Mike Gold: Who Needs Comic Books?
Are you reading more comics now but enjoying them less? Worse still – if you happen to be a comics publisher – are you reading fewer comics now and still enjoying them less?
If the Internet is any indication, plenty of people are cutting back, bailing out, and getting highly more selective about their purchases. I realize the Internet has but three purposes: 1) as a medium for obtaining free porn, 2) as a platform for spirited anonymous bitching, and 3) to prove to the world that your cat is cuter than everybody else’s. Only #2 is relevant here, but you can’t use the Internet’s bitchy overtones to dismiss everything you don’t like. I think there’s a real problem here.
Part of this response is due to the fact that Marvel and DC have been making it exceptionally easy to rocket out of their universes by rebooting, refurbishing, and retconning their family jewels. Good lord, if you’ve been reading any of their major product lines for more than a decade and you know what’s going on and what was going on and look forward to what will be going on – those are three separate things – then William Shatner was correct: get a life.
Donate some of the money you’re spending on comics you don’t like to the CBLDF.
I think there’s another contributing factor, a big one. Forget about the plethora of superhero movies; your “television entertainment media” systems have been invaded by latex costumed nano-bedbugs. Right now, this week, there are at least five original broadcast series based upon Marvel and DC superheroes, six if you think Agent Carter is a separate program. In two months we’ll be getting another show, this time on Netflix, and they’ve got at least four more in active production. Powers, published but not owned by Marvel, will be appearing on Sony’s entertainment network pretty soon. And next season, which is only about seven months away, we may see several more as the broadcast nets are churning out superhero pilots as if they have no other ideas with commercial potential.
Here’s the rub. Of the five weekly series currently on broadcast teevee, people seem to like at least four of them. Constantine may or may not make it. I’ll bet, based on 100% presumption, that those who do like it include a hell of a lot of comics readers.
So, let me ask you this: how much time do you have to spend on spandex adventurers? Teevee, movies, comic books, e-books, trade paperbacks… the whole enchilada. Personally, I enjoy Arrow, Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Constantine, The Flash, and Gotham and I’m looking forward to Daredevil. Add four superhero movies this year and I’d be spending at least 120 hours in the next twelve months watching comic books. Is it any wonder why I bought a new TiVo?
Comic book teevee shows used to be pretty stupid, shallower than the pretty stupid shows that surrounded them. A great many baby boomers were greatly embarrassed by the 1960s Batman show. I know one major comics writer/editor/producer who wanted to kill Lorenzo Semple Junior, who developed and wrote or story edited the show. I don’t quite share that feeling: Semple also wrote The Parallax View and Papillon.
But I digress (hi, Peter!). Today’s superhero shows are much, much better. Not Citizen Kane better, but they’re entertaining and they don’t condescend.
In a good year comics do not make enough money to impress the stockholders of Time Warner and Disney. Comic book movies make those same stockholders giggle like piggies (hi, George!).
So, I ask you: who needs superhero comic books? Well, honestly, not the conglomerates who own DC Comics and Marvel.
I’m looking forward to Daredevil also. I really like Gotham, (in the latest episode the guy who will probably be the Joker was amazing). I also watch Agents of Shield and Agent Carter, (which I like much better than AofS), I watch Constantine, which is pretty good but cannot get into Flash or Green Arrow. Maybe it’s the demographic they’re aimed at but after 10 years of Smallville on the CW, where things were so drug out, I’m not ready to commit time to those shows.