I am torn between my love of comics as a vehicle for superheroics and my love of comics as an art form. Comics as a medium can support both, but for me, I will always associate comic books primarily with superheroes (and vice versa). Over the course of the past week or so, I’ve been reading all appearances of the Abomination in chronological order, and last night it struck me that the superhero comics of today are just as different from the comics of my youth as the comics of my youth were from those of the Golden Age. Using the introduction of Superman as a starting point, midway between 1938 and today is 1975, juuust about the time I was really getting into comic books.

Last night, I pulled the next stack of comics I plan to read out of one of my “recent” boxes. I am up to the five-part “Dark Mind, Dark Hearts” story written by Bruce Jones (Hulk #50-54). I had kind of forgotten that this story existed, but flipping through it (I don’t plan to re-read it in its entirety until this coming weekend) I was reminded of the plot elements. Excuse me if I get some of the details wrong (I’ll correct myself next week if I do), but essentially Bruce Banner has an affair with the Abomination’s ex-wife. There are several fairly graphic (yet tasteful) sex scenes, some of which end up on looped video tape played back to the Abomination to torment him in captivity.

I compare this to the Abomination’s first appearance in Tales to Astonish #90-91, which I read for the first time (reprinted in Marvel Super-Heroes)… right around 1975 (comics “midway point”) come to think of it. That was definitely my first exposure to the work of Gil Kane, and there’s a particular one-page sequence (you’ll remember it if you’ve ever read it) of a prostrate Rick Jones hugging the Hulk’s ankle and begging him for help as the Hulk drags him across the missile base, that remains as powerful today as when it was first drawn in 1966.

Anyway, the topic is “Are Today’s Superhero Comics Too ‘Realistic’?” and the floor is open for discussion.

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The shirt Matt Murdock is wearing on that page is the same one Mark Waid was wearing last night at my LCS. Now I get it!

http://www.redbubble.com/people/aqualec/works/8152677-im-not-darede...

You can buy the "I'm not Daredevil" shirt there.

You should read Spider-Man then...his motto is "Nobody dies".

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

  Kinda makes it easy for the writer and the editor though doesn't it?  They can do anything they want to the character and then walk away and if someone cleans up the mess fine, if not they don't care, they have other things to write.

  One of the reasons I like comics is that I can see good guys winning most of the time, but the good guy winning by becoming the bad guy almost makes the victory meaningless.  The "I don't kill" motto changes to "I don't kill usually" with the occasional "This is wrong, I feel really bad." thrown in.  Instead of the hero (or basically the writer) being very smart and very clever to find another way out of the situation they simply have the hero be bad.  Easier to write but not as satisfying to me to read.

Mr. Silver Age said:

I actually don't think that's a bad thing, although many people seem to think it is.

The argument is that it's not "realistic" not to have characters grow and change over time, and they become stale. A lot of creators think that means they have to become darker as they deal with big problems in the only possible way, which is becoming as vicious as their opponent but for a nice reason. Plus, it allows for cathartic violence by someone who shouldn't be reacting that way.

The problem with "growth" by episodic characters that continue over decades is that they're popular due to how they are and the problems they face. If you don't like Peter Parker being poor and having little luck with women because of his dual identity, you go read (or write) something else, you don't marry him off to a rich super-model to show his "growth."

That may be realistic (to someone somewhere) but it's not dramatic and it eliminates too much of his inherent appeal. Same with Superman. Long-time readers may think it's realistic growth to marry Superman to Lois, but what new reader wants to start reading after that inherent impossible triangle is resolved? I don't think anybody ever is going to license the married Superman.

I got fed up with Daredevil when he took over the Hand and was still stupid enough to think he could keep them in line. 

I got fed up before then, when Mr. Fear drove DD's wife insane and he committed her to an asylum and in the next issue began flirting (and had an affair, I think) with Dakota North. Nah, not my Matt Murdock. From what I've heard, I didn't miss much since.

I think this is one of those cases where people talk about "continuity" hamstringing writers, and a good example of when it's best not to keep it too rigid. I enjoy Waid's DD, acknowledging that he has to deal with people thinking he's DD, but otherwise ignoring all the nonsense rather than even explaining it away.Usually, it's better to ignore bad continuity than try to explain it away.

-- MSA

ClarkKent_DC said:

I got fed up with Daredevil when he took over the Hand and was still stupid enough to think he could keep them in line.

 

Mr. Silver Age said:

I got fed up before then, when Mr. Fear drove DD's wife insane and he committed her to an asylum and in the next issue began flirting (and had an affair, I think) with Dakota North. Nah, not my Matt Murdock. From what I've heard, I didn't miss much since.

 

It was less an affair and more like a one-night-stand -- but still out of line.

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

I know, I have that one.

George Poague said:

http://www.comics.org/issue/36268/cover/4/

 

I've often thought this cover said it all about the "realism" of comics' approach to sex and violence.

 

BTW, it's a gem of a magazine: Miller, Byrne and Bill S., back when they still had talent. (1982)

So do I.

I guess I'm getting too old to answer that question objectively.  There is a definite lack of humor with today's superheroes, at least as a general rule.  The characters and stories are too violent and dark.  I mean, the population of the US keeps growing, yet the circulation of comics keeps dropping, so something is wrong.  Now, there are so many alternative avenues of entertainment like video games and other things that now compete with comics for entertainment, and the industry hasn't really latched onto anything much that lures readers back to reading comics.  Don't know if that means they are now condemned to be a niche cultural item, like the music CD, or not.  I hope not.

The music CD is now considered a "niche cultural item"? That's a depressing thought.

Well, I've overstated my case with respect to the music CD, but am not that far off.  CD sales have been dropping, sales of digital music is what is driving the music industry to a large extent, through things like iTunes and the like.  The music CD will be like the vinyl record within a few years, more than likely.  I mean, it's only been thirty years or so since the CD was the hot new thing, now it's on the way out.

Allen W. Smith said:

Well, I've overstated my case with respect to the music CD, but am not that far off.  CD sales have been dropping, sales of digital music is what is driving the music industry to a large extent, through things like iTunes and the like.  The music CD will be like the vinyl record within a few years, more than likely.  I mean, it's only been thirty years or so since the CD was the hot new thing, now it's on the way out.

 

What he said. It's rather odd; the big driver for the record industry in the '50s, '60s and into the '70s was the three-minute hit single. In the '70s, the impetus began to sell albums. The CD came along in the '80s and took over. But in the iTunes era, when people by and large WANTED singles -- and, for that matter, the musicians wanted to sell them -- the record companies fought them with everything they had!

True about the CD. It's not just the single track factor, it's that so many people have gotten used to getting their music via downloads, legal or not. Most of them don't care about the MP3's sound quality limitations--some of them were making crappy cassette dubs of LPs in the pre-digital era, and it didn't bother them then--but there are lossless formats for those who do care. They're bigger files, but memory and drive capacity have both gotten much cheaper recently. And there's always cloud storage.

Ah, yes, 8-Track tapes...

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