Hey Comics–Lighten Up, Already!

Thor-thunderI was fortunate enough to appear on the Pick of the Week Podcast this past weekend (episode #399, which is, like…amazing) and I took it as a fantastic opportunity to dive right into contemporary comics (by which I mean, “bought on Wednesday, read by Friday night” world of comics) and see how things were shaping up.

I promise to do my best and not repeat my comments about the books we discussed. It was a good week, where epic arcs ended (Thor) and others began (Infinity #1) and others went forward (seeming everything else).  Yet again, I was reminded just how much of a conversation comics truly is, how it truly is a relationship that changes as one sticks with it.

We had a fine time discussing the very good work that Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic did on Thor: The God of Thunder — easy enough to have, right? Like, I have always heard about the Walt Simonson run on Thor and have the omnibus waiting to be read, but, please, how many of us actually read these massive tomes? (I love having them around, I love knowing they are there, but those things should include a digital version as well so I can take the book around with me, as opposed to having to rent a pack mule to keep it nearby as I run errands.) Having always heard about the Simonson run but never having read it, I always felt like I never really “got” Thor. Oh, I get it the warring and the drinking and the hammer and the winged helmet, but the only series that I really enjoyed the book when we all were reading Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee — until Aaron came waltzing in with 11 issues of pretty much spot-on awesome.

Of all the summer movies, the one I have just straight up enjoyed the most has been Pacific Rim. I grew up watching Ultraman, Spectaman, Robotech, Godzilla…all that kind of stuff. Pacific Rim captured this…exuberance, this simple kind of earnestness in story telling that was just doing its best to tell the kind of story that it had to be—big, brash, bold, silly, and fun. Thor: God of Thunder struck the same chord with me, and I realized just how difficult it must be to write a book that can strike a balance between high stakes, rich characterization, humor and drama the way Aaron was able to do.

As hard a time as I have been giving Marvel Comics the past year, I must admit the thing they do well is inject a note of fun in many of their books. I basically read the entire Thor: God of Thunder 11-issuearc over two nights and I came to the other to-be-discussed books feeling very good about comics and everything but then realized, “Oh yeah, not all comics are like that…that’s right…!”

If you have been reading my articles for any amount of time (thanks for that, by the way), you know I am pretty avid Batman fanbatmanjockcover. He is one of my favorite characters, a character I have stuck with through thick and thin, and the reason I returned to weekly comics so many years ago. As I transitioned from the beautifully wrapped-up issue of Thor, I settled back into Batman‘s “Zero Year” storyline and I couldn’t help it…I just…slumped a bit.

The book is gorgeous. The book is well written and the pacing is top notch. However…do I need another retelling of the Batman’s origin story? I love that comics can do this, retell iconic stories, injecting them with different points of view and shuffling different elements to bring a more modern context to a story that’s been with us for so long, but…I find myself looking at the pages and wondering, “Why?”  Especially after the epic Joker story—do we need to go back to…Zero, I guess?

Perhaps this is the way things work. A book chugs along, then an incredible team comes in, like Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, who just completely kills it and makes everyone stand up straight and freak out, month after month…perhaps when you have a team like that you have to do an origin story, to really cement their contributions to the mythos.

It’s probably not a fair transition, to go from Thor to Batman, but after trudging through the muck with Batman for these many months, the whole notion of watching Bruce have to break down and become a Bat again…it just made me wish I could have a bit more fun in the DC books that I read. As much as I was giving Marvel a hard time with all of the self-important subtitles in Infinity, they are being used to set a tone of EPIC SPACE STUFF, whereas almost every DC book that I am reading now…it’s just heavy.

Of course, this difference in tone is clearly evident in the movies, with Superman, who used to wear some of the brightest colors in printed comics, is now shrouded in dark, gloomy, sullenness, in stark (Stark?) contrast to many colors in the more recent Marvel movies (though I will say that I think Cap’s outfit might be just a tad too blue…).  Not to mention this story from a few weeks ago, where Paul Pope was supposedly told that DC Comics is basically publishing comics for 45-year olds, which, if true, just..yeesch.  There’s obviously more than a grain of truth in that–and not just for DC Comics. Remember the days of the Hostess ads in comics? They’ve been replaced by really crappy Audi advertisements featuring Tony Stark (check Infinity #1).

042-darwyn-cookeA few years ago at Comic-Con, I remember hearing Darwyn Cooke say something to the effect that if a writer couldn’t write and all-ages Superman book, he or she had no business being in comics. That really struck with me, and seems to resonate more loudly as I continue this relationship with comics. Yes, it’s cool when The Joker gets all crazy and takes people’s faces off and all that, but would it kill Bruce to smile once in awhile? Gimme some exuberance, people! Tell me the kinds of stories that inspired you to make comics in the first place! I want stories that stick with me not because they made my stomach churn, but because they inspired me to imagine far off worlds, to put me in situations so full of wonder that they could only be told in the pages of my favorite comics. Old age needs more wonder, not less.  We come to comics because, at the end of the day, they bring us joy in a world that is becoming more and more like a disaster movie trailer every day.

Stop being so damn serious. Batman / Superman is a great book, yes, but part of me would just love to see Clark and Bruce hanging out after work talking about girls over a beer. Jae Lee can still draw it!

