Coffee Break

Jeff Chatlos seeks an explanation for this phenomenon:

Finally, I can speak for myself. I love comics, and will try just about any comic someone recommends, but I won’t touch anything other than comics (and even those are few) with fairies or elves in them (okay, I did like LotR, but that’s an exception). To me, books, TV shows and movies with “fantasy” settings (and I use fantasy to encompass everything from Xena to Legend) are somehow “too geeky” even for me. The same goes for most syndicated or cable sci-fi shows, though I’m generally willing to give big screen sci-fi and non-Star Trek network sci-fi, like The X-Files, a chance. I can’t even say why I think these things are geekier than I’m willing to go, because 1) I don’t really care what people think of me, as long as they don’t think I’m mean and 2) I have enough geek-like hobbies and interests, what difference would a few more make? I think that many people think about comics, as an art form or medium, the same way that I think about elves, fairies and anime (another thing I won’t touch, despite enjoying some manga).

Earlier on, he wondered why it might be that his wife has more tolerance for superhero movies than the comics (and also why she likes Alex Ross).

Here’s what I think (it got too long for the comments thread):

Of course this is just my opinion–but you know I believe it!!–superhero comics are just too complex for most people (and I don’t mean that as in “most people aren’t intelligent enough to understand them”, I mean: “most people don’t want to invest the kind of time into them that you must in order to derive the full benefit from them”–and who can blame them, really?)

Whenever I see a superhero movie, I’m always disappointed! Why? Because they didn’t “stick to continuity”? No way! You know I don’t care about that stuff! The problem with the movies is that they’re invariably simplified into action movies–and I pretty much hate action movies… I don’t appreciate novels, films, or anything else that deals with “larger than life heroes”, and part of my ongoing point is that I don’t think superhero comics have anything in common with Die Hard

The play of the words against the pictures–and of the present issue against its predecessors–neutralizes awe and chastens every display of power. These aren’t paeans to the will, they’re about clinging for dear life to the merry-go-round of the “eternal recurrence”–once you’ve read enough superhero comics, you know that none of the “victories” are “for keeps” and that there aren’t any real “triumphs” in a cyclical world. (except in an Alex Ross comic–which is like an action movie…those chins crush every hint of complexity that gets in their path!) There’s so much narrative wonderment going on in long-running serial comics that just does not translate into any other medium… That’s the glory of the form, and probably its death-knell too–because who has the time to get up to speed with Marvel and DC history, other than a kid? And the kids are otherwise engaged at present. Oh well–so be it!

Good Day Friends!


  1. good comments, Dave. Though I still read far too many Marvels, a lot of them have lost the magic since they lost the continuity (or they just flat out contradicted it – Nightcrawler’s father is a demon! WTF?). I have fond memories of the days when Marvel could tell a story in a single issue, with continuing subplots. Part of the fun of it was finding the back issues.

    Maybe they should reprint, or start a new version of, the old Marvel Saga series. That’s one of the main reasons I know as much as I do about pre-1980 Marvel stories!

  2. This is Shane. I posted in the comments at Otto’s but I’ll post here as well.

    most of my friends have no problem reading and enjoying comics, but can’t bring themselves to spend the money required to “keep up” with certain titles. Movies, Games, Books, and other entertainment mediums are mainly one time buys. Comics are often serialized meaning you have to come back to get the “whole” story. TPB’s are helping some, but the stories still continue for the most part. It’s like going to a movie that has 10 million sequels and spin offs.

  3. I completely agree Jeff–Marvel Saga was a hell of a boon to us newcomers in the eighties!


  4. Shane–

    no question, cost is a factor… from 1987 to 1991, I had a monthly pull-list of about 70 titles (all of which were Marvel/DC, with the exception of Cerebus and Flaming Carrot) + I was buying silver & bronze age back-issues by the truckload, and no kid could ever do that today… as I say, I think these suckers are dead (or, at least, the sixties-to-late-eighties narrative mode is no longer viable–but it’s still worth writing a dissertation about!! And the good superhero writers–i.e. Grant Morrison–are finding Austerian ways to create that feel of multiple narrative layers within single works themselves–i.e. The Filth…Larry Young does the same thing in the Astronauts in Trouble trilogy)


  5. Oh I totally agree it’s still worth talking about. I think there are ways to save issue by issue comics, but those ways all involve collecting multiple issues of different titles into cheap collections or going digital (which just isn’t as fun as holding them in your hand). I spend about $100 a week on comics not counting back issues and tpbs.

  6. Jeff again. In case you don’t usually go back and read the comments section on different blogs after you’ve posted, I’d recommend you check out the comments on my original post. I think you’ll very much appreciate my looong reply about comics as long form narrative.

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