Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 17
  1. #1
    All-New Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Posts
    5

    Default Why I Hate Superhero Comics

    By Ted Intorcio
    At the risk of offending every fanboy and girl on the planet, I have to get this off my chest.

    Comics aren’t pop culture
    Superheroes; they are pop culture. But comics aren’t. Fitting all of comics into the realm of pop culture is like suggesting all books can be classified as pop culture or all music is an expression of pop culture. Let me ask you, why do we understand that, in the context of literature or music, only certain portions of it can be categorized as pop culture, but comics—they are ALL under that category? The answer, because all most people know about comics is superheroes; adolescent male-centric, predominantly white, escapist entertainment. And this really gets to my point about kind of hating on superheroes. They have become so synonymous in American culture with comics that they have prevented people from finding out about the other stuff.

    Look, like everyone else, I loved X-men and Avengers and Batman. I loved Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, John Byrne and on and on. They provided an escape from bullying classmates and my mundane blue-collar existence in a dreary suburb of Cleveland. These characters became my friends in a sense; they exhibited the qualities I wanted in a friend: strong, dependable, determined, well-meaning… and they triumphed over the bad guys. That last one was probably more important than I realized. As a child, it reaffirmed my sense of right and wrong, justice and fairness. It also stimulated my sense of fantasy. Climbing walls, shooting webs, flying…winning. What kid doesn't want to experience that?

    I mean, I grew up on this stuff:

    And then, I grew up.

    I certainly didn’t lose my love of comics. They are still a wonderful medium for telling any story you can think of. Fortunately, and truthfully, it’s not THAT hard to find comics outside the realm of superheroes. Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Allison Bechdel, Adrian Tomine, Marjane Satrapi, the Hernandez brothers, to name several. SO, why are superheroes so outrageously popular while other genres struggle to find their niche? Let me offer these two explanations

    The comics code.
    When comics became censored by the comics code in the 1950s, it limited the kind of subject matter that a comic artist/publisher could tackle. The notion of protecting young minds put shackles on their creators and a big portion of the readership was lost. Before the comics code, there was a much more diverse offering, read by a more diverse audience. Romance comics, westerns, crime comics, war comics, illustrated classics, humor, horror…you name it, read by GIs Housewives, young girls, businessmen, everyone; just like the reading audience of the newspaper’s comics page, which was the point of origin for comics. And then the comics code stripped much of it away. Comics became a product exclusively for children. For the next 30 years, readership dwindled from millions to tens of thousands to today where a book that sells 2500 copies is considered a success. The notion of comics as a product for kids had time to solidify. Then, in the ‘80s as comic code restrictions began to loosen, creators were able to stretch out thematically and in terms of character development. So the content was allowed to age with the reader to some extent. The characters were still grown men an women in tights, doing insane, fantastic things but at least they were less two dimensional. This gave us an adult audience that still cares about superheroes and can still enjoy them. But it cemented in popular culture that comics=superheroes. Kind of a shame.

    Superhero movies and TV shows.
    The advances in CGI and effects technology have allowed Hollywood to create live versions of these characters that do a good job of suspending our disbelief. They remind us of the characters we grew up with and make them even more real for us. When I’ve watched them, I become quickly aware of how hard the writers have worked to recapture that sense of nostalgia in all superhero comics fans. If you weren’t a superhero comics reader growing up (the majority of the audience) it doesn’t matter; you’re still seeing something new-ish with a subjectively interesting plot and lots of whizz-bang effects. Once again, as an unfortunate side-effect, these films drive home the notion that this is what a comic book is. This and nothing else. These two industries, Movies, and comics have fed off of each other in the last several years. Comics have picked up where the movies leave off, developing plot holes in the movies just as Hollywood looks to comics of the past to provide its next blockbuster characters.

    The characters don’t die. Their stories don’t end.
    As a popular commodity with decades of brand recognition, the owners of Spiderman, Batman, etc. have made billions on these characters and they continue to do so. There’s no motivation to end their story, and they just continue to build their fan-base. After a few years of reading them regularly, for me, the superhero books fell into predictable patterns of a story arc. How many times can an adult read about how Daredevil/Matt Murdock suffers brutal attacks from the kingpin, loses his mind but then scrapes his way back from the brink of insanity, ultimately finding the will to persevere and defeat evil? How many ways can mutants be used as a metaphor for inequality, prejudice, and discrimination? It’s simplistic. It’s banal. It lack’s depth by design. Sure characters now die all the time. But the understanding that they will become resurrected after a period of time has become just another cliche and any finality or relevance or meaning connected with death has been removed.

