Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Status Quo Abides, but What about the Auteur?

First, go read Kyle DuVall's post on auteurism at Marvel and DC and then come back.

I've seen these sentiments raised before and they never fail to baffle me. This idea that the status quo of corporate-owned superhero comics is a fragile little thing that needs to be protected from dangerous men with dangerous new ideas... it took Marvel, what, two comics to gut and turn around any progress made during Grant Morrison's New X-Men run? The status quo and the corporate-owned superheroes will be just fine. They've been going for almost 50 years in most cases (some more by a few decades, some less) and it doesn't look like they're going anywhere. Oh, there may be some twists and turns, but, at the end of the day, Spider-Man is still Spider-Man, he's always been Spider-Man, and he'll always be Spider-Man.

Your comics are safe.

Even if these characters could be 'ruined,' so what? Why is ambitious storytelling that pushes things forward, changing characters, making them grow, why is this a bad thing? Why is the reader concerned with maintaining the status quo, of not hurting the character in the longterm, when that's clearly only something that the owners of said characters should care about? I don't understand that mentality. Is it as simple as I sometimes say -- is it that most corporate-owned superhero readers believe somewhere that they will get a chance to write them someday and don't want changes to fuck with that? Or is it something else? Why the resistance to change?

And why blame the creator? Blame the creator for the way a story is told, even partly for the ideas, but don't the publishers approve them? Isn't that where the true responsibility for preserving these characters lies? The creator's only responsibility is to the story, to producing the best possible comics. For some, that includes caring about the status quo, about what comes next, but not all. Some would say that's part of the job, but, if the editors/publisher don't hold the writer to that standard, why should the writer go out of his or her way to adhere to those limitations?

Fuck the characters, give me stories from auteurs. Why would I (why would anyone) want to read some middling bullshit that's too afraid to step out of line that I can't remember what the story was about three minutes after putting the book down? I wouldn't. I don't. The only problem with auteurs in corporate-owned mainstream comics is that there aren't enough of them. Obviously, you're not going to like everything, but I'd rather see stuff like what Geoff Johns write on the shelves than toothless, bland comics. At least Johns has his vision and he sticks to it. It alienates readers like me, but I can respect it.

There's no such thing as ruined or broken or going too far. These are fictional characters and do you know how easy it is to put them right back where they began? Any hack with a keyboard could do it in a single panel. That's how fragile they are: one panel to fix any problems.

I look at my bookshelves, at the corporate-owned superhero comics that I own and they're the ones with ambition and vision. Those are the books I want to read. The stuff you'll actually remember in five minutes, in two years, in two decades... The precious status quo was built by auteurs with vision and drive, making it all up as they went, no rules to follow because the characters were brand new and those are the books celebrated. Those are the creators celebrated. No one remembers the journeymen who wrote safe little stories that didn't rock the boat, because why would anyone?

Give me more auteurs. Give me more ambition. Give me more change. The toys will still be there, the status quo will take care of itself, stop being a bunch of timid children.

"Auteur problem"? Fuck...