WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! FULL CURMUDGEON MODE HERE!

There are a number of things about superhero comics that seem to have gone out of vogue in recent years, and I fear that I may have seen the last of them.  Here's a quick list of things I shall lament losing:

10 things that I'll likely never see in (superhero) comics again

* Heroes fighting and defeating villains without the destruction of the world or the populace of this or that city being in question - Seriously, when was the last time the Penguin held up a bank or Electro knocked over an armored car?  Does everything have to be the world ending?

* Heroes fighting other heroes and it being a misunderstanding - These days, if a hero fights another hero, there's no misunderstanding. The hero is just as apt to be behaving as a villain. I understand shades of grey, but it's gotten boring.

* Villains more interested in loot than destruction - Please, could we have Roy Raymond, the Getaway Genius again?

* Heroes acting like heroes - It seems that Marvel especially has forgotten that it's heroes are actually seflless heroes. I'd love to see that again.

* A good fight between a hero and a villain - Are there villains anymore, or is it all just one mish-mash of conflicted personalities and bad decisions?

* Secret identities being given more than lip service - Yes, I know the concept is thoroughly ridiculous at this point. I for one find that sad.

* Villains that don't kill - Hey, remember when crooks just stole stuff?

* A fight I can follow - Despite the advances in computer coloring and everything else, why is that so few of today's artists know how to draw a fight?

* A populace that celebrates and reveres it's heroes - Yeah, Superman should just stand down when the Parasite comes to town, right?

* Characters having the option to think themselves out of a predicament other than killing the antagonist - Seriously, do superheroes--especially smart superheroes--even think anymore?  The Illuminati is the worst example of this, but the entire idea is that the heroes will come up with a solution that doesn't involve destroying a single life, right?  Isn't that the point of superheroes?  That they can find a way to solve the problem that keeps everyone alive?

Yeah, I know I sound like a irascible old fogey talking about this, but as a wise man said, "When you speak of adding realism to superhero comics, you're really talking about taking all of the fun out of them." Or something to that effect. Of course, said sage also thinks Captain America would beat Batman in a fight seven days a week and twice on Sundays.

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Also, footnotes.  Following continuity used to be a joy.  Now it is a shore that we are expected to be up to without complaints.

Randy my friend I feel for you. This is why I stick to pre-1985 back issues and reprint collections of same. Seems to me the entertainment industry as a whole has fallen into the doom and gloom approach to story telling with "the end of the world as we know it" a much too common theme.

What about plain old simple thought balloons? In a way, this goes along with Randy's observation that heroes don't think themselves out of situations anymore, but puffy, cloudy thought balloons are now considered old-fashion or out of vogue. When characters think at all anymore, it's usually in the form of narrated caption boxes (sometime identified by color or the hero's logo).

I'll second Luis's suggestion, too. Every once in a while a comic book will make reference to a previous story and I'll think to myself, "That's kind of cool. What comic was that in?" Don't know. No footnote. Oftentimes these days, if I'm interested enough, I can find the answer on Wikipedia.

I agree about the thought balloons--they can still be the most straightforward way to show what a character is thinking. While reading P. Craig Russell's graphic adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book recently I noticed he used thought balloons. That's the first time I can recall seeing them for a long time.

I have mixed feelings about the footnotes. I see the utility of them, but they're really a visual distraction on the page. I'd prefer some kind of endnotes, or a note as part of the "Story so far" summary that every comic should open with.

I think endnotes are a perfectly acceptable alternative to footnotes.

So would I.  Ditto for the "Previously" pages.

FWIW, there are still good comics out there, and good comics being made. Unfortunately, it just seems as if time has passed me and many others by.

doc photo said:

Randy my friend I feel for you. This is why I stick to pre-1985 back issues and reprint collections of same. Seems to me the entertainment industry as a whole has fallen into the doom and gloom approach to story telling with "the end of the world as we know it" a much too common theme.

If your bad guy is like the old Flash villains it works that he would rob a bank. Looking normal and not being psychotic he could spend the money and enjoy himself. The villains who don't look human and/or are psychotic can't really walk around in society, so robbing banks would involve having helpers who would assist you in spending your ill-gotten gains. It also seemed that the bad guys are usually vengeful. The second time they appear they want to humiliate and/or kill the hero and stealing becomes secondary. I think the comics companies have learned that hideous villains and world-destroying stories sell better so that's what they give us.

