158 2010: The Year Comics Stunk
I remember starting Wednesday’s Child in the early hours of 2009, and the kind of content I imagined I would produce here.
Initially, I remember thinking that there needed to be more intelligent criticism of comics on the web. Music, film, literature, even television: all media with an extensive and impressive critical history, all featured prominently on arts and culture sites the web over. There is no dearth of thoughtful examination on the films of Hitchcock, or Kurosawa, or even Uwe Boll. People have intelligent opinions on everything from Faulkner to Palhaniuk. If I hear another LOST theory, I’m going to fucking shoot somebody. Why do I not get this kind of talk about comics? You know: that old argument.
I discovered soon after that there were a bunch of people worth reading. When Abhay Khosla or Tucker Stone talk about something you should probably listen, even if on the surface it doesn’t sound very serious. I found out that Tom Spurgeon was a person who existed. I read that Douglas Wolk book, and despite a few glaring problems I’m not going to get into here, it’s probably the best collection of comics analysis around. There’s very few people worth reading, mind you, but they’re there, and although it’s a crime that they aren’t read by more people, that probably says more about the squares of the world than the quality of critical comics analysis available. I always thought I could contribute to that, if not in sheer quality of content, then at least in approach. If I wanted more criticism, better criticism, it should start with me, probably.
I soon realized this was a stupid idea. Maybe it was true, I don’t know– maybe the lack of thoughtful comics criticism is a serious problem to some people, but not to me. Not really, because it’s not something I feel is necessary. And it’s part of the reason why I hated comics this year, why I got so sick of them. I know Serious Comics Journalism™ is probably a good thing in theory but I don’t know how it can work when the people making the comics– and I’m talking about mainstream, superhero comics here– when they don’t care about what they say or mean or look like.
I wrote a review of Wilson, and I liked it, and I even got into a little debate about it in the comment section of Tim Hodler’s post, which is cool because, hey, I sometimes like Tim Hodler’s writing as much as those other guys up there. What a fun time. That was really great. Books like Wilson get a lot of recognition from people, and a lot of thoughtfulness goes into making it, talking about it, and putting it on our super-duper top 10 lists. That is a comic a lot of people thought was great that I thought was only mediocre, and had specific analysis as to why I thought that was. The world is better for having talked about Wilson.
Do you know how difficult it is to do that with an issue of Superman? Or how pointless?
Why didn’t I review this year’s big “Superman walks across America” thing with the same vitriol everyone else in the comics-loving world did? Simple: it was an ugly comic with a stupid story. Everyone knew it was an ugly comic with a stupid story, and every review boiled down to some variation of it being an ugly comic with a stupid story. And that is what’s frustrating: the comic was put out by a company who knew what a piece of shit it was, but banked on a subset of human to pick it up because it is a collectible. Not insofar as it will be worth any money whatsoever, but in that people feel compelled to continue collecting issue after issue. Critiquing a Superman comic has become quite a bit like critiquing a new Matchbox car: the intended audience doesn’t really give a shit what you have to say, elitist pig.
But those are the kinds of comics I’ve always loved reading. I’m not looking for a tremendous amount of effort, here– I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Green Lantern fan, despite how inherently terrible I know that character is. I’m looking for a bit of escapism and maybe a plot that makes sense. Preferably, I’d like a little less talk and a little more rock but PB (POST-BENDIS) I know this is probably an impossibility. Quality artwork is a must, but even the word “quality” means something different than it used to. A piece of mediocrity I can digest and talk about. This way, when something like Batman & Robin comes along it gives people something to sink their teeth into, critically.
2009 did that. Major companies put out really strong work, like Dark Reign: Zodiac, The Incredible Hercules, the first three issues of Batman & Robin and even Amazing Spider-Man. The mediocre was just that: mediocre. The bad was there, of course, but it made more sense to talk about it the way people talk about it this year. People openly laughed at Cry For Justice, calling it the worst book since Identity Crisis after just one issue– which is pretty good when you consider Identity Crisis came out all of five years before. It seemed like some sort of anomaly, when it was, in fact, the beginning of a trend.
Superhero comics were bad this year, and it really upset me. Other comics were great, and Jay and I will talk about those over the next couple of weeks, but Marvel? DC? I could hardly read anything. 2010 was the year comics stunk. 2010 was the year Paul DeBenedetto stopped caring.
Ring in the new year.