Thursday, April 01, 2004


Since I've started to pontificate about superheroes, I suppose I ought to declare my views on them more fully than I have so far. So here goes, briefly:

I don't hate superheroes. I don't think they're necessarily fascist. I think that many of Alan Moore's pre-Image superhero stories were very good stories. And I don't think that getting rid of superheroes would cure what's wrong with today's comics scene. If there were no superheroes, the people who are now writing lousy superhero comics would be writing lousy non-superhero comics, and the people who are now reading lousy superhero comics would be reading lousy non-superhero comics, if they were reading comics at all. Without superheroes, Marvel and DC would no doubt try harder to produce comics that would appeal to the general public, but there's no guarantee they would succeed.

On the other hand, I don't buy most of the supposed advantages of superheroes that their defenders have put forward. Superheroes aren't mythic archetypes. Nor are they particularly well suited to be "metaphors" for anything. And, contra Jim Henley, they have no advantages over other forms of literature in dealing with ethical questions. Since I'm just setting forth my position, I'm not going to defend any of these assertions right now, although I could (at least the last one).

None of the contemporary superhero comics I've looked at seem particularly well-written, and that includes the ones that are supposed to be well-written. When I read bits of one of the "good" ones, I'm very rarely enticed to read the whole thing; and when I do read the whole thing, I wind up disappointed. At most, there are a few clever ideas and snatches of dialogue in an otherwise mediocre work. And that includes what I've read of Moore's ABC line. (To be fair, I find the same to be true of most non-superhero comics I read these days, too.)

One other thing: I find the art in most contemporary superhero books to be a real turn-off. Especially since I've become used to the art in manga, the art in most superhero comics looks ugly, cluttered, and inexpressive. I'll pick up a GN off the shelf and, before even reading any of the words, I'll think "Do I want to look at a hundred pages of this?"

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