I AM TOO STILL YOUNG SHUT UP
Before I even start this rant, because I know that comics are SRS BSNS for some people, I do want to clarify that I know there are comics that don’t fit into the problems I’m about to lay out. There are comic books and graphic novels that I’m a huge fan of, like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and its offshoots by Jhonen Vasquez. Mostly the comics I’m going to be addressing are the mainstream comics–the ones that have been around since forever, the ones that my fellow nerds sometimes arch an eyebrow at me for not being deeply and intimately familiar with when I mention that I love Batman.
See, this whole thing springs from my love of Batman.
I have loved Batman since I was a child. I remember the first time I saw the camptastic 60′s Batman show; I was five or so, and Dad was flipping through the channels (it must have been a weekend, if Dad was home) when he stopped on some live-action show that I didn’t initially suspect was going to be any good. I mean, there were grown-ups in it. And a weird old dude and no cartoons. How could this be a good show? But my dad stopped on that show and said, “Aw, I haven’t seen this in years. I used to watch this a long time ago, when I was about your age.” SIGH. How could I not watch after that? I was Daddy’s little girl, and if Daddy watched it when he was little, I would also watch it.
I LOVED IT.
The crazy costumes! The villains! CATWOMAN! JOKER! THE BATMOBILE! (I maintain that the 60′s Batmobile is the sweetest of all Batmobiles.) I was obsessed. The episode that he stumbled across that day happened to be a marathon; dad threw in a cassette tape (VHS baby) and taped it off of TV. I watched the hell out of that tape. When it started re-running on … whatever channel was re-running it, I made sure to tune in every chance I got.
It wasn’t long after that I saw Tim Burton’s Batman. Probably it was not appropriate for me to watch; I was six when it came out, although I wouldn’t have seen it until it was released to video. (Dad dubbed it and cut out the most violent parts so I could watch it. Aw.) That was a different Batman, but still good. Even though there was no Robin (I loved Robin in the old series, I won’t lie–even though Burt Ward was completely old by the time I ever saw the old series, I had a crush on him), and even though it was dark and Joker was more violent than goofy, I loved this new Batman. It gave the character depth for me–because, let’s face it, the Batman from the 60′s was a little too vanilla to be interesting as a character. Tim Burton’s Batman helped cement what has been a lifelong obsession with the hero.
(My husband tells me that Adam West showed up in his tights to audition for Tim Burton. But my husband makes up stuff all the time and I haven’t been able to verify this story, so I can’t attest to its accuracy.)
The only problem? I always have felt like a fake Batman fan because I never read the comics. Oh, I may have read a few when I was a kid, but I’ll be honest, I was all about Archie and not really about superheroes at all. So even though I’ve seen all of the Batman movies, watched all of the cartoons and shows, and am constantly doing internet searches on Batman-related things as an adult, I’ve always felt like a bit of a fraud.
I recently decided to remedy that and buy some comic books. The Joker, who is by far my favorite Batman villain (in fact, I may be more of a Joker fan than a Batman fan), had what looked like a sweet new storyline with amazing art. I knew the comics were edgier than the cartoons–see also, when the Joker beat Robin to death–so I thought, it being 2013 and boundaries being pushed all the time, this could be a really good story. And it was. I don’t want to–what are the kids saying these days? Throw shade? on the Death of the Family storyline. It was pretty bitchin’.
This is what came up on Facebook that initially caught my interest. HE CUT OFF HIS FUCKING FACE
But fifty-five dollars later, I am reminded why I have never gotten into comic books. I mean, besides the fact that they are FRIGGIN EXPENSIVE JESUS FUCK. I didn’t even get ALL of the comics in that storyline and I spent mad cash, yo. These suckers are going up on eBay shortly.
In comic books, nothing is ever permanent, so why should I give a shit about anything that happens?
Even though I hadn’t read the comics, I had a general understanding of many major events in the Batman universe. I knew that Robin (Jason Todd as Robin, not Dick Grayson) had been beaten to death by Joker with a crowbar. I knew that Joker also was responsible for the paralysis of Barbara Gordon. So I was less-than-impressed to find that, in the reboot, Jason Todd has come back to life and Barbara Gordon is up and around as Batgirl again. So everything that was scary about this:
is not really that scary. I mean, yeah, that would still hurt like a motherfucker, to get beaten with a crowbar or shot in the pelvis–but if you knew you weren’t going to have any permanent consequences, it would be about a thousand percent less scary to run up against the Joker. You would be like, well, okay this sucks and everything, but it’s not FOREVER so I guess it’ll all be okay in the end. It’s like when Marvin the Martian or Wile E. Coyote gets blown up–it’s fine, because you know he’s not really hurt. In fact, it’s meant to be humorous.
