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Monday, November 12, 2007


The week before last, I tuned in to Jay Leno on Monday night as I customarily do, looking forward to a new monologue and some new Headlines--and found that Jay had gone into reruns. Why was Jay in reruns now, with Nielsen Sweeps looming? Jay should be all-new now. What was going on?

What I had forgotten was what Jay had been joking about just three nights earlier: The Writers' Guild of America was preparing to strike. The first shows to be affected by the strike, if it happened (make that when it happened now), would be the ones that required fresh material every day, meaning the late-night talk shows and the daytime soaps. Thus, Jay Leno had been driven immediately into reruns, and in several weeks the same fate awaits All My Children, General Hospital, The Days of Our Lives, and the rest of the soap genre, shows that shoot an episode every day about a month in advance of what we see. The scripted, weekly prime time shows have until about January, give or take, before they exhaust their supply of all-new episodes.

And what does that leave for me in terms of entertainment? That mostly leaves DVDs, my iPod--and comic books.

I'm not panicking by any means. I have plenty of DVDs and a portable player. My iPod is well stocked. And as for comic books...actually, this comes at a very interesting time. More and more these days I am struck by the fact that my relationship with comics has changed, and it's never again going to be what it once was.

At the height of my fandom I was a collector of as many as 24 comic book titles a month, give or take for comics that were released bimonthly. I was getting just about all of the regular Marvel Comics line, a small selection of DC books, and a few independents. It was the time when I was most excited and enthusiastic about comics. That time is a period of history now. I'm talking about a time when the Berlin Wall was still up and the Reagan presidency was in its first term. Truly, a period of history!

Fast forward to today, and my comics consumption is down to three monthly Marvel books, with two others that I expect to be picking up again in the next year, and another that I'm looking forward to continuing with at whatever unspecified time it may resume. I had just one monthly DC book, but as of this week it will be two. There's another book from a division of DC, which I get whenever there is a new issue (which is not regularly), and a couple of independents, one of which has had a single issue this year, the other of which I hope to see in 2008. So, that's roughly a possible ten comics--less than half of what I was reading in the days of the Gipper. And that's not counting the miniseries (which may run from 4 to 8 issues) and the trade-paperback and hardcover collections of past material that make of the rest of my comic reading. But those are the comic-book equivalent of TV specials, cable reruns, and boxed DVD sets; they're not regular items.

The reasons for this are many. What it really comes down to is that I don't feel the same way about comics now as I did then; much of my enthusiasm and excitement for the art form--and its content--are gone. Part of it is that comics now just aren't the way they were then. Part of it is that I'm just not the same person today that I was at the time. Comics have changed, and I've changed. We've grown too much apart. As a fan, I used to feel "at home" in the Marvel Comics Universe. It was a place that I believed in, with stories that engaged me, told by storytellers that I trusted with characters that I loved. It doesn't feel like "home" any more today. It feels like an oppressive place, filled with cynicism, ugliness, paranoia, and brutality. Marvel's books were always filled with pragmatism and ambiguity, which used to be called "realism". That's part of why I enjoyed Marvel's books so much better than I did DC's. But they've taken it to such extremes today that they've lost the purity of their concepts and the basic appeal of their characters. Marvel is no longer my "home," and after decades of being at home there, I can't put down roots any place else. DC never did it for me then (I most enjoyed DC's books when they were written and drawn by Marvel talent, and when they "looked," "felt," "sounded," and "thought" something like Marvel books), and I just can't bond with those characters and their world now. Elsewhere in the medium, there's even less for me to hold on to. So, except for reprint collections that gather the material from the past that I loved into hardcover and trade-paperback volumes, I feel like a "homeless" comic book fan. And there may be no going home, in a real sense, ever again.

I expect that in future Blogs I'll be talking more about my state of fandom homelessness, and the feelings behind it. They're very complicated and very deep feelings, because fandom has never been just a hobby for me. A hobby is a pastime; I am not a hobbyist. I have things that the world foists onto me, and things that my life is about. Comics has always been one of those things that my life is about. But in months to come, I expect we'll be returning to this subject. In the meantime, here is my comics reading list (excluding miniseries and reprint collections) as of this month.

FANTASTIC FOUR. Sometimes the actual favorite, always the sentimental favorite, The FF is at "sentimental favorite" status right now. At the beginning of 2008, the new writer/artist team of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch takes over, and Hitch insists on "bringing the FF into the 21st Century" with a gratuitous, needless redesign of the Fantastic Four uniform. Few things in this or any other world are as wrong-headed as bringing a comic book about science "into the 21st Century". The Fantastic Four was a "21st Century" comic book in the mid-1960s, folks, before there even was a 21st Century! This is one of the things about the FF that some people seem completely incapable of understanding, and is such a personal gripe of mine that I should probably devote a "Pet Peeve" to it. And there is every possibility that I will...

THOR. I wish they hadn't dropped The Mighty from the title, and in redesigning Thor's costume I would have kept the bare arms of the classic Jack Kirby version. But right now, Thor is the best thing happening at Marvel. Winning scripts by J. Michael Straczynski and stunning art by Olivier Coipel (whose work I used to loathe with a passion--this is one of the greatest metamorphoses of an artist's style I've ever seen) make Thor one of the best reads on the market. And it'll get even better when the restoration of Asgard is finished and Goldilocks can get back to the business of being a hero again!

Ms. MARVEL. Another solidly entertaining book with beautiful art by Aaron Lopresti, the adventures of the divine Ms. M are worth your time.

Returning in 2008: CAPTAIN AMERICA. I don't think I will ever accept the resurrection of Bucky. Stan Lee decreed that Bucky was morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, postively, absolutely, undeniably, and reliably dead, and he should have been kept that way. (For that matter, so should Captain Marvel I.) But I'm intrigued with the buzz surrounding Cap's "death" (wink, wink, until the movie is ready) and by the arrivial of the mysterious--and beautifully designed--"all-new" Captain America, and I like the art style (Steve Epting, I believe), so I think I'm going to have to get behind the man with the shield again.

Returning in 2008: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Some time in the coming year, John Romita Jr. ends his Spider-Man sabbatical and comes home to the Webhead. By the time he returns, Spider-Man is supposed to be once again a super-hero who engages in battles with costumed, super-powered villains! And I'm not talking alien symbiotes, vampiric chimeras, and monsters from other dimensions, either, but the kind of super-villains that Spidey has traditionally come to blows with! For the past I-can't-tell-you-how-long, Spider-Man--even when John Romita Jr. was drawing his adventures--was simply NO DAMN FUN TO READ! (Except for a brief period under J. Michael Straczynski, which won an Eisner Award.) From what I've been reading of Marvel's plans for Spidey's future, it almost sounds as if the stories are about to go back to being as wonderful as John Jr.'s art! Could it be true? Here's hoping, but if John Jr. is on board, so am I.

Returning--I dare to hope--in 2008: THE YOUNG AVENGERS. Some day, this wonderful book will be back. Till then, I wait.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. Two words: George Perez. As long as he's there, I'm there. 'Nuff said.

WONDER WOMAN. You know, Wonder Woman must be my favorite DC character. Whenever she's written and drawn in a manner that I can enjoy, going back to her 1980s George Perez period, I'm on board for her. As of this month, she'll be written by Gail Simone (whose Superman stories drawn by John Byrne in Action Comics I enjoyed) and drawn once again by Terry and Rachel Dodson, whose previous work with the character I liked a lot. So yes, for this creative team, sign me up.

ASTRO CITY. When there's a new issue, I get it automatically. It never fails to entertain.

NEXUS and THE MOTH. Steve Rude has formed his own company and brand, Rude Dude Productions, to publish his own work with his own characters. As the Dude is one of my favorite artists (and a heck of a nice guy), whenever he's able to release an issue, I'll look forward to getting it.

And who knows? 2008 may hold some more surprises. But the above is the drop in the comic-book ocean that this homeless and thirsty fan is willing to swallow these days. My philosophy of comics has become, "Buy and read only those comics you truly enjoy, and appreciate what is truly beautiful in comics while it's there." And that, at least on the fan side, is my present relationship with the art form.


  1. Go, strikers!

    And Joe, you might find my blogpost tomorrow of particular interest

  2. Thanks, Rog. I'll be sure and have a look.


  3. Funny about your comments on Marvel not feeling like home anymore ... I recently observed a similar experience over yonder: ... Though you summed it much better! :)