhero" as a perjorative. Uhh... what? I mean, it's one thing to say "underwear pervert" like Warren Ellis does, because he has a point to make about how Marvel and DC use the term (that, and jumping on a bandwagon created by Warren Ellis automatically makes you cool), but using the term itself as a qualifier ticks me off. "It's pretty good," these bloggers say, "for a superhero comic." WTF? Every one of these punks reads superhero stuff every damn month, and I can pretty much guarantee that none of them grew up reading OGNs or relationship-y manga. What's wrong with the superhero genre? Not a damn thing! It sustains the industry in this country, like it or not, and has done so for a couple of decades now.

"But it's childish and immature and is just about punching people!" Yes, certainly superhero comics are not as sophisticated as a true Graphic Novel -- nor should they be! They're meant to be (*gasp*) fun, not something to be critiqued and dissected and analyzed for every possible flaw before being tossed off into a pile of crap in order to feed one's ego as a "critic." We don't go to superhero movies to feel and think things for 2 hours -- Superman Returns not withstanding -- we go to be exhilarated and entertained. What's so wrong with that? If the genre had some inherent, major flaw, wouldn't it have collapsed long, long before now?

Are comics more than superheros? Of course, as well they should be -- comics (like manga and anime, much to the contrary of how their fanbases address them) is a medium and not a genre into of itself. There's room for any type of subject matter in comics; hell, it doesn't even really have to be sequential if you don't want! But no. Some folk can't play nice with everyone else. They have to let people know just how WRONG they are for reading certain things, and DEMAND that everyone look at them and what THEY are reading. In their mad rush to distance themselves from "fanboys," abnd to portray "their" comics as "art," and not that trash you read, they have become little more than puppets, easily manipulated into regurgitating their hackneyed opinions about why something sucks again and again.

The other aspect which always boggles my mind: if these individuals dislike superhero comics so much, how come they always seem to be the first ones to find something to complain about or be offended by in one? What difference does it make if Civil War ships late or if Superman has a fill-in if the comic is "meaningless?"

And yes, these are the same folks who call comic books "pamphlets." And you do NOT want to get me started on that.

Superhero is a genre. Not an insult. Get. Over. Yourself.


Anonymous said...

Preach it brother!

Are there bad superhero comics? Hell yes!

Are there GREAT superhero comics? (coughInvincibleIronFistAnnihilationcough) Hell yes!

And of course, there are really horrid indie comics and manga out there as well.

Diabolu Frank said...

"Super-hero" is rightly a pejorative because 1) the exact term "super-hero" (C)2007 DC & Marvel Comics, 2)because the genre is inherently limited in a way others are not.

"Super-heroes" wear funny costumes and assault people in the name of justice. The less queer and more peaceful the super-hero, the less you're actually part of the genre. In order to be taken seriously, you have to subordinate the super-heroTM aspects of the story and raise the science fiction/fantasy/etc to primary concern.

Further, the only thing super-heroes sustain is the super-hero industry. Superman could cease publication tomorrow and not have the slightest impact on what truly sustains the medium in the United States, manga. Now I personally find the majority of these Japanese imports to be less mature, well crafted, and plain interesting than super-heroes books, but that's like saying a rapist isn't as bad as a child molestor. It's still mostly misogynistic male aggressive power fantasies, whether in leotards or vinyl.

The American industry collapsed in 1993, and we're just diehards in denial. In a nation of half-a-billion who's super-hero comics reach less than 100,000 readers, its clear what people want ain't what DC and Marvel are selling. I love the medium, and I adore super-heroes, but the concept as executed is completely out of tune with all but a very few representatives of our shared culture. Gotta call the spade...

Luke said...

Folks in Westerns were funny costumes and shoot each other for great justice, too, and yet "Western" is not a perjorative. Besides, the point remains: why do bloggers and other self-described fans bash the genre which brought them to the medium in the first place?

The genre must have value if it continues to generate revnue on the order of magnitude it does -- obviously not as much as it used to at the comic shop, but substantially more then ever at the box office. That's my point: there's nothing inherently wrong with the superhero genre any more than there is any other genre, or else its successes would never have happened. DC could put Superman in mothballs tomorrow, but his next movie will still clear 300 mil worldwide. How out of touch can Marvel and DC be with the public with that many tickets being moved? The comics medium may be on a decline, but the superhero genre certainly is not.

The industry collapsed following the artificial boom, yes, but not entirely, otherwise there would not be this site here for me to talk about what I read in the previous week. The American comics industry as it has existed in this country for as long as anyone cares to recall, is based on the periodical, and following the mass exodus of the other genres in the late 70s and early 80s, superhero stuff has supported that. It's a closet industry, sure, but an industry nonetheless.

Diabolu Frank said...

But see, westerns are based (however loosely) on an actual historical era. While there are certainly cliches that define what is generally considered a western, you can write any kind of movie set in the American West, and it's either a western or a "period drama." The genre called "super-hero" has no such factual basis, and is instead pure fantasy of a decidedly silly nature. You have to ask yourself, is "The Matrix" a super-hero movie? Personally, I'd call it popcorn sci-fi or live action manga, because without a leotard, it ain't a super-hero. If you think otherwise, you may well have a point, but I'll debate it.

Now, the Spider-Man movies are undeniably of the super-hero variety, and they do tap a vein, but are they "art?" I'd argue no, just entertaining genre material, which I'd expect is the Ellis people's point. In order to be "art," it would have to transcend the genre, when typically it's just a positive and accessible representation of our best tropes gussied up with CGI.

Anonymous said...

pretty good for a superhero post.

Luke said...

The Matrix is not a superhero film, it's a science fiction film (of dubious merit, but that's neither here not there). Superhero (as a genre) is defined by it's generic elements: capes, tights, tragic origins, secret identities, supervillains, master plans, etc; much as an oater (horses, Indians, gunfights, saloons) or a rom-com (supportive best friend, unattainable love, the big fight at the end of Act 2) are defined by their's. I'm a student of genre theory, so you'll have to excuse me, but I spend way too much time thinking about this kind of stuff, analyzing cinematic pattern and elemental composition. And superhero is one which has defined, discrete objects you can look at (as you say, without a leotard, it ain't a super-hero), so the vocabulary is pretty straightforward (unlike, say, comedy, which is defined universally by the intention of the film rather than any widely recurring motif). Superhero is a silly genre, sure, but no more silly than the Musical or Horror (two genres I also enjoy).

...typically it's just a positive and accessible representation of our best tropes gussied up with CGI.

No doubt, dude. Certainly there is little "art" to be found in the superhero genre, no matter what the medium. And I think you are right insofar as that is Ellis' point -- his legion of online mouthpieces I think just want to emulate him.

Diabolu Frank said...

I'm still waiting for a transcendent super-hero movie, as can be found in both musicals and horror. Something that captures the myth and iconography of the genre rather than "realizing" it for the big screen. "Superman: The Motion Picture" probably came the closest in feel, and "Dick Tracy" in look, but nothing has managed to pull them both together into a story that really soars.

As for Ellis' droogs, too true. I actually enjoyed Ellis' earlier American work on books like "Excalibur" and "Ruins." It wasn't until I realized that every other character he'd write would be Pete Wisdom, and every other series would focus on taking the piss out of super-heroes (doomed by "Ruins" unrelenting venom to diminishing returns) that I began ignoring him as the bitterly poor man's Alan Moore. "Nextwave" was fun, though.