    Nostalgia and arrested development.
    For most readers, myself included, superhero comics bring back fond memories of a simpler time. They transport us to the first time we experienced these stories in the same way that music transports us, and that’s a powerful drug. The art, which is often masterful, can still induce excitement. I think it’s sad, however, if we never get to experience more than that. Sure, everyone needs to escape once in a while but it’s like never getting to know what lasagna tastes like because you only eat Big Macs. My tastes have certainly evolved. I imagine that’s the case for anyone; assuming they know where to look. That’s really all I’m saying here. “Look over here! Hey, look at this!” You might be pleasantly surprised.


    So that’s it. The truth is, no, I don’t hate superheroes. I hate how they’ve been associated with comics to the exclusion of everything else. The truth is comics are not just for kids, they’re not all fantasy stories, they’re not just for white, straight, males, and they most definitely are not just about superheroes. In that spirit I’d like to suggest several comics outside the realm of superheroes that were masterful, inspiring, powerful, engrossing as well as intensely entertaining, You may have heard of some of these. You might not. I’d urge you to check them out. Most of them are in your local library if you don’t want to risk purchasing them. If you end up liking one or more, you can search the internet for more comics like the following. Look at Uncivilized Books, Tinto Press, Koyama Press, Ad House Books, Silver Sprocket, Fantagraphics, and Drawn & Quarterly just to get started.

    I welcome any and all rebuttals, comments, or corrections.

    Love & Rockets by the Hernandez Brothers (fiction, Latin-x)
    Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (auto-biography)
    Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware (fiction, black comedy)
    Ghost World by Dan Clowes (fiction, teenage girl)
    Fun Home by Allison Bechdel (autobiography, (LGBTQ)
    Pyong Yang by Guy Delisle (travel diary)
    My Friend Dahmer by Derf (biography)
    Lone Wolf and Cub (historical fiction)
    The Book of Genesis by R. Crumb (graphic reinterpretation of the Book of Genesis )
    Maus by Art Spiegelman (Holocaust survivor story)
    American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (autobiography)
    Berlin by Jason Lutes ( historical fiction)

  2. #2
    Incredible Member jb681131's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Posts
    826

    Default

    Well, when you say "Comics aren't pop culture" it's not totally true. They are at the roots a pop culture and entertainement thing.

    And you forget to mention why the Comics Code was instrored. It's because comics were becoming more and more accessible and more and more popular among kids.

    But I agree with a lot of what you say. Now when someone says "comics" they thing of drawn stories about super-heroes for kids.

    Let's not also forget Donald Duck / Uncle Scrooge comics, Garfield and Peanuts. They are not superheroes and are a big part of pop comics.

    Also +1 for mentionning "Derf", I love what he does.

    Let's also mention that Dark Horse, and the 90's Vertigo line by DC Comics have produces some very popular comics more adult oriented:
    - Hellboy
    - Sin City
    - 300
    - Fear Agent
    - Harrow County
    - Preacher
    - Hellblazer
    - 100 Bullets
    - Transmetropolitan
    - Daytripper
    - DMZ
    - Fables
    - Scalped
    - V for Vendetta
    - ...

    I don't think adult and non-superhero comics are dead.
    I also don't thing all Super-hero comics are pop.

    But it's like in music, I don't get how/why autotune is so popular ?
    Superhero comics have lots creativity but still get more and more popular. I don't get it.

    I'm glad to be French. European (mainly french/belge) comics are very great and inovative. And we don't have superheroes:


    AND MANY MANY MORE

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member JackDaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    2,554

    Default

    I don't think super hero comics are that successful nowadays...

    And I don't buy any notion that non super hero comics would be read more widely IF super hero comics were read less...I actually think there's actually a synergy between the two, so that people who love super hero comics are much more likely to read other types of comics than most other people.

