First and last. (Batman #655, Batman, Incorporated Vol. 2 #12.) Will miss Grant Morrison on Batman very, very much.
Red Lanterns, from a couple of weeks back
Maybe my Smell-o-Meter™’s off—or I’m too far gone on this whole comics thing to care anymore, or I suffered some yet unrealized head trauma during Hurricane Sandy—but Peter Milligan and Miguel A. Sepulveda’s Red Lanterns #13 was sweet, right?
I mean, totally gross (as you’d expect), and filled with nasty, dreadlocked alien sexiness (mm?), but in a way that, I thought, was sort of like Alan Moore’s old Omega Men back-ups. A bit less clever, sure, but this is a New 52 event tie-in comic, after all.
Also! Look at how cute Atrocitus has become in Sepulveda’s capable hands:
Like a cuddly little blood-vomiting space turtle. Check this puppy out »
So, Where Have I Been?
You may have noticed—probably not—that I’ve been absent from this blog for some time, minus a few desperate (very desperate) posts about eBay auctions I’d set up in a move to dump large amounts of comic books, thereby freeing space in my apartment that is 1) this big: [ ] and 2) shared with a girlfriend, her possessions, and a cat.
Here’s the thing: the eBay stuff is telling. The great Glunders comic book sell-off wasn’t just about space (or the ability to pay for food, DVR service, Wellness®-brand chicken-crab-and-herring-flavored Healthy Indulgence® sliced cat entrées). It was about a creeping dissatisfaction that bubbled eventually into full-blown malaise. One year later, DC Comics’ New 52 initiative had proven to be a colossal disappointment and I took to reading Tucker Stone's weekly columns at The Comics Journal in which he towers over a smattering of books, shoves a finger to the back of his gullet and spews over them bile so acidic that, by the end of each entry, the very idea of drawings on paper seems almost painfully ridiculous. These columns are hilarious and very sharp—they’re potentially fatal for any beleagured fan of superhero comics wondering why (“oh why!”) Superman can’t punch things more interestingly every month. And so they were, actually, quite fatal for me.
If it all seems a little dramatic—it is—or overstated, consider a scenario in which an encroaching anxiety or niggling doubt cut the legs out from under your favorite hobby or “intellectual” pursuit. For a very passionate time in my life, books starring Batman or the Justice League were mind-expanding and otherwise totally satisfying, more so than paintings at a museum, complex novels, or the best examples of independent film which I also tried to supplement my media diet with. The stories, after all, are modern myth—right?
They’re also, at their worst, the mental detritus of unimpressive men and women working for staggeringly gigantic corporations. Inspired or not, they must fill X pages every month. And in the case of a shaky mandate from up top (see: New 52, the Green Lantern movie, 50,000 other examples), the stories can be ruinous: What DC’s New 52 did, in effect, was destroy a more-or-less cohesive, more-or-less beloved fictional universe, replacing it with something that is equal parts stale and confusing. It is stale-fusing. Rather than part with the past in favor of moving in an exciting new direction, it’s actually highlighted the most boring elements of the old DCU: an over-reliance on uninspired origin tales and familiar themes, an inability to tell stories that felt in the least bit consequential, etc. Superman’s younger now, and a video game-playing blogger, but for what? The stories he stars in now are general fluff, for the most part—though Grant Morrison’s packed a few interesting ideas into his New 52 “Action Comics,” even the majority of those stories feel overly familiar. The George Perez-helmed early issues of New 52 “Superman” had the titular hero battling generic monsters, brushing up against a similar breed of flat romantic drama he’s faced as Clark Kent time and time again, and new writer Scott Lobdell’s handling of his universe (and “Superboy”) could hardly be more wooden.