So that’s it, really. I hope that the whole quote about comics being made for 45 year-old is off, somehow, but even if it is true, I hope books like Thor: God of Thunder keep doing well. I hope that the editors over at DC can share some stories that make us smile a bit more (like The Spirit series not so long ago). Comics keep me young, they add a spark in my life that much of the rest of the day seems determined to extinguish, and I am going to make it my mission to find more books that inspire and entertain.

Any suggestions?

 


Mike Romo is your friendly neighborhood actor here in Los Angeles. Follow his exploits on Twitter, throw a like his way on Facebook, see what drinks he’s making on Instagram or drop him an email.

 

Comments

  1. flakbait flakbait says:

    Agreed. I loved Damien Wayne, for example, but I loved him when he was paired with light-hearted characters like Dick and Stephanie. When you put him with his dad it’s damned gloomy and depressing.

    I would love a light-hearted Wonder Woman book. Or a Supergirl series done in the fashion of that Billy Batson series that was done a few years ago. It’s frustrating that these things don’t exist when we know for a fact that there are creators willing and able to do them and an audience for it.

    • Mart Mart says:

      @flakbait ‘Or a Supergirl series done in the fashion of that Billy Batson series that was done a few years ago.’

      Did you read Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade a few years back? If not, you’re in for a treat when you find it.

    • flakbait flakbait says:

      I actually did grab the first issue of that (digital) to check it out and I liked it. I’ll have to get a copy for my daughter in a few years when she’s old enough to read it.

  2. Baykid Baykid says:

    I loved Jason Aaron’s Thor, and I agree that the use of humor made it a more enjoyable read. But I don’t see this as the opposite of a comic targeting a 45 year olds, certainly not as a comic targeting kids. It has deep philosophical themes and some potentially disturbing violent images. I work with elementary school kids for instance and I certainly wouldn’t recommend this comic series to them, fun though it may be. I’m just saying we shouldn’t conflate the ideas that comics could have more enthusiastic humorous energy on the one hand, and the idea that there should be more comics targeting kids on the other. Even if both points are true, we can still have mature comics that are also fun and I think this Thor series has been just that.

    Also, I’m no industry insider, but in terms of the pitching to the 45 year olds thing, it surprises me because I’d always assumed a large portion of the sales of most big name comics (Batman Spiderman etc) was to kids whether the content justifies it or not. Maybe I’m too influenced by my own youth when comic book racks were in convenience stores and stuff. Someone in this well-educated ifanboy community must know how much of the market for super hero comics is children.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      “Someone in this well-educated ifanboy community must know how much of the market for super hero comics is children.”

      Not much. How many kids do you see at the comic book store on Wednesdays? How many are standing in line for sketches or to ask questions at panels at conventions? Not many.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @Conor, maybe because they don’t have cars, disposable income, but instead have school and homework?

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      @IthoSapien: Kids had school and homework and no cars and no disposable income from 1940-1990 when the primary audience for comics was kids. The market has changed and adults are the target audience now.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Well, if the question is why aren’t they in comic shops on Wednesday’s and lining up at conventions; I’m gonna say its because of school (homework during weekdays) and money (tickets, drive time, artist sketches can get expensive). I don’t disagree they’re not the main audience, I just didn’t like how you phrased it. “No kids here, kids don’t read comics”; it’s circular thinking.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      @IthoSapien: The point is, they WERE at comic book shops and conventions back when they were the primary audience.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Yeah, not disputing that @Conor. Agreed.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      ……

    • Endlessw Endlessw says:

      If you ever wonder why kids are not into comics look at the price of a comic vs an episode on itunes today, as a parent on a budget which are you more likely to buy. For the same price of a average marvel comic i can buy two episodes of Hulk and the Agents of smash.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @ithosapien: So does that mean from 1940-1990 kids did have cars and disposable income and not have to worry about school? Talk about circular thinking…

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @endlessw: No you can’t. Hulk episodes are $2.99 each. Most Marvel comics are the exact same price, a couple of the top tier books are $3.99 at most.

    • The only time I’ve seen any kids a the LCS was when their with a parent and he/she are trying to coax the kid into reading a comic. That audience doesn’t exist or just barely exists.

    • Can I just say that video games were originally for kids as well? There are more family friendly video games for kids than comics, but the more popular video games as well as the majority of video games are for adults. Video games grew up as we did. Why are we griping about this? My daughter is two and she thinks Dora is an idiot, most “for kids” stuff merely talks down to kids.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @deepspacesamurai: That’s a great point. So many “for kids” things are really just dumbed down to the point of uselessness.

    • flakbait flakbait says:

      I actually do see kids in my local stores, and I’m rarely at my local stores (get everything online, pretty much). I’m sure it varies from area to area, but there seem to be plenty around here.

      The price point is a major point, though. I was in a store with my nephew and wanted to get him a grab bag of various issues but I was quickly reminded of why I switched to trades in the first place.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @Uspunx, weren’t there a mileau of places you could buy comics from the 1940s-1980s? So kids didn’t need a car to go someplace and buy them, they were literally everywhere so it was no problem. Now if you want comics, real paper comics; you have to A) search online to see if there’s even a store in your area and B) Get in a car or bum a ride to go there.

      Now think about conventions, you absolutely need a car and plenty of disposable income to go to one of those.

      Saying “I don’t see kids here, kids don’t like comics” does not mean that kids don’t read comics. It’d be the same if I looked at the list of US presidents Pre-2008 and said “There’s no BLACK presidents, ergo no African American WANTS to be President”. And before people tear me down for that analogy, isn’t that something we’ve been fighting against for Female Geeks/comic fans?

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      Those three analogies are so all over the place I almost don’t even know how to respond.

      Its not just “I don’t see kids here, kids don’t like comics” as you have attempted to reduce it. It’s the entire tone of books and marketing of the industry. It is clear that kids are not longer the chief focus. @Conor was simply using cons and kids in comic stores as examples of the larger trend, not as evidence of the trend itself.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      Oh, you also might want to look up the definition of “milieu.” And the proper spelling…

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      And what I have been trying to say, is that its not an entirely fair example or evidence of. I’m not disputing the Sky is blue, I’m disputing how its said its blue. I’ve said multiple times now I don’t disagree with Conor that the Market is not set towards kids. We were done with it as a matter of fact, then you had to jump in on it for some reason.

      FINE! Comics are NOT marketed towards kids. Yes I agree with that. But the fact that they’re not at Cons is not in itself a fair comparison, if you didn’t see any WOMEN at your local Cons would you assume that WOMEN don’t read comics? I would hope not. And if you don’t see kids in comic shops, yea, convincing evidence there to draw the aformentioned conclusion. But it just occured to me not every fan goes into stores on Wednesdays, or even more than once a month, if that.

      All that said, THE SKY IS BLUE. Comics aren’t made for Kids. Not arguing against that.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      ………
      …………..

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      …What?

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      I agree, all I can say at this point is.

      ………………………………….

    • ghostmann ghostmann says:

      -.-. — — .. -.-. … / .- .-. . / ..-. — .-. / -.- .. -.. …

      :)

      (You can decode my post here:http://morsecode.scphillips.com/jtranslator.html )

    • Invincipal Invincipal says:

      I’ve come to realize while I don’t always agree with Conor, in this case I do, his comments are always short, to the point and understandable. I gotta try and do that more.

    • har13quin har13quin says:

      Is it possible that what IthoSapien is trying to say is that there are still some child and female readers, despite the exclusionary marketing of many comics and that many children and women don’t read comics, not because of the fact that they are comics, but because of their exclusionary marketing?

      I sure hope so, anyway.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @har13quin: I actually think that’s what the rest of us were saying. I’m not sure anyone knows what ithosapien was saying.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @Har13quin, close enough. Props for trying.

      @Uspunx, maybe if I used Morse code that would help you understand? Or maybe a dead language? Here y’go: Desinat esse obtusi.

      I swear, some days on this site…

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      Seriously? We’ve resorted to personal insults and sarcasm? Doesn’t really lend your opinion credibility.

    • malloc malloc says:

      The thing is, it’s not that kids dont want comics any more (If I buy my kids comics they love them and most kids i see if you hand them a comic they are happy). But a combination of the fact that the price of comics has gone up much quicker then inflation and kids cant afford them now, and more importantly in the 40s-80s comics were mainly sold in corner stores, grocery stores, etc; placed kids went with there moms and could beg them for them or buy them themselves. Now comics are 90% sold in comic shops, most moms dont go in comic shops so kids dont get to see them. So the reason kids aren’t the target audience is because kids dont buy them (ie it is not that because kids arent the target audience that they dont buy them).

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @Malloc, JACKPOT! So much of that is what I’ve been trying to get across for the last few days.

      First my opinion is incomprehensible, now its uncredible. Or untrustworthy. Oh look, someone’s on their high horse again. You don’t like what I have to say, or can’t or WON’T understand it; ignore it. I’m gonna take my own advice now.

      –. . – / — ..-. ..-. / -.– — ..- .-. / …. .. –. …. / …. — .-. … . / ..- … .–. ..- -. -..-

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      Maybe you should just learn how to express yourself in a straightforward manner. Morse code, latin, and certainly obtuse and pointless analogies don’t accomplish that.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Seems like others understood me just fine. Maybe you should try harder to understand others posts. Or stop picking up old arguments and harping on the same points over and over. And it wasn’t me that started using the Morse code.

    • ghostmann ghostmann says:

      I thought it was funny that Conor had resorted to responding with only “…….’s” some being the ever clever fellow I am, introduced the Morris Code post to inject some levity – doesn’t look like it worked.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Thanks for trying @ghostmann. Things were just out of your hands though, I think.

  3. Bryce31 Bryce31 says:

    “Batman / Superman is a great book, yes, but part of me would just love to see Clark and Bruce hanging out after work talking about girls over a beer.”

    I would read that book in a heartbeat.

  4. jgraff jgraff says:

    Morrison worked really for 6 years to get rid of the sullen, obsessive, damaged Batman but the other writers at DC (while good) just don’t seem to be having it.
    Superman on the other hand has been getting pretty good in this area. I know people love to dump on Lobdell, but the last two issues of Action have been really fun.
    DC actually puts out quite a few fun books, but not usually with the big guns – World’s Finest, Demon Knights,All Star Western.

    • Endlessw Endlessw says:

      The Adventures of superman book has been great.

    • I believe Batman RIP is the perfect example of what Batman is, but I disagree that Morrison wasn’t writing a damaged Batman. Arkham Asylum pushed the point that Batman is just as crazy as the inmantes and Batman RIP shows a Batman so obsessed with his mission that he’s willing to poison, bury, create back up personalities, and literally bring himself close to death. What about any of that said Morrison was trying to get rid of that image (the correct image of Batman) ?

