Comment from Mr. Constant?
Posted by Chris in Vancouver WA on August 31, 2009 at 10:06 AM
That is very nice of you to ask, Mr. in Vancouver WA. I thank you. It has taken me a while to wrap my head around this thing, but here is my comment:
I taught myself how to read on Superman and X-Men comics (and a whole lot of Charlie Brown collections) when I was three years old. I was an avid comics fan (never a collector—I've never bagged or boarded a comic book in my life) until I stopped reading monthly comics back in 1995, when I started paying my own rent. Comics, in particular Marvel Comics, had also become staggeringly awful, and I just couldn't take it anymore. In 1991, Marvel became a publicly owned company, and so their first allegiance became to their shareholders, as opposed to their fans. Comics seemed to be planned and produced based on some sort of weird sales-figure calculus. It was a depressing time to be a funnybook fan.
In 2000, I started reading a lot of comics again, particularly the trade paperbacks you can buy in bookstores. I worked in a bookstore and I got a huge discount, so why not? I mostly read what the kids used to call "alternative comics," even though names like Chris Ware and Dan Clowes are arguably better-known nowadays than "mainstream" names like Brian Michael Bendis.
But I started buying Marvel Comics again in July of 2001, when Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely took over the X-Men. Suddenly, the X-Men weren't wearing tights anymore, and they didn't fight people in tights, either. They opened up international branches and primarily concerned themselves with acceptance. Morrison put away the tired racial allegories that the book had been about since the mid-sixties and instead made the X-Men into an allegory about the fight for gay rights, which seemed at once brave and obvious.
And other Marvel Comics were growing up, too: There was X-Statix, which was a series about mortality, racial blending, reality television and celebrity (a resurrected Princess Diana was even going to become a member of the team before a Marvel executive shot down the plan). Axel Alonso, the editor of Preacher (which has always been and will probably always be my favorite comic series of all time) came to Marvel and immediately set Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon up on a weird, satirical run on The Punisher. Superheroes stopped wearing costumes and most of them dropped their secret identities. The books went from generic superhero fiction to really good genre fiction—crime fiction, sci-fi, even romance comics—and anything seemed possible.
Of course, it wasn't possible, and this deal highlights the impossibility of Marvel Comics ever being interesting ever again.
(Much more after the jump.)
And though Marvel editors promise that Disney won't be affecting the content of the comics, it's too goddamned late. The comics had long since become bland again, which is precisely why Disney was interested in buying Marvel in the first place. I was buying them out of habit, and realizing that I was buying these books out of habit makes me feel ashamed of myself, like a recovering drug addict. It took four billion dollars publicly changing hands to buy a bunch of Entertainment Properties for me to accept the inevitable, tedious second death of my hobby.
I'll still buy monthly books from independent publishers—Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly and Image and Dark Horse Comics and even, somewhat hypocritically, Roger Landridge's stellar Muppet Show comics, which are a loving, brilliant adaptation of a property that is currently owned by Disney. I'll buy creator-owned work from Marvel and DC, too, because they don't have editorial control over those books. But there is no point in continually blowing money on a product that never, ever changes. And that's what companies like Disney and, yes, Marvel Comics are all about. And I'm done with it.
Sorry, Chris in Vancouver WA, for blaming this long and uninteresting tirade on you. That'll teach you to ask me for a comment in the future.