It’s a problem when these stories become more bland in service of reaching a wider audience (the entire point of the New 52). What parent company Time Warner must be hoping for in DC’s New 52 stories is more movie/television/spinoff potential: Geoff Johns’ first arc on “Justice League” could hardly have been more pilot-esque if it had been titled “EPISODE ONE,” and finally Hollywood has an easy in for “Swamp Thing.” But entertain, for argument’s sake, the notion that Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is the single most important superhero story of the last decade. That movie could not exist without boundary-pushing (and now, quite famous) works like Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke,” Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns,” and the rest of the usual list. But the creative spark that ignited such magnificent stories in the 1980s seems to be exactly the thing that’s extinguished in these new tales of DC’s “early years.” Eventually, the blockbusters that reel in millions upon millions of dollars will have little else to mine from these pages and feel even more hamster wheel-y than they do now.
Of course, there’s no blog post genre more trite in October 2012 than “comic book fan disappointed by New 52,” but I had to say it: This circumstance, probably more than any other, forced me to reexamine the very things that gave me so much pleasure even a year ago. And I’m not alone, as it happens: commenting on the New 52 in a much maligned interview with the New Statesman, Grant Morrison himself said, "There was a sense of, a definite sense of the temple was being burned down and it was time to run away." People can rag on Morrison’s attitude in that conversation as much as they want—they have—but you ask me, that’s a more or less perfect way of putting things, and I imagine it’s particularly resonant for those of us who’ve happened to find quite a bit of emotional gratification in the larger-than-life adventures of flying people in flashy tights and capes.
I never “quit” comics at all. There were detours from my DC diet, though, as there had always been, though they’d suddenly taken on a sort of new gravity. My girlfriend got me “New York Mon Amour" for my birthday. I took a bite out of my savings for "The Invisibles" omnibus while it was discounted at Forbidden Planet. There was an Amazon order placed, buzzed on hefeweizen, for the special edition of “Ghost World.” Many early mornings were passed on the uptown 6 reading “Casanova.” But I wanted to love superhero comics again: I refused to believe I had “outgrown” the genre when I knew that mind-blowing, creative work unlike anything I’d ever seen had been done within it, when I still believed that these characters meant something to our culture even if in their darkest hours they could be put to cynical purposes. I tensed up when I cracked comics open, though: Why couldn’t I get plugged in anymore?
Turns out, I needed a change of universe.
Wow. The balls on display in this issue of Action Comics are just… They are awe-inspiring. Grant Morrison. Balls. Awe.
You see a cover with a black, presidential Superman and you expect “political” in one obvious way. And then you get something else entirely.
Buy this one, folks.
THINGS VOICED BY DAVID UZUMERI THAT I, TOO, HAVE BEEN THINKING:
So, I’ve decided to say goodbye to the print collector mentality. With that goes my print collection.— David Uzumeri (@DavidUzumeri) April 26, 2012
I’ll still buy the weekly books I really love (of which there are a lot) digitally, but I need to move past what’s frankly hoarding.— David Uzumeri (@DavidUzumeri) April 26, 2012
As I tweeted in response last night—implying, maybe, a familiarity between the Comics Alliance writer and myself that just isn’t there (so sad)—I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing recently. I live in a small East Village apartment with my girlfriend, and I’m reaching the point, frankly, where every new bagged-and-boarded Aquaman is harder and harder to not feel complete, stomach-churning guilt about. We throw away our old issues of New York, of Wired, Vanity Fair, etc. I wrap my disposable publications in plastic and put them on a bookshelf/pile them up next to the bed/do this with them:
It is, like David says, “frankly hoarding.”
But I guess like any COMPLETE OBSESSION, it’s pretty hard to just give it up. There are pros and cons to ComiXology, for sure! Like:
- Pro: Frees up space in my apartment; Con: Is in no way more cost-effective
- Pro: Makes it easier to re-read previous issues (no digging through my stacks); Con: The iPad screen ain’t as big as an actual comic book
- Pro: Can buy my comics in bed; Con: I have many, many fond memories of going to the comic shop over the years
- Pro: No ads; Con: But how will I know how to buyz hot dog?
- Con: Can’t re-sell issues on ComiXology, as I have sometimes done with my print copies.
I should probably just do it, I guess. Thoughts, anyone? Have you gone digital? Did you ever look back?
Man. I was all excited for Annie Nocenti to make Green Arrow a likable series, but the character has just been broken by the New 52 relaunch.
NOR I, OLLIE. Nor I. A shame.