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      @deepsapcesamurai: Morrison’s own words said it. He said that he wanted to bring back a bit of the fun, swashbuckling, sexy Batman, which he did for a good part of his run.

    • @Conor: That might well be, though killing Damien by running a saber through him cancels things out.

    • @Conor I have his run, there are “parts” of a brighter Batman but the overall story hasn’t done anything to change the image of a man obsessed with his war on crime, violence and death followed. Comparing the last few issues of Batman inc to the last few issues of Snyders Batman, I fail to see a difference in the grim and dark department.

    • @Conor and deepspacesamurai: I think everyone is right to a degree. Morrison “incorporated” all the various iterations of Batman’s history, including the swashbuckling Batman, serious damaged Batman, and even the goofy 50′s version. But I would disagree that “Morrison worked really hard…to get rid of the sullen, obsessive, damaged Batman.” He wasn’t trying to “get rid of” any of the versions of Batman. He was “incorporating” them all.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      @deepsapcesamurai: You can have a man who engages in war on crime who also runs around having sexy international adventures with Catwoman. One doesn’t preclude the other from existing.

      @TreeoftheStoneAge: It doesn’t cancel anything out–those other issues are still there. As Master Destructo said above, it just adds an additional layer.

    • @Conor: You’re right. It doesn’t cancel all other stories out, but the gist of this article is things are so doom and gloom at DC and Damien’s death this is an good example. If Morrison’s run on Batman is what you say it is then why have it end on such a horrible way? I know it’s comic book death, still, the killing was such a disappointment for me that I don’t think I’ll be reading the other Morrison Bat-stories.

    • @TreeoftheStoneAge: Everyone is entitled to their own interpretation, but I really don’t see Damian’s death as the “end” of Morrison’s run. The climax, yes, but not the end. After the death in #8, we still get the falling action of Requiem, the war with Talia and Leviathan, and the battle with the Heretic. With the death of his child, Morrison’s intention was to break Bruce completely down, to the point that he gives up and says “Batman is dead.” That statement triggers the story’s denoument where Morrison lays out his grand, multi-layered thesis that “Batman is Forever.” After Bruce declares the end of Batman, he *immediately* dons the costume again because, you know, the story never really ends, and even if Bruce gives up Batman never does. The bullet holes in Thomas and Martha created a gaping hole in the soul of their little boy. That hole is so immense that it will never be filled and can hold all the various iterations of Batman, all the diversity of adventures, all the various origin stories (he even explicitly references Zero Year). The myriad possibilities represented by that empty space is again referenced with the empty graves of Talia and Damian: what strange adventures lie ahead for Batman, for the next wave of creators, for the readers? The fictional character will never give up on his quest. In the real world, new stories of Batman will still be written by generations to come when you and I and Morrison are all dead. The mythic and archetypal aspects represented by the character will endure as long as humans do: the battle against evil, concepts of justice and revenge and obsession. The Bat-dude abides. It’s actually pretty triumphant and uplifting ending.

    • @Master Destructo: You make a compelling argument, but for me, there was really no reason to kill Damien to make for good storytelling. Of course, with 4 more issues after Bat. Inc #8 the story didn’t end with Robin’s death, for me it did in that my disappointment was so great I stop reading it. There’s an excellent article here at iFanboy titled Comics Hate Children that came out sometime after Batman Inc. #8 about this very subject which I agree with wholeheartedly (I’m sorry if the title is not accurate). Damien could have been sidelined in some other way. A great character doesn’t have to be killed to highlight the quality of what could be a great story.

      I think Morrison is one of the best creators ever. What’s more, I think Arkham Asylum GN was just as great as The Killing Joke (I’d like for iFanboy to do an article on Morrison’s take of the last page of K.J.).

    • @TreeoftheStoneAge: Fair enough. Sounds like you know what you like and what you don’t like, and no one can fault you for that.

      Totally agree with everything you say in your last paragraph. I’ was actually just pondering yesterday why there has never been an larger format version of Arkham Asylum. That’s the one thing that bugs me about that GN, it’s just printed too small to enjoy all the amazing visual detail (or even to read the red-ink Joker dialogue without a magnifying-glass in some cases.) In my fantasy there would be an Absolute Edition that also included a version done by some other artist working off of Morrison’s original script (without the editorial changes, and following Morrison’s original vision a little closer than McKean was willing to).

      Okay, I’ve

    • *prattled on long enough (apparently so when I cut myself off).

  5. k5blazer k5blazer says:

    The Thor:The Mighty Avenger series gets a lot of praise on this site, it did nothing for me. But since you own the Simonson Thor Omnibus you NEED to read it! Don’t long for why there isn’t a digital version, enjoy the omnibus because the material inside and the heft of the book make for a book worthy of a true warrior! :)

  6. Wes Wes says:

    Hey Mike, have you tried reading Atomic Robo? For my money it’s the most fun book on the market!

  7. Ali Colluccio Ali Colluccio (@WonderAli) says:

    Well-said, Mike! This pretty much sums up a lot my feelings about comics lately.

    I feel like there is a serious lack of wonder and adventure and hope in what’s coming out of DC lately. While it is really disheartening to hear a comics professional say that DC flat out told him, they’re publishing books for 45-year-olds, it’s pretty obvious that that’s the case. The New 52 initiative may have been a little bit about getting new readers, everything DC has done in the last year builds a strong case that they are only concerned about making comics for old comic fans. I hate to be picking on DC here, but it gets infuriating as a comics reader and lover to have a big publisher writing to such a narrow audience.