    But I do agree with main thrust of your argument that comics are a wonderful way to tell all sorts of stories...and I'll add just a few recs (off non super hero stuff) to ones you've suggested:-

    Bryan Talbot Tale of One Bad Rat (fictional story featuring victim of child abuse)
    Al Davison The Spiral Cage (autobiography)
    Will Eisner A Contract with God and other tenement stories (based on Will's own life)
    Last edited by JackDaw; 06-05-2019 at 11:31 AM.

  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member Güicho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    5,162

    Default

    You say
    Quote Originally Posted by Tinto Press View Post
    They [superheroes] have become so synonymous in American culture with comics that they have prevented people from finding out about the other stuff.
    and....
    Quote Originally Posted by Tinto Press View Post
    ... it’s not THAT hard to find comics outside the realm of superheroes.
    So which is it.
    Anyone remotely interested in alternative comics, graphic novels, etc can find them.
    It helps if the interest in the visual medium is there though.
    You can't expect everyone to like that form of story telling.



    Quote Originally Posted by Tinto Press View Post
    Comics aren’t pop culture
    Superheroes; they are pop culture. But comics aren’t.
    So you never heard of Archie comics. Archie, Betty, Veronica, Josie & the Pussy Cats, Sabrina, ....etc.


    As far as your list.
    Pretty good, by all means share it with others.
    Last edited by Güicho; 06-05-2019 at 12:07 PM.

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member DebkoX's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Global
    Posts
    6,654

    Default

    I absolutely respect your opinions and ideas; but, it seems a bit odd to post this opinion on a comic book forum? If you don't like it, which you are 100% entitled to, maybe not go to an area dedicated for it?
    That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, the happy highways where I went and cannot come again.

  6. #6
    Mighty Member LifeIsILL's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    1,135

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinto Press View Post

    After a few years of reading them regularly, for me, the superhero books fell into predictable patterns of a story arc. How many times can an adult read about how Daredevil/Matt Murdock suffers brutal attacks from the kingpin, loses his mind but then scrapes his way back from the brink of insanity, ultimately finding the will to persevere and defeat evil?
    I can read Daredevil vs Kingpin forever and ever....what is he talking about.

  7. #7
    Mighty Member tbaron's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Posts
    1,088

    Default

    I got into comics reading the non super hero stuff. I started by reading Archie with my dad. It was a way of bonding with him. I got into superheroes later in life and stayed with them pretty much for the rest of my life. I am only now starting to get back into non Super Hero comics. The Walking Dead. and I recently got into Hack/Slash. I am open to reading more non Superhero comics.
    Favorite teams. Avengers, West Coast Avengers, Justice Society of America, Legion of Superheroes.

  8. #8
    Mighty Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Posts
    1,340

    Default

    > Comics aren’t pop culture

    Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck aren't "pop culture"? What, then, are they?

    After a long hiatus of not reading comics, I was drawn back into the hobby by titles like Sandman, Hellblazer, and Swamp Thing. I always considered them "pop culture", and I still do.

  9. #9
    Mighty Member tbaron's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Posts
    1,088

    Default

    I dont think that all comics are pop culture. Certain issues are ground breaking and can be considered pop culture just like certain movies and books are considered pop culture.
    Favorite teams. Avengers, West Coast Avengers, Justice Society of America, Legion of Superheroes.

  10. #10
    Mighty Member Electricmastro's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Posts
    1,666

    Default

    Reminds of me the letters page from Target Comics #11 (December 1940, Novelty Press), in which someone said they were fed up with all the fantastic super types that were “out of date” and questioned what comic artists thought kids liked. I guess some things never change.


