by Beau Smith
I’ll be the first to admit, I need to regain some of my joy of comic books.
I realized this the other day while reading a few of the comic book news sites and noticing that so many of the articles and message boards were pretty much joyless. The articles themselves were filled with printed “rolling eyes,” and had enough sneering to make Snidley Whiplash twirl his mustache. The postings by the readers had even more venom. If I were to depend totally on the remarks of internet posters, I’d wonder how comic books manage to sell 100 copies a month.
Please don’t get me wrong, there are others that do post their enjoyment of today’s comic books, but I did notice that their postings are usually short and are treated by others as boring. That ain’t a good thing in my book. I know I’d rather be happy than sad, I’d rather be in a good mood than a bad one, but on these sites I’m seeing so much reality show type of attitudes it can be a bit disheartening.
This is my 25th year working in the comic book business and I’ll fess up that sometimes being in the belly of the beast can stomp on your joy a bit. I’ve seen the very ugly side of comic books that no reader should ever see. I’ve also experienced wonders within comic books that can only come from being a part of the creation and production of comic books. I wouldn’t trade that for anything else in entertainment and a hobby.
I understand and realize that it’s harder for today’s comic books to be as joy-filled as they could be because of publishers and writers gearing the storylines of mainstream comics more towards a shrinking older adult audience or trying to reproduce the movies that they currently enjoy. When you think about it, mainstream comic books shouldn’t be slanted towards males, ages 35 to 55 only. A good writer can craft a story that catches a wider base of readers of all ages and genders. It was done for decades, it can be done now. The recent IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and AVENGERS movies proved that. I never thought the day would come when I’d say that Hollywood “got” comic book characters better than comic books did.
I’m not saying this as a “catch all” statement, I just know that for me, it’s a part of my lost joy of comic books. I realize as a reader I’ve gotta be more careful with the money I spend on comics. I can’t let myself waste my money on comics that I’m not going to get the cover price of enjoyment from. I know as a writer I’m going to have to not write just for me; I’m going to have to write for everyone including me. There’s no way to do that 100% of the time, but if you try a little harder, you can reach a few more people.
Currently, Mark Waid’s run of DAREDEVIL has brought me joy as has Ed Brubaker’s CAPTAIN AMERICA, and Chuck Dixon’s G.I. JOE series. Not only does the pleasure come from reading the stories that are hand in hand with wonderful artwork, but the real joy comes from knowing that month after month I’m going to be happy with the stories I’m buying and reading. Consistency in content, that’s the goal. I thank these guys for giving me that.
Recently I was at a local comic book shop where a customer had a couple of his young kids in tow. While their dad stacked up on boards and bags, his kids were acting out that they were Spider-Man and The Hulk. They were having a blast without disturbing anyone else in the shop and as I listened to them, I could see and hear that they were acting out the Spider-Man and Hulk they saw in the recent movies, not the comics. It used to be the other way around, but these kids got their joy elsewhere. Bottom line is that I’m glad they had some fun, but I’d love to see that fun come from comic books as well. I want that fun back for myself.
The other day I was sent a couple of links from a friend that were parodies of the latest Batman: Dark Knight Rises films and the pop song Call Me Maybe. Both were funny, but one was all ages and the other was more for adults. Both were funny, but the one that could be watched by all ages seemed to have more pure joy to it and the way it was made. As most of you know, I’m rough as a cob and sling my share of cuss words and toss back my fair share of cold ones, but I also know that with my humor there are limits of who I can share with, so with the “cleaner” parody I had no problem in sharing it with others. It also captured that comic book joy that I’ve been talking about. You can watch this and see that these guys must love comic books and the character Batman and just had some full throttle fun making this short. I’m not saying the other guys in the more adult version didn’t, but it seemed to me that they were trying to adult it up more to satisfy themselves even though their main purpose was to share it with as many people as possible. There’s a place for everything, and I’m only speaking for me. For me to recapture some of my comic book joy, I have to look beyond a smaller niche.
I’ve linked the more all ages Batman parody here in hopes that you can get some fun out of it as I did.
Please remember when you read this column, you’re reading my thoughts and my opinions. I’m not trying to force them on you, just sharing. It’s always my hope that you’ll get some enjoyment out of them, but I also realize and appreciate that we don’t all think alike. I thank you for taking the time to read the column and as always posting up any thoughts you may have on the subject.
Until next time, keep looking for the joy in comic books.
The Flying Fist Ranch