    I know every couple months there’s a COMICS ARE DYING outcry. And while I don’t at all believe that to be the case, it’s myopic strategies like this that add fuel to that argument. We’re living in a time when comic book movies are doing extremely well at the box office and digital comics have gotten to where they’re broadly accessible. This is the time to be publishing good comics for all audiences, not just the guys who’ve been buying the same kind of comics since they were 8. There’s a real opportunity to open comics up to a new audience, and I feel that chance is being squandered.

    sorry – rant over :)

  8. IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

    I’m reminded of Jim’s “We’re all just gonna repeat the same arguments over and over and over” article. Next up, “How Cosplay is Awesome” and “What is comics doing to sh*t on women?” ?

    Seriously though; I agree with Mike. Comics are about joy in the readers life. That’s why I read them, and why I love them. But lately due to school, work, money issues I feel a lack of joy in my life. So I’ve decided to read some more Silver Age and take a break from the doom n gloom. I’ve taken a sabbatical from Batman; not because it’s bad, not because it’s a retelling of the origin (Didn’t Gillian do that not too long ago on Iron Man?), but because I wanted to branch out and find some fun series. Been pretty successful so far I think.

    I feel conflicted about what @Ali Colluccio posted. Hasn’t DC always been the old school to
    Marvel’s New? And now there’s so much more awareness (read: branding) on Marvel and it’s properties I can’t fault DC for playing to a different Gen. That crowd actually KNOWS that DC exists, so why wouldnt DC play to them? Maybe there’s more to it and DC just sucks, IDK.

    But if you’re looking for lighthearted fun, Atomic Robo is a must buy. I’m digging the current Flash, and JL Dark used to be pretty cool. The thing that sold me on comics? JMS’ run on “Amazing Spider-Man”. For several reasons.

    • CharlieRock CharlieRock says:

      Go watch an episode of Teen Titans Go.
      I wish the comic book was more like the show.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      I’ve actually seen every episode so far, its fun, quirky, what I was expecting from the previews and creator’s statements. I don’t really have any interest in the comic though, I mean there’s certain characters that have to be there to get my interest and TT is only as good as its writer. I don’t need the book, so someone really has to sell me on buying it.

  9. One thing that’s been pushing me away from big 2 comics is the sense of micromanagement. That sense of wonder, or crazy adventure is missing, and largely i get a house style and controlled feeling. Sure there are outliers that defy this and we all know what books those are. You get a sense that the primary goal is to feed the addiction of adult readers and collectors more than entertain and do interesting things. That could just be a natural burnout..who knows.

    I also think the technology of comics is kinda making things more homogenized. Everything looks so perfect..the pencils, the colors and lettering. Its all computerized and perfected to the micro-millimeter that i’m often left feeling some books are soulless widgets, that lack any kind of human element to them. The hand of the artist and all that. Kinda harsh, but that’s a larger conversation on the role of technology in art which is kind of a big thing right now.

    I find a lot of that fun on the creator owned side, however i do wish that there was less super serious stuff being made and more goofy fun.

    • J-Shap J-Shap says:

      Backing up computerized sense of comics nowadays, what’s bugging me a lot more than perfectly crafted life-like pencils is more the coloring. Next Wednesday, go to the store and flip through any book you can find and try not to focus on the linework and just the whole page. Everything looks incredibly same-y with homogenous coloring. We need to be thankful for the Dean Whites, Jordie Baillieres, and Matt Hollingsworths out there.

    • That’s totally one of the things that i’m talking about. The colors, while technically incredible are also kinda homogenized. Its kinda expected that would happen in Big 2 books because of the mass market appeal of them as well as any sort of creative mandates, but now i’m noticing it on the indie/creator owned side. It seems that many are less willing to take creative risks..go out on that ledge with something weird and unusual and more willing to make something that could serve as a nice portfolio piece to get on those big 2 projects. The idea that if it doesn’t look expected, its not professional is troubling.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      I would point you both toward things like Manhattan Projects, Collider, Saga, East of West, Hawkeye, Trillium, The Wake, The Private Eye, FF, Infinite Vacation, Atomic Robo, Olympus, Fatale and Fables to name a few. I think in the Big 2 the majority of books have a somewhat homogenized feel (other than the ones I name here) but there are a large number of creator owned books that do take a lot of chances and do unique things.

    • yeah i agree with that list and those were kinda included in my “we all know what books those are” comment. Really, those are the outliers. I’m not sure what i’m looking for, but its crazy experimentation and visuals that i haven’t seen before. I remember showing a whole stack of recent comics to a friend/colleague in the advertising biz (not a comics reader), and he thought they were all made by the same 2 or 3 people. (they weren’t) He said they all felt the same at a glance.

      I really don’t agree that a large amount of creator owned books take enough chances (outside of writing.) Its very rare to see comic art inspired by something besides comics. In so many ways vintage Sienkiewicz and Steranko art took more creative risks decades ago, than anything being made today. Visually, artistically and even design wise contemporary work could be pushed so much farther, but i’m sure the creators are worried about sales at a point. You make something so different people won’t know what it is.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      Yeah that’s true, there aren’t a lot of visual risks out there but I think there are enough to keep things interesting. I think guys like Wood and Hickman took some pretty interesting visual risks early in their careers that still influence the visuals of their books today.