I don't see why thought balloons are old-fashioned when word balloons are still in use.

The "previously" summaries on the first page or, better yet, on the inside front cover* should be standard today. It is particularly important when most stories are continued. There is always a new reader who may not come back if the story can't be understood. In the old days they just included exposition in the story itself. This makes a story clunky in collected form, so they can't do that. I don't know if it's been revised, but reading Stephen King's The Green Mile in collected form (it was originally six separately-published segments) was a chore since he was summarizing the story at the beginning of each segment.

* The front cover in the Marvel books was perfect. I guess they gave this up so they could sell the ad space.

If they dropped word balloons then comics would have to go the Prince Valiant route or nobody would know what was going on. And people will find any excuse they can these days not to read.

Captain Marvel#33 wouldn't have made a bit of sense without those pages telling what had gone before. Unless monthly comics are going the way of the dodo and only trades will be left (and I don't think the industry would survive long in that case) they need to keep the "what's happened so far" pages. If it's a problem in the collections, make them stand alone pages that can be removed for the trade. (And maybe stuck in the back of the book along with things like unused covers.)

In CBG, one writer (Peter David? Tony Isabella?) said he was sick of doom and gloom and wasn't the only writer who felt that way. So there are some professionals that would agree with this thread. They're just either keeping quiet about it or they're not getting work. Both Marvel and DC have had plenty of chances to make their comics less depressing, their heroes more heroic. Crisis after Crisis. Zero Hour. New52. Secret Wars. Heck, Marvel had the perfect excuse in Secret Invasion: all of the dark killing "heroes" were actually Skrulls in disguise, and the real Tony Stark, Namor, etc., were tied up somewhere, maybe in the Andromeda Galaxy. Why establish heroes have been replaced by villains for many years if, at the end, the real heroes are as rotten as the impersonators?

Dick Tracy's bad guys were often hideous looking, but they only seemed to have a problem with their appearance when they needed to disappear and knew their ugly mugs would give them away (Pruneface made a comment about how anybody that saw him would call the cops). I think the Blank was the only one that hid his face, and it was explained that he was actually disfigured, not born that way like Flat-Top and the Brow and the rest.

Iron Man and Captain America got into an argument that almost became a physical battle over whether or not to kill the Molecule Man while he was unconscious, back in Avenger#216. Was this the first time Tony started showing a real mean streak, or had he done this sort of thing before? The only time I remember him killing someone was Kevin O'Brien, and he was haunted by that act for a long time. Was that when he started going wrong? A few years later Cap was having to stop him from punching out Peter Gyrich (but then Gyrich was the sort of character you actually wanted somebody to punch out.)

Randy Jackson said:

Yeah, I know I sound like a irascible old fogey talking about this, but as a wise man said, "When you speak of adding realism to superhero comics, you're really talking about taking all of the fun out of them." Or something to that effect.

Gee, it's nice to be remembered ...  photo biggrin.gif

Randy Jackson said:

* Secret identities being given more than lip service - Yes, I know the concept is thoroughly ridiculous at this point. I for one find that sad.

I completely agree with this one. Secret identities are avenues for stories, and a good writer can make the superhero's off-the-clock life as interesting and enjoyable to read as his or her on-the-job life. Superman was always built on his friendships with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen and Perry White, and Clark Kent was enough of a character that he could support his own series -- remember "The Private Life of Clark Kent" backup tales?

Iron Man was always as fascinating for Tony Stark's adventures as it was for Iron Man's deeds. Or Steve Rogers' time in the boarding house with his neighbors the firefighter and his girlfriend the lawyer and the landlady, who was a Holocaust survivor. Or when Tim Drake was introduced as Robin, juggling his life at school, keeping his secret from his parents and going on missions with Batman.

Speaking of Batman, one of the best developments was the introduction of Lucious Fox -- because he was all about Wayne Foundation/Wayne Enterprises business. He was the one character Bruce Wayne had to deal with on a regular basis who had NOTHING to do with Batman. But that was a long time ago. I stopped reading the Batman books ages ago because Bruce Wayne didn't have a life; he was essentially written out of the books as writers and editors worked on the premises that "Bruce Wayne is just a daytime mask for The Batman." Baloney, I sez.

Randy Jackson said:

Of course, said sage also thinks Captain America would beat Batman in a fight seven days a week and twice on Sundays.

Said sage truly is a wise man.  old photo old.gif

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