But getting beaten to death or shot by the Joker isn’t supposed to be funny to anybody but the Joker.
I just can’t get emotionally involved in a story when I know everything could just be reversed on the whim of a new writer who wants to sink their teeth into the story, canon-be-damned. I can deal with reboots and alternate realities, but not with miracles fixing up problematic plot points.
And actually, I find that I don’t like the idea of superheroes altogether.
The only superhero I give two craps about is Batman. I used to watch some superhero stuff, like the old Superman shows and the X-Men cartoons, but I never developed much of an interest in them. I don’t watch the movies when they come out, I don’t cruise YouTube looking for old episodes the way I do with Batman. (By the way, Batman: The Animated Series? It has excellent art and stands up very well to adulthood.)
Here’s the thing. Let’s say I’m Superman. I have superhuman strength. I have the ability to heal myself, not that I get hurt that often ANYWAY because I am invulnerable to most human maladies. I’m fast as hell, I can fly, I have motherfucking x-ray vision and other superhuman senses. And I’m orphaned off of a planet that was destroyed and raised by humans who took me in despite me being all weird and alien and whatnot. If I don’t turn out to be a superhero? I’m a complete douchebag. For Superman, stopping crime is like regular humans helping an elderly person across the street. It’s not particularly taxing for him, and since he has superhuman speed, he can do it really fast and get back on with his day. It’s probably completely boring for him.
And then you have the humans who stumbled into their superpowers. Bitten by a spider. Born with mutations. Took a serum that transformed them into perfect human beings. That’s all good and fine, I guess, but . . . isn’t it kind of totally boring, as far as story goes (not in real life–in real life it would be AWESOME), to stumble into superpowers? And isn’t it just as boring to stumble into superpowers and then think, “Gee whiz, I’m gonna use my powers only for good!”* I mean, if I stumbled into superpowers, I would probably use them mostly for good, but I’m human, not a saint. I think that’s why I like Batman, but not the other superheroes–Batman doesn’t have superpowers. He has gadgets that had to be invented and then he had to learn to use them; can you imagine him practicing with the grappling hook and falling about a hundred times? heh, heh. He has physical strength and prowess that he has to train to get. And if someone shoots him in the face, no chance he’s gonna deflect that shit.
Batman may be stuck in the back, but at least he WORKS FOR HIS POWERS. You can tell Aquaman totally feels like a poseur.
*I realize that I probably have missed a lot of subtle character development with that because I haven’t read most of the comics, but I still get the idea that the general gist of the superhero is that he’s usually a good guy with a mostly-sterling character, not a dark and conflicted individual constantly fighting his flawed humanity to be good despite the urge to be selfish and revel in his own power. If I’m wrong about this, please tell me.
Also? Comic books are confusing to get into, if you’re new to comics.
I just wanted to read some Batman comics. But where does one start with Batman comics? Does one need to start at the beginning? Because I didn’t really want to start at the beginning. I’m much more of a fan of darker, edgier, more violent Batman, and the early ones seemed a little . . . . . not any of that. Then you have the various reboots and storylines and offshoots and why the fuck can’t they draw a map or something for noobs like me?
I can go to the blogs, but just like every blog, it’s down to opinion. One blogger thinks I should start here, and another says no no no, start there and I have no idea so my brain short-circuits and I grab a novel instead.
Comics seem to be one of those things that are hard to get into later in life. It’s like if you missed the boat as a youngster, it’s a ton of work to get even remotely caught up. I mean, they’ve been making these things for decades now; there’s no series of novels that extends back as far or as widely as even one long-term comic book character. I can tackle Terry Pratchett’s huge Discworld series without a whole lot of trouble, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to navigating the Batman universe. I’m ill-equipped to jump into this without a team of guides and a map.
And even if I could, did I mention friggin’ expensive? Maybe if I were Bruce Wayne, I could afford to read about Bruce Wayne.
Sadly, I have determined that comic books are not for me.
We haven’t even touched on other things that would bother me if I were to read enough comics, such as the various tropes that women get forced into, or the unrealistic depictions of people (yes people, I mean both men and women here–I mean, fuck, have you seen the size of Batman’s THIGHS? THEY HAVE MUSCLES ON TOP OF MUSCLES JESUS). My recent foray into comics reading is enough to have me sticking to picking up graphic novel collections at the library, should I get the urge to check out any more Batman storylines. Gritting my teeth when I feel dead inside because nothing is happening for keepsies.
What about you guys? Do you love comics, or dislike them? Why? Am I totally being too hard on comics? Which ones do you love? Sound off about comics in the comments!