Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why I Stopped Buying Comic Books

From 1985 to 2000 I collected comic books. I used to buy a lot of them. And I do mean a lot. I don't buy them anymore. There are two main reasons for this. The first is price. The average comic book now costs a whopping $4. I just can't afford that, especially since comics are like potato chips-- you can't buy just one.

This is the other reason.
This is the cover to Justice League: The Rise Of Arsenal #1. That's right, the cover. It involves the Red Arrow, seen here, who was the former partner of Green Arrow. The supervillain Prometheus brutally attacked Red Arrow, ripping off his arm shortly before destroying his home town. Among the casualties: Red Arrow's young daughter. Oh, to top it off, Red Arrow's power is that he's a super archer. Or was, I guess.

Jeez, now I need to go look at a sunset or play with some puppies to try and push that paragraph out of my head.

Note that this isn't some example of obscure ultra violent Japanese manga; this occurs in the mainstream DC comic universe. In a comic that is supposedly suitable for "all ages."

This kind of content has been slowly infecting both DC and Marvel comics for the past ten years or more, and it doesn't show any signs of letting up.

I used to love reading comics. They were fun. You know, escapist adventure and all that. My all-time favorite comic was the Fantastic Four. I loved the characters (especially the Thing) and their exciting sci-fi adventures as they battled Doctor Doom and Galactus and traveled to other planets and dimensions. I liked reading Spider-Man as he'd insult Doctor Octopus while he tied him up with his webbing. I read Superman to see him save falling aircraft and knock asteroids away from Earth. That's why I used to read comics. For fun and absurd adventure.

Sadly, those days are long gone.

Batman used to fight a guy dressed like a clown. Now he beats up pimps and drug dealers. The most violent imagery you used to see in comics was a good right punch to the bad guy's jaw. Now the imagery would keep Charles Manson up at night.

A couple of years ago I was weeding out my comics collection, wondering what I was going to do with the ones I didn't want anymore. Halloween was coming up, and I got the bright idea to give out old comics instead of candy. As I was sorting through the books, I quickly realized that there were precious few I'd feel comfortable giving to a child. I don't need some panicky Soccer Mom beating on my door because I gave her kid a comic full of torture and rape, so I ditched that plan. Besides, I don't think kids even read them anymore.

Maybe it's time for a new name for comic books, because there sure isn't anything "comical" about them these days.

I'm not saying every comic should be like Casper the Friendly Ghost. There's a comic out there right now called The Walking Dead, which is the ongoing story of life after a zombie breakout. It's very brutal and violent, but also very good. That's fine-- I believe there's room on the shelves for violence and gore. I just don't think EVERY comic needs to involve torture and bloodshed.

Here are some more examples from the past few years of comic books. Again, keep in mind that these aren't obscure snuff mags kept under the counter. These are mainstream comics, that are supposedly suitable for all ages.

Here's the scene in Justice League: Cry for Justice in which Red Arrow is maimed. You can tell that the artist really enjoyed himself as he was drawing every nauseating detail here.

Here's a panel from the Identity Crisis miniseries. That's Elongated Man, a superhero with stretching powers, cradling the lifeless body of his wife Sue Dibny. In the past, they were a wacky husband and wife team that solved mysteries. Sort of a super-powered Nick and Nora Charles. That was obviously far too lame for today's sophisticated readers, so Sue was murdered by the wife of another superhero. Oh, and Sue was pregnant at the time of her death. Now that's a fun comic!

It would take several pages of convoluted backstory to get you up to speed on what's happening here, so I'll skip it. It's pretty obvious anyway. I'm also pretty sure that this is another cover image.

Here's a fun panel in which the Green Lantern, hungry for a midnight snack, discovers that the supervillain Major Force has killed his girlfriend and stuffed her lifeless body into his refrigerator. Dude, that's cold.

Are you beginning to sense a pattern here? Is it possible these comic writers have some issues with women?

Here's a page from Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. Apparently the two are having a bit of a disagreement and, unable to think of a suitable rebuttal, the Hulk tears Wolverine in half and hurls his lower body into the air where it lands on top of a mountain. A bit annoyed by this slight setback, Wolverine crawls up the mountain, retrieves his legs, and uses his mutant healing ability to reattach them.

Here's a page from Spider-Man. During a battle, the supervillain Morlun, feeling a bit peckish, plucks Spider-Man's eye out of the socket and eats it. Hoo boy, my sides are aching from laughing at these comics. Oh, wait. I meant my sides are aching from all the vomiting.

After Morlun's attack, Spider-Man is left for dead, spins a cocoon around himself (um... I don't think spiders... never mind) and emerges from it proclaiming that his human half is now dead, and the animal (or I guess that would be arachnid) half remains. He also has new powers after emerging from the cocoon, to put him more in line with the movie version. Oy.

Hey, remember the Super Friends cartoon? Look at how happy everyone is. No one's maimed or dismembered. No one's eating anyone else's eyeball or pulling them in half. Everything looks bright and happy and fun! Don't worry, modern comics will put a stop to that!

See the two kids at the right? That's Wendy and Marvin, the comedy relief team for the Super Friends show. That's their pet, Wonder Dog, on the left. As characters go, they were pretty lame. In fact, they were so lame that their lameness had to be severely punished.

And so in Teen Titans #63, the comic book version of Wonderdog, which was some sort of demonic abomination, savagely kills Marvin and maims Wendy, leaving her a paraplegic. Let that be a lesson to all you lame characters out there!

Lastly, we have a page from Avengers #71. You might want to sit down for this one. Here we see Yellowjacket and the Wasp (who both have the power to shrink to the size of their namesakes) as they're having sex. We see Wasp's hand as she clutches the sheets in ecstasy, moaning her lover's name. Then suddenly we see teeny tiny little Yellowjacket emerge from under the sheets and walk out between Wasp's breasts. It's not spelled out, but it's pretty darned obvious what they're implying. Hank used his shrinking powers to um... "get to know" Wasp better. You know, down there. Yikes.

Hey comics industry, I really don't need to see how superheroes have sex, OK? Just don't.

I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. Back in 1944 the most popular comic book was Captain Marvel, and it reportedly sold 1.3 million copies per month. Cut to today, when a book is considered a smash hit if it sells 50,000 copies per month. Most sell far less than that. I'm sure the internet and videogames are responsible for part of the downward slide, but I have to think the content is also a big factor.

So, Marvel and DC Comics, in case you're wondering why your sales figures are down, this is why. They're just no fun anymore. I used to read comics for fun, to forget about the world for a while. If I want to see murder and depravity I'll watch the evening news.


  1. yeah this man speaks the truth
    comic's are for pussies
    don't Man Up comic's

  2. Comics nowadays are like the characters in these scenes: maimed and half-dead.

  3. You said it, Dieter! Comics need to stop catering to middle-aged fanboys who like to read about torture and rape, and start appealing to kids again, because when the fanboys start dying off, there won't be an audience anymore.

  4. I can't believe that spiderman thing actually happened. They crossed the line by ripping out his freaking eye. Having Morlun eat it feels like they just trying to be blatantly tasteless.

  5. While the whimsical silly stuff has its place, comics can also be dark and mature. The Joker isn't just some guy dressed like a clown. He's a psychotic mass murderer and is established as having the highest personal body count for any human in the DCU. Batman beats up criminals, and has almost always been a dark character, so him taking on darker criminals is fine. Keeping comics in that Silver Age stage just isn't possible.

    HOWEVER, I find it hard to disagree that, in the 00s, both Marvel and DC seemed to be trying too hard to be mature, and the result was that they came off as immature, teenagers pretending to be deep, nothing more. The 90s had violence and dark and edgy attempts, but they were pretty bad but were innocent enough. In the 00s, rape was seemingly needed everywhere. What, Black Cat is a sexy cat burglar? Well, he MUST'VE been motivated by a never-mentioned-until-now rape! Dr. Light is goofy? Well, obviously he was mind-wiped after raping a woman! It was basically saying, "comics aren't immature, LOOK HOW MATURE WE ARE!!! WHY AREN'T YOU HAPPY?!?!?"

    Thankfully, both major companies wised-up, since happy and whimsical stuff does is published, e.g. The current Silver Surfer series. Hell, a lot of the good stuff still happens. Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four was amazing, and Spider-Man got a lot better once Dan Slott straightened stuff out after "One More Day". I like to think of this stuff as the late high school years of comics.

  6. That's a good point– I think you nailed it on the head. Their attempts to be edgy and mature were much like a kid who's just learned to cuss.

    Haven't read the current Silver Surfer, FF or Spider-Man, so I'll have to take your word for it that they're good. I'm glad to see the pendulum may finally be swinging the other way.

  7. It is really interesting post. I never read such kind of post. It impressed me. Thanks for sharing…

  8. I am ok with a little violence but this is both over the top and uncalled for they should tone it down just a bit thanks for the post . This is why i no longer read marvel comics on top of bad stories and crap art.

  9. Oddly enough, I stopped reading comics regularly at about the time you say you started ... and for oddly similar reasons.
    The violence didn't bother me ... I guess 80s comic book violence, while considerably more gory than in silver age comics (remember: the Comic Code authority specifically forbade the depiction of blood) was pretty tame compared to the stuff you've used as examples. No ... what was depressing me was how the fun was leaking out of business of reading comics. To take an example, in the FF Sue Richards conceived a second child back when John Byrne was using their tour of the Negative Zone to roll out some SF tropes that he needed to get out of his system. They were fun stories but JB added a parallel story where back at FF headquarters Annihilus was kicking the shit out of blind Alicia Masters ... no special reason - I guess he was being ''dark''. So the rot was setting in even then. But what really pissed me off was that Sue Storm's baby was killed off in a subsequent story arc. I recall this brought to the surface a lot of the unease that various plotlines like the X-men's Mutant Massacre and it's attendant misery had been bubbling at the back of my mind... THIS IS NOT WHAT I BUY COMICS TO SEE.

    So I stopped.

    Not altogether. I continued to pick up the good stuff ... Alan Moore, Miller etc. One of my all time favourite comics ... the one where aunt May FINALLY discovers that Peter P is Spider-Man ... dates from the early noughties. But eventually I gave up altogether about 10 years ago ... because they'd become too darn expensive.


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