    • phess1 phess1 says:

      Is it just me or does it feel like part of Marvel Now was an attempt to get away from any kind of “House Style” because visually most of the books that have come out after the relaunch have had a very unique visual style ala Captain America, Indestructible Hulk, Thor God of Thunder, Young Avengers, Avengers Arena, Uncanny X-Men ect.

  10. Maty. Maty. says:

    The new iterations of Dardevil and Hawkeye come to mind as books that proffer levity. Foggy Nelson co-writing a comic strip with cancer-stricken children? pizza Dog? More please.

    • phess1 phess1 says:

      More Pizza Dog would make for a world I would much rather live in. He needs his own series that crosses over with the X-men and Avengers so that he can contact all the big players in the Marvel U.

  11. “I find myself looking at the pages and wondering…”Why”"

    I think the “why” is pretty straightforward. It’s just that Snyder had that particular story to tell and had the opportunity to tell it. Based on his track record with the character I’m delighted to see his take, particularly in the context of the New 52 paradigm. I imagine when Miller wanted to do the post-Crisis Year One story, there were traditionalists who thought a retelling of the origin was unnecessary; but those dudes were wrong.

    Personally, I’m glad that comics, like pretty much all other storytelling media, are primarily focused on entertaining adults. And there are always alternatives available for kids or people who want more lighthearted stuff. A real obvious alternative to Batman is Batman ’66. Or just ask the folks at your local LCS, and I would hope they could turn you onto lots of good all ages stuff to keep you occupied.

  12. Godzilla Godzilla says:

    Totally Agreed Mike!

    I came back into comics with the Ultimate Universe and what drew me in the most was the more realistic, darker and “grown-up” tone, especially of the Ultimates. But lately I feal more and more as if Superhero-comics take themselves too serious. Especially those slaughter-fests that for example Millar shows in Kick-Ass etc.

    I started to gravitate towards the books that are just fun and don’t try to be deep and meaningful but just want to entertain (and in that I often find them a lot more meaningful than Batman or the Avengers), such as Young Avengers, Flash, FF or Fantastic Four.

    But there are also dark books I like, for example Animal Man is one of my favorites. I just think the tone should fit the story. Animal Man is a horror story and needs to be dark. Batman is Noir/Crime and works best when it is more gritty as well. Superman on the other hand should be fun and uplifting, I think.

    • phess1 phess1 says:

      Young Avengers is a perfect example of modern comics that can work for teenagers to adults and is well written with high stakes and doesn’t have to resort to getting too dark.

  13. I lurk around here a bit but i rarely post so im not sure what flack Mike has been giving Marvel. Besides the double shipping that a lot of people seem to loathe, what other complaints are out there? Anyone care to enlighten me? (not being sarcastic or trolling, i really dont know)

  14. phess1 phess1 says:

    Daredevil, Hawkeye, FF, Young Avengers, Captain Marvel, Avengers Assemble, Scarlet Spider, Wolverine and The X-Men, All New X-Men, Savage Wolverine, Indestructible Hulk, The Black Beatle, Catalyst Comix, The Bounce, Chew, Ghost, Loose, Quantam and Woody, Chin Music, Peter Paunzerfaust, Five Ghost, Adventures of Superman, The Whistling Skull, Batman Inc, Multiple Warheads Alphabets to Infinity are all very recent high quality to fantastic comics that do not steer to far into dark territory. I would say that even though Saga has it’s moments I also wouldn’t describe that as dark in the way you are looking at it. Maybe you should expand the scope of comics your reading. And seriously if you can’t tell by the list above you picked the worst moment to stop reading Marvel.

  15. I may be alone in the opinion that Batman is supposed to be dark and gloomy with no humor. That’s the way I have always wanted Batman to be.

    • J-Shap J-Shap says:

      If you are going to have Bat-humor, make it the dry sardonic kind they used to great effect on JLU. But yeah, Bruce should never smile. I think that would actually be more disturbing.

  16. djtrudeau says:

    Can’t a 45 year old enjoy a fun book? Where is it written that being adult means only liking dark and serious stories? That’s why you can’t let executives call all the shots. They often don’t understand the audience half as well as they think they do. You can write comics for adults without sucking all the joy out of them.

    • j206 j206 says:

      EXACTLY!!!!!

      I think the bigger problem is DC is currently being run by a group of middle-aged men that are so stuck in the 90′s, it’s impossible for them to see anything else.

    • Batman in all of its dark and gritty is the best selling dc book by a decent margin.

    • Correction, Batman/Superman, Batman, and Unchained. Still pretty serious stories

    • CharlieRock CharlieRock says:

      I noticed when the Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns came out it was us kids who ate it up. And then later with The Crow, and Sin City.
      Now, I prefer the series both Big 2 put out based on their cartoons. Sort of an inverted maturity scale.

  17. j206 j206 says:

    Couldn’t agree more with you, Mike. I’ve dropped almost all of the DC books I was reading due to the fact that they’re just too damned serious all the time. Well that and the fact that most of them aren’t very good. It’s the exact same thing with DC’s movies right now. Overly dark and serious. Marvel just gets it right now. Both in comics and movies. LIGHTEN UP DC!!!!!

