Here, climb up on this step-stool. Might have to stand on tiptoes, because we’re trying to see a long way into the once-upon-a-time. Try these magic binoculars.
In the 1950’s, the comic book industry took a real kick in the gut. If you’re interested, do some research.
In the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s, the industry began to regain steam, slowly at first but with increasing speed. DC Comics reinvented characters and ideas from twenty years previously. Stan Lee & Company began the Marvel Age of Comics. Through the 1960’s and a bit into the 70’s, it was a grand time for the medium. Like TV, comics had a bit of everything; westerns, mysteries, horror, cartoon animals, comedy and, of course, superheroes. Maybe because TV and movies sucked at recreating superheroes that they rose to dominance in the comic companys' output.
The very general rule of thumb was that a child learned to read with DC Comics. Their titles stood a kid in good stead until puberty began to loom on the near horizon. Then said kid “graduated” to Marvel titles. The unspoken premise then went that, as our kid hero could see high school graduation ahead, they phased out of comics. If their imagination still craved more challenges and greater vistas, they moved on to Science Fiction and Fantasy books. Words without pictures.
The key takeaway is: comics were for kids.
However, in the 1960’s, a special percentage of comic fans dared to dream of making comics when they grew up. What a job that must be! To draw Superman! To write Spider-Man’s adventures!
These special fans grew, as dictated by biology and time. They pursued their dream and became the new generation of comic creators. Now here’s the rub. These were not new adults replacing the adults already making the comics. These were fanatics still obsessed with the minutiae of comics. They didn’t want to create simplistic comics for kids. They only wanted to create comics for their pseudo adult selves. They laboured to solve the “problems” of continuity and logic that comics were rife with. “Problems” nobody else took seriously, especially their child audience.
And so it went. Year after year, these numbwit fanboys in charge tried to make comics increasingly mature and sophisticated. A ridiculous task because superheroes are ridiculous. A happy, exciting, fun ridiculous, but ridiculous. To try to pin the genre under a harsh spotlight of reality is like trying to…make nutritional, vitamin-enriched lollipops. Or maybe drizzling butterscotch sauce on a salad.
Nevertheless, nobody stopped the downward spiral into dark pretentiousness. In the modern world, there are no comics for kids. According to the advisory warning on the covers, the youngest person allowed to read a comic is one almost ready to drive a car. New issues are only available in odd specialty shops for collectors.
And this weekend sees the release of the current nadir of this devolution: “Batman v Superman”. A “superhero” movie so caught up in pompous self-importance that there is no room for humour, for derring-do, for escapist dreaming or, in fact, any primary colour. The colossal absurdity of a superhero movie filmed in a cold, dull, iron-blue/grey palette pretty much sums up how confused many modern creators are.
And…that’s off my chest.