Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blogathon 18: Best Time to Stop Reading Superhero Comics (Tucker Stone Guest Post)

I can't remember what was in my head at the time I asked you at what moment you think you should have stopped reading super-hero comics. What was it I was thinking?

I wonder what you wanted out of CBR when you first started reviewing there, or what you wanted when you hit a year, or two, or had your first taste of the meaningless of it all, the way a great comic or a great artist or a great writer could fail miserably to find its audience out of what initially seems like the most arbitrary bits, like the characters it featured, or the day it came out, or its lack of connection to a part of continuity, or any one of the things that tend to have so little bearing on quality and yet exert a massive influence over their popularity. I'm not curious to whether you got irritated--you either did because you're sane, or you didn't because you're a fool, and I have to act as if you're the former or else I won't be able to continue. I'm curious what you did after the irritation wore off, what motivated you to go forward. You have these funny little standards--not funny in a patronizing way, funny just in that they're specific and unusual, they're private, personal--and I wonder how that seriousness worked when you were met with such consistent mediocrity. I want to know about the moment when you let your standards slip. Me, Deadpool Max, I knew there was something off, but I kept returning. I thought I liked REBELS until I realized I just liked clinical, thin lined facial expressions. Looking into a box, realizing that I was the guy who read Geoff Johns Teen Titans comics, drawn by Mike Mckone. I see you doing it with Ellis, with treacly crap like The Massive, but I can understand that--it's competence, there's efficiency happening there. Bryan Wood, Bryan Vaughan--those are creators that have massive appeal if you have a tendency towards timers and productivity and deadlines. They get the job done, and while that job tends to be a 7 minute distraction over the barely 3 minutes that Rucka can provide, they tend to feel reliable. It's not art anyway, regardless of how well they've all adopted artist as their job description. Ellis is another beast entirely, a topic I can't imagine discussing with you seriously, we'd both just end up talking around each other, mumbling obscenities under our breath. It would be like an abortion debate, or the way Republicans and Democrats cockfight on talk radio. You think he's made some good comics, I think the world would be a far better place if he cleaned bowling alleys with his tongue and slept in a bucket.

Ugh. This is becoming such a mess. I don't have anything to say about this topic myself, that's the problem, so of course it's going to deteriorate into easy, familiar topics, like being sarcastic about ex-Vertigo check chasers with T1 lines. I bailed on super-hero comics because I got a Chevy Blazer and because I was obsessed with the idea that if I drove around in it smoking Marlboro Reds and listening to Pretty Hate Machine and Doggystyle, that if I did that long enough, girls with names like Kelli and Wendy would get into the Blazer with me and we could go watch movies where people murdered people because Tommy Lee Jones needed to wear a bandanna and no one would let him. I came back to super-hero comics because I read an article that Frank Miller was doing more Dark Knight comics, which he did, and I didn't fall in love with them the way other people did but I decided to read Kevin Smith comics because I had always liked the part in Mallrats where Jason Lee carried around his own little paper cup. Where else but in super-hero comics do people choose to consistently pursue something they barely even vaguely enjoy in a regimented, obsessive fashion? Television doesn't count, because television is essentially a more exciting version of an overhead lamp. You had to go and get comics, you had to pay for comics, there was effort and choice there.

I think about it now, and the only explanation that really makes sense to me is that I liked weaker, stupider stories that I could feel smarter than, because I didn't feel smart enough, and I didn't know how to change that. I didn't read hard comics, good comics, I read swill and organized it, I forced my way through Dan Jurgens on the Justice League, or that storyline in Batman where he fought an earthquake, and I knew it was page after page of garbage, but it gave me a momentary sensation of power and success to have read those things in order after having found them in order. I did that instead of actually doing things that make my life better, and I used the excuse that I deserved to have fun and kill time or blow off some steam or have some escapism in my life, when the truth was that I didn't want to do any of the things that I was doing nor did I want to be around the people that I was around, and having a regimented place to go to that wasn't some absurd church full of absurd chuchgoers made things more bearable, and finding out that Stanley was getting molested by the Monster was a small psychic price to pay for the opportunity to forget the choices I'd made.

I suppose it's impossible to argue someone into that mindset, it certainly sounds as if I'm describing shitty Green Arrow comics as the only bright spot in a life of horrifying pain--but that's only for exaggeration sake, to make it sound more interesting than it was: which was the actual problem. The mediocrity of my taste was a reflection of the mediocrity of my life, I read crap to forget about the weakness of my relationships, the impotence with which I pursued my dreams, the embarrassment I had for even having dreams. Super-hero comics weren't the cause, they were a symptom, but their toxicity has a tendency to spread. There's no better excuse for Catwoman 16 than Catwoman 1-15, quitting today--when nothing has actually changed, when the qualitative shifts are incremental at best--is merely a reflection that one should have never begun. And you know this part, don't you Chad? You run through the conclusion of another Marvel tie-in-a-thon and you know that it's meaningless, and I can hear it in your voice, you don't like it, and it would be so easy to dismiss it as no big deal--but it's a big deal for you now, right? You have somebody who loves you, and you love her, and there's weight to your life now, those moments you so easily burned through before now become moments that could have been spent in the presence of something or someone that actually does mean something, in the practice of something that's genuinely great and not just above average or okay or a nice way to spend ones afternoon.

Whatever. Winter Solider, right? Something by Garth Ennis. Nostalgia. Who gives a fuck.

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