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Except all Marvel movies (except maybe IM3) are all the same in tone basically. Very jokey, very tongue in cheek, very structured in the same way.

      Marvel gets it right; why do you think we aren’t seeing a Daredevil, Ghost Rider, or Punisher movie right now? Cause Marvel is stuck in the light. DC can only take serious and somber to be distinct at all.

    • phess1 phess1 says:

      I also think DC has come to be defined by Batman because of how massively popular and ubiquitous he has become so much so that it’s expanded throughout the line of comics, films and TV. Granted the movies and TV are a small sample size (basically Man of Steel and Arrow) I’ve always loved Batman but I think it would hurt to overextend that style too far. Also while I agree with you in that Marvel movies are all relatively “light” in the sense that anybody could watch them I do think there are degrees at which they present themselves ala Captain America, The Avengers and the Iron Man movies all being very different films stylistically and narrative wise. I’m actually really excited to see how much the next Thor and Captain America movie distinguish itself given some of the variables like the Thor director being a Game of Thrones alum and the source material for Cap.

    • phess1 phess1 says:

      This is also considering Batman and DC comics in a post Dark Knight world where the film itself has been somewhat of a gift and a curse for the company. Made boatloads of money and probably sold a lot of old Batman trades but it’s also come to define them. For me the wide range of titles that DC had was always it’s greatest strength and I wonder if the direction the company has gone post Dark Knight has weakened them in that regard.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      We’ll have to see, Watchmen failed, the Losers failed, Jonah Hex failed; DC hasn’t had alot of wins. What’s funny is I think most of those were dark movies (never seen the Losers, heard it sucked) but TDK trilogy and Mos were successful. I forgot, GL failed too but I blame that on it trying to be either too dark or too light; my mind goes back and forth on it. I think most of their properties will HAVE to move towards the lighter side of story if they want it to be successful, maybe the Trinity can be “dark” but not Aquaman, Flash, or GL. It’ll be tricky but I think DC needs to keep everyone in their own “realm” so the tone can be origanic but allow the other members of the League to still exist in other parts of the Universe.

    • phess1 phess1 says:

      In that light I guess Red was a success though right? It at least got to a sequel. The problem is I don’t necessarily think the majority of DC’s hero’s benefit from the dark treatment. Certainly not Batman or Superman really. Is Arrow any good? If so that’s a good sign for Flash at least.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Shoot, forgot about Red. I guess the first one was a success but I heard the sequel didn’t do as well. But I don’t think DC really tried to connect the dots between them and Red, which wouldn’t mean much anyway.

      And yea, about the majority of DC characters getting dark; that was my point, it can’t work. Flash is not a dark character, Aquaman either. Arrow is good, as in its better than the last 3 seasons of Smallville. There’s more action, less focus on romance (tho that is a big part of it still). I don’t want Flash to be like Arrow, I want them to be separate. Hopefully if there IS a spinoff it really is a spinoff, different tone and whatnot.

    • phess1 phess1 says:

      They posted a youtube clip with the announcement but did you ever watch the early 90′s Flash live action show. I have very hazy memories of it but it looks like that was “dark” in so far as people used to think the first Tim Burton movie was dark at the time and it didn’t do too well. I’m someone that’s always liked the concept of Flash but hasn’t really enjoyed the execution (haven’t read Waid’s version yet) so yeah a quality TV series would be pretty sweet.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @phess1, I’m actually a big fan of that show, and I’ve started rewatching it now. I’m about on episode 5 or 6, on my 5th viewing. Just now, I’m noticing how similar Batman ’89 and the Flash start out; tragic loss, sociopathic/brilliant villain, female companion, comic relief sidekick, lots of scenes at night. But that all changes as the show goes on, yes Flash fights mobsters, drug dealers, kidnappers and crooked politicians but he’s never brooch about it. He faces challenges with a strong desire to help others and solid notion of right and wrong. It’s probably my favorite iteration of Barry Allen. Trust me, it’s not a dark show and that’s not why it was canceled. Desert Storm was going on and taking up people’s attentions and Flash’s schedule kept being moved around so viewers couldn’t really tune in to give it good ratings. YouTube it or get the DVDs, it should be worth your time.

      Waid’s run of the Flash is great, but big on drama and relationships. Which is fine, it helps develop Wally West and grow him into a man; on the flip side Geoff Johns run is about Action, the Rogues, and making new Rogues for Flash to fight. Both are good and have action and drama, I just think Waid’s goes more toward drama and Johns’ toward action.

  18. Nope. I am reading, because most stories are so dark and dirty. I like that. Thats why I cannot get the hype for Waids DD. I like it, but its too light for me. I don’t enjoy “fun” books. Never have.
    I want dark comics. DC stay dark. Thanks.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      But not across the board right? Flash, GL, Superman, etc; can all go the other direction? Cause if not I would drop those pretty quick probably.

    • @Sapien I’m not sure anyone would want it across the board. I do however, think its ridiculous to be upset at a dark batman book. That makes as much sense to me as being upset at a horror movie for being scary.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Agreed, espeacially when you have “Batman ’66″ on the same shelf with reguler Batman.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @deepspacesamurai: Except horror movies have always been scary. That is their point. Batman books haven’t always been dark. In fact they were NOT dark much longer then they have been dark, it’s simply that they are all dark now and have been for a few decades. Prior to the 1980′s Batman books, and comics in general but particularly Batman, had a much lighter tone. I think all people are asking is why can’t we go back somewhat to how comics used to be.

    • @UPUNX I guess, but I look at the past as “goofy” in general. Movies, music, books, television, etc… I can’t finish a 70s comic without cringing multiple times through it. The Super friends’ version of Batman doesn’t belong in comics anymore. In my personal opinion it never should have been. That batman is what I tell my non-comic friends isn’t in comics for them to consider that I’m reading something for little boys. I get that older comic fans are out there and might love the smiley batman and the bright and happy comics but that crap needs to stay in the past.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      I’m not disagreeing with that. My point was saying that Batman has always been dark isn’t accurate.

    • @USPUNX – My bad then. Glad we agree. @Sapien Batman ’66 is on the same shelf, but I doubt any comic fan would introduce Batman ’66 to friends in the hopes they would read Batman.

    • Maty. Maty. says:

      I get it- let’s have Daniel Clowes write the Batman!

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @deepspacesamurai, you never know tho right? It seems like some people (maybe non-comic fans) really liked the show and held onto that interpretation of Batman. Who knows though, we’ll have to see how long the series lasts to see if it can stand up to the “darker” iterations.

  19. sheldon-kerr says:

    I am really enjoying Superior Foes of Spider-Man and that is a lighter and funny comic. But, like Shallbecomeabat, I usually prefer more serious entertainment material.

  20. slickman83 slickman83 says:

    For my money the most fun comic around at the moment is another Jason Aaron book; Wolverine and the X-Men! This is a book filled with great fun which last week saw Iceman create a Voltron Ice-Mecha to carve through Krakoa monsters, and it has that purple haired smart arse and Morrison creation Quentin Quire, always good fun.

  21. Metamorphic Metamorphic says:

    I was just thinking about how much I enjoyed – and still enjoy – comics from the 1970s. They seemed to be more about the imagination and adventure than the brooding darkness.

    That said, there are some good “lighter” books out there, like Hawkeye, Daredevil and FF. Those remind me of the old spirit of things. And they still have some pretty dark parts in there too.

    DC has tried; OMAC was pretty fun fare. But the efforts have been fewer and further between… and don’t always gel with the buyers.

    I think there’s this idea that for comics to be morekid-friendly, they have to be dumbed down. I don’t believe that for a moment myself. And we should WANT comics that we would be cool with handing to a kid. Otherwise, the industry is printing to an ever-aging audience…and that means essentially printing itself into extinction.

  22. muddi900 says:

    ” Yes, it’s cool when The Joker gets all crazy and takes people’s faces off”

    Actually nowadays Joker gets all crazy and does nothing.

  23. Natebot Natebot says:

    There’s quite a few fun books these days. Some that come to mind are FF, Hawkeye, Young Avengers and Wolverine & the X-Men. Journey into Mystery was a tonne of fun when sif took over as the lead, it’s a real shame it got cancelled.
    I actually see a lot of kids pretty often in my LCS, I think a big part of that is the guys who run it making the place so welcoming for everyone though.

  24. While reading this article I thought about how many books can I name that don’t always take themselves so seriously and are a lot of fun. I came up with:

    Daredevil
    Hawkeye
    FF
    Captain Marvel
    The Superior Foes of Spider-Man
    Wolverine & the X-Men
    Young Avengers
    Deadpool

    I find it interesting that I can name 8 Marvel books and can’t think of any from DC. 7 of those 8 titles are also just $2.99.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Flash, ($2.99)
      Lil Gotham,
      Batman ’66,
      World’s Finest (($2.99)
      Larfleeze ($2.99)
      Swamp Thing ($2.99)
      Adventures of Superman
      Batman/Superman
      Ame-Comi Girls

  25. BeckyJewell BeckyJewell says:

    It is definitely a big, risky emotional jump to go from Thor to Batman even in the Thor/Batman movies. Why would you do that? Jaysus.

    The Thor movie that came out a few years ago just had a few lol moments. It’s just fundamentally more funny to write and act a part of a character who is always out of his space-time element.

    Thor talking all Shakespeare while drinking beer, while mortals around him glance nervously at each other? Instant funny, if a bit lame.

    Meanwhile there is nothing fucking funny about Batman at all, and it affects real people. Nobody with a mental illness shoots a bunch of people in a theatre because they believe they are Loki.

    Batman will probably be depressing forever, and if not, shame on us.

    • Gallowglass says:

      Inclined to agree somewhat here. Batman just works much better for me when it’s serious. A lot of Morrison’s stuff really put me off, the whole club of heroes/Inc. thing just didn’t work for me. The characters all just seemed too silly and I really disliked the art in most of his run. I don’t want Batman to be bright, I want Snyder’s Black Mirror type stories ya know?

      That said, I don’t think everything I read is that gloomy, DD, Nightwing and Hawkeye spring to mind for me that aren’t very dark. Maybe it’s just my pull list but I’m not of the opinion that comics should lighten up at all

  26. jmv jmv says:

    Ah probably one of the reasons why I only read six comicbooks a month. And that number is going down. And why I hang on to my 70′s and 80′s collection but have sold the rest. The fun is definitely not there anymore. As much I liked Brubaker’s run on Captain America, I have no desire to reread the Winter Soldier,Death of Captain America saga again. Or Hickmans FF Council of Reeds/Death of Human Torch/War of four cities super long extended saga.