  11. #11
    Astonishing Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Posts
    2,098

    Default

    This isnt so much a "Hot take" as "Lukewarm mediocrity"

  12. #12
    Incredible Member Chubistian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Chile
    Posts
    946

    Default

    I agree that comics as an art form aren't pop culture nor just superheroes and I also dislike the notion than a comic equals superheroes. Though I wonder how that phenomenon is in countries like Spain, France, Belgium, among others, where they have a proper comic culture that rivalizes the big two. In my country, comics are a, sadly, constricted art that still can't overcome its shadow as a child's or simplistic product and where it's impossible to dedicate to creating comics, even with some goundbreaking characters such as Ogu and Mampato and the most popular of them all, Condorito (though these are pop culture and dedicated to an all ages audience and comedy. But Ogu and Mampato is some of the best science fiction and fantasy you can get and Condorito was amazing when his late creator was doing the comics. Nowadays, a big corporation manages Condorito with a mass production system)

    Still, I don't know why your opinion against this notion translates into hate for superhero comics. I think the comic industry in the US is big enough to accept other products that aren't superheroes. Is it harder? I bet so, but the public for that kind of product does exist. I wish this obnoxious and wrong notion about comics change, but even the big two have fought this idea with comics like Sandman, Watchmen, The Vision, etc. Besides, comic as an art form still hasn't a large audience, apart from some outburst from time to time, so it's normal that there're some misinterpretations about them in an public that whatches from the outside
    Last edited by Chubistian; 01-19-2020 at 08:57 AM.
    "The Batman is Gotham City. I will watch him. Study him. And when I know him and why he does not kill, I will know this city. And then Gotham will be MINE!"-BANE

    "We're monsters, buddy. Plain and simple. I don't dress it up with fancy names like mutant or post-human; men were born crueler than Apes and we were born crueler than men. It's just the natural order of things"-ULTIMATE SABRETOOTH

  13. #13
    Astonishing Member WillieMorgan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Northwest UK
    Posts
    3,545

    Default

    To be honest, for such a long winded post (albeit one made over six months ago now) this doesn't really say anything new. I'm pretty sure your average CBR reader is well aware of these arguments and will actually concur with many of them. I've been reading super-hero comics since the very late 1970's and am well aware of the genre's limitations and omnipresence. As it's a much loved hobby of mine I'm quite happy to acknowledge that and just move on.

    It reeks of self interest too. Tinto Press is an independent publisher. It seems to me that this thread has been created to draw attention to the OP's wares as much as anything else.
    "I don't stand for anything. I just crusade against everything I don't stand for."

  14. #14
    FF purist/snob CaptCleghorn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Posts
    6,506

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinto Press View Post
    By Ted Intorcio
    [heavily editred to get to the point]

    I mean, I grew up on this stuff:

    And then, I grew up.
    You keep thinking that.

  15. #15
    Standing Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    12,802

    Default

    Any artform has a pop culture side to it. The general populace consumes the popular version of the art, which helps subsidize the art that is less crowd pleasing yet explores the greater potential of the medium. Often the high brow art in turn influences the pop culture version, so there is some cross-influence.

    I hate that super-hero comics have become such a big part of the pop culture side of things. When I was a little kid, the most popular comics were Archie, Casper, Dennis the Menace and comics based on TV shows and movies. War, humour, science fiction, romance, fantasy adventure, cowboys were all available in good supply--and this was all considered pop culture stuff.

    The comics code may have limited the tone of these various genres, but it forced some publishers to put out magazines that didn't need Code approval--so we got the Jim Warren horror mags, HEAVY METAL, MAD magazine, PENTHOUSE and PLAYBOY and the underground comics.

    It's only once comics lost their distribution in the mass market and turned to the direct sales market, that the super-hero comics became such a huge portion of what was being sold. On the other hand, comic specialty shops often stock comics and books that appeal to niche readers--so while these aren't well-known or pop culture, the North American market has expanded enough that these other kinds of comics have an outlet. There has been a good market for independents and foreign comics that would probably not exist if the comic shops weren't around.

    I wish that people understood that the medium is more than just super-heroes--and I wish that the publishers gave more time to other genres. What seems to happen now is that we get hybrids of super-heroes with something else--there's war super-heroes, soap opera super-heroes, parody super-heroes, teen super-heroes, science fiction super-heroes, fantasy adventure super-heroes, horror super-heroes, western super-heroes, historical drama super-heroes, crime drama super-heroes. Maybe these can function as a gateway drug, so people seek out the hard stuff--the real genres that influenced these mash-up super-heroes.
    Last edited by Jim Kelly; 01-19-2020 at 12:40 PM.
    " I'm shocked! shocked! to find that gambling is going on in here!"

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •