Aug 13 2012

The Vast Depths of My Comic Ignorance

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Although like any kid I had my enthusiasms growing up, I have never been a big fan of superheroes generally. There are just soooooo many weak planks in the foundation of the premise that all you need to do is to lightly tug one and the whole genre comes falling down. As such, I have never followed mainstream comics much. I read Detective Comics, Green Arrow, and The Question for a couple of years in the “Longbow Archers” post-Tim-Burton-movie era, before it all just turned into “crapsack world,” but really my favorite stuff was always the Diniverse or the comic spinoffs thereof, and even that I only read for a while, c. 1990 or so.

Fast forward to this past month, when I started up a Tumblr account, which I use primarily to consume other people’s feeds. On some fundamental level I still don’t GET Tumblr, but say what you will, there are lots of pretty pictures on it. Through my Tumblr account I started following Gail Simone, Diane Duane, and a variety of other accounts that blog a lot about geekery, comics, and particularly women in geekery/comics.

One thing that many of these accounts have in common is an obsession with Batgirl, Batwoman, or both, and more generally with the fifteen or twenty “Bat-titles” going at any given time, and their peculiar interconnections, contradictions, and conundrums. It would seem that there are about twelve Robins, three Batgirls, four Batwomen, and at any given time any or all of them might be Nightwing, just to be different.

Also, I recently discovered that Renee Montoya (who I know mostly as “the smart cop from Batman: The Animated Series“) was The Question for a while. Which is neat, but came at me out of left field.

The net result of all of which is to make me just sort of raise my eyebrows, go “Huh,” and decide to make peace with the vast depths of my comic ignorance instead of trying to parse it all. I’m sure the others are awesome characters, but in my mind Batgirl = Barbara Gordon and is played by Yvonne Craig; then again, in my mind, superheroes exist in a kind of static world where time doesn’t pass, ‘cos otherwise how could Bruce Wayne still be Batman (which is the case as far as I know) seventy years later?

I realize that it’s a variation of this mindset that’s leading to the retro-reboots that have been whitewashing comics lately, and I certainly agree that’s a bad thing– if I were creating mainstream superhero comics these days (by some very peculiar whim of fate) I’m sure I would be much more interested in creating something that better reflects modern ideas and issues than just echoing the creative works of fifty years ago.

But again, this what-decade-is-this change-without-changing nature of the beast leads back to one of my big problems with the superhero genre generally, but especially in comics. Superheroes need sunsetting, but by their nature can never have it. With the exception of a character like The Phantom (whose whole premise is that the mantle is passed on from father to son) or some sort of immortal like The Doctor, the active career of any superhero (especially of the super-trained mortal type) should be ten years at the longest stretch, and way shorter for most of them. The window of “young, strong, and beautiful” is shockingly short. But the vast majority of readers (self included, guilty) don’t really care much for “new” superheroes– they want the big, iconic ones they know from their childhood.

Thus, the comic universes keep getting rebooted, so they can keep the same familiar faces but make them young again. But fan favorites from previous incarnations need to stick around, so they’re grafted into the new incarnation, giving each reboot progressively more and more leftover baggage… meh. It’s a mess. See also, “there’s always another Sith” and “*M*A*S*H* lasted three times longer than the actual Korean war.” :P

Anyhow… not sure where I was going with this, now. :D I hope I got there. But long story short: please write your stories/comics with a beginning, middle, and end! Don’t just have them go on forever!

-The Gneech

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