My recent mention of The Fan-Fiction Age of Superhero Comics (and a link to my first post on the subject, back in 2007 — boy, superhero comics have generally sucked for years now, huh?) generated this comment from reader Felicity Walker: "The Fan-Fiction Age" is a good name for how I feel about a lot of recent comics.
Surprisingly enough, I think part of why modern comics feel like fanfic is because of what should be a good thing: the rise of the direct market that allows comics that don’t have to have to be vetted for news-stands. The comics I grew up on — the ones that feel like “real” comics to me — range from all-ages news-stand comics like the original Transformers and Spectacular Spider-Man to specialty-shop purchases like Howard Chaykin’s Blackhawk and Dark Horse’s Mecha.
Those still feel like real comics when I read them. Most comics today don’t, even the relatively good ones. Something has changed. Maybe it’s the way writers write, or the way people talk that writers are trying to capture in their dialogue. Maybe it’s all the computer-colouring and computer-lettering. Maybe it’s all the in-jokes and meta-humour. But I can’t shake the feeling that for mainstream superhero comics, something got lost when they stopped being made for the casual news-stand reader as well as the die-hard fan.
I wanted to highlight Felicity’s comments because I thought they were pretty apt, and also because she left her comment via Blogger on the old version of my blog, so it’s unlikely anyone would see it unless I gave it its own post here and now.
I totally, completely agree with what she says about most corporate superhero comics these days not seeming like “real comics,” despite the fact that it opens Felicity, myself (and doubtless thousands of other disenfranchised readers) up to easy dismissal on the grounds that our displeasure is vague and possibly curmudgeonly.
That being said, it still seems just that way. The corporate superhero comic book I am probably most invested in right now is Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca’s Invincible Iron Man, and as much as I enjoy it, even that doesn’t quite seem like “real comics.” Fraction’s writing is fine and entertaining, if post-ironic and firmly in the Warren Ellis Forum School (if you’re too young to understand the reference, I’m too old and tired to explain it), but some combination of the production values and Larroca’s Josh Holloway-based Tony Stark result in a reading experience that has its pleasures but does not feel anything at all like reading a comic book in the classic sense as I understand and have experienced it since 1972.
Which isn’t to say everything that Marvel publishes doesn’t feel like comics. Criminal feels like comics to me, as did the first Incognito mini-series and doubtless the imminent follow-up will continue the trend. Brubaker’s Secret Avengers #5 was probably the best standalone issue of a Marvel comic book I have read in years. But for all the world, when it comes to reading comics-that-feel-like-comics, at least in the corporate superhero realm, Ed Brubaker seems to be the lone standard-bearer now in the same manner that Alan Moore was around the time the ABC line was hitting its peak.
— Alan David Doane
If you enjoy Trouble with Comics, please consider making a donation via Paypal and help us stay in Trouble.
"The Fan-Fiction Age" is a good name for how I feel about a lot of recent comics.