The Crotchety Old Man Has Spoken: Fear & Loathing and Comic Books – Conclusion (updated from 2011)
“The greatest mistake you can make is to say that your work is better than a lot of the shit that’s out there. No doubt. But being better than shit is not exactly a shining credential.” Dave Sim, “Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing” (1997) (p. 30)
“Kids, the fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists.” Stephen King “IT” (1985)
The second part of “Fear & Loathing and Comic Books” is overdue, but the distance was necessary. Writing part one, I really looked into my views on comic books because I was starting to question if I like them at all. The result of my sabbatical was my learning how much I do love them, perhaps too much, and wonder if that’s what gets me into trouble.
I wrote how comics were never taken seriously by anyone, but the fans, and how things have changed. Now, comics are not taken seriously by anyone, and those that do are looked at like recluses, or disgruntled freaks.
The veterans of a long forgotten war to legitimize comic books are scoffed at now. We’re made fun of by youngsters who know nothing that came before Marvel’s Ultimate Comics. We’re the “look at him” person they snicker our exit rings the “there’s a customer” bell. We’re the one who dumbfounds people with information about character continuity that stretches ten years, or more, when asked “What’s happening with Spider-Man?”
We’re weird because we care too much, and we care because half of our lives and thousands of dollars were spent connecting with something, an ideal, of how the world and people could be if they tried to be humane; that men and women could turn tragedy to triumph, and evil need not go unopposed.
We bought into the notion that a nerd boy could become the savior of New York City, and despite the deaths of love ones, find love himself (with a super model). These stories of the absurd forged the beginnings of real life heroes; men and women who would grow to become police officers, firemen (and women), doctors, lawyers, or just good, honest mothers and fathers who don’t bail on their children.
Those old geeks, what that word was derogatory, fought a war to legitimize comic books because they were no different than the great works of literature that taught the same lessons – Le Morte d’Arthur, The Count of Monte Cristo, Robin Hood, even the Bible. We spent years crying, yelling, getting into debates with teachers, professors, bullies, even friends. We fought our parents and dug in dumpsters when they threw our comic books out, declaring them “nothing, but trash.” I guarantee you, somewhere there is a man or woman that has not spoken to his parents for years because they threw away his or her comic book collection.
Fast forward a decade or two later, and what did we fight for? Avengers Disassembled? X-men: Schism? It looks like comics have become the equivalent of reality television; what crazy thing can the publishers do next, and how many people will still buy it (+ sales tax). Suddenly, and without a memo, we’re not to look for deeper meaning in comic book anymore. Comic books are entertainment – no more or less.
But I still love comics. Despite watching them fall into hedonism, I still love comics. I love them like a father who watches his child succumb to teen pressure, drugs, premarital sex and pregnancy. I love them like parents whose daughter one day tells them she’s gay, and they act like they’ve always known because the loss of a “normal life” is better than losing a child’s love. I love comics like the wife who stays with her husband, no matter how many times he cheats, drinks, or hits her, because she knows “deep down, he’s a good man.” I love comics like a priest who knows he has no business around children, but God’s will be done. I love comics because I’ve loved them too long not to.
How can I not love comics when so many things I wished for as a child are happening – movies, television, video games, toys, and attractive, physically fit, big busted females in comic book super hero cosplay. It’s too hard being angry at comics now, and it only makes me look like a hypocrite when I watch The Avengers or Amazing Spider-Man movie trailer for the 19th time. It doesn’t matter that they’re not “my Avengers” anymore, all that matters is I lived long enough to see it happen, comic book superheroes on the big screen, followed by LED in 1080p Blu-ray to enjoy over and over again.
I remember when super heroes were hard to come by, now they’re everywhere. So many to choose from, it no longer matters what DC or Marvel does anymore. Can’t find a comic that’s you like right now? Then play Cole MacGrath in inFamous, watch Person of Interest for a Batman meets The Shadow fix, watch Star Wars: Clone Wars, Young Justice, Ben 10, or Generator Rex. And, if that’s not enough, create your own heroes (and villains) in the DC Universe Online. Or, if you actually want to read something, you can go backwards, find a comic book you overlooked. I recently bought a copy of Green Arrow: Year One by Andy Diggle and Jock from 2007 and it’s the best comic I’ve read in a long time, just took me five years to get so bored I’d try a Green Arrow book.
I always refer to comic book fans as “junkies,” but I’m no different. I just hide my addiction a bit better; the bartender who doesn’t drink at work, or the cocaine dealer who prefers heroine. I’m an addict too, searching for that virgin high. I’m sure that has something to do with my chosen profession. Masturbation done comic book style; if you can’t get what you want from others, get it yourself.
That’s the “deep down” about comics, and that’s why I still love them, because anyone can make them. NO matter how hard it is to do it now compared to ten years ago, it’s still true
– ANYONE CAN CREATE AND PUBLISH THEIR OWN COMIC BOOK.
Maybe the war wasn’t about legitimacy, but being free to choose. To choose what we liked; what we want to read and believe in. It could be an invisible man who magically had a son who sacrificed himself for us, or an alien who landed in the middle of Kansas with the powers of a god, but choose to wear blue pajamas, save kittens, and live as an accident prone journalist.
That freedom means you gotta love it all, good and bad. You can’t have one without the other. You wouldn’t have the New DC 52 without the new Marvel, and you’re not getting the new Superman and Action Comics without having suffered through WB/CW’s Smallville.
The war is over, and we vets have to deal with coming home, and things have changed. The world is different. The girl we loved married the guy we hate, and they have children we wish were ours. We can be angry, or find a life for ourselves; get married, have kids of our own, have family get-togethers with our ex and her new hubby, become best friends, laugh over old times, rediscover how much we love each other and have an affair that destroys both lives.
I think that’s a New Avengers storyline.
The Experience Is Everything!