jet: (kate bishop is flawless)
jet ([personal profile] jet) wrote2013-01-19 09:12 pm

Why I'm a bad comic book fan

I don't like superhero comics. I don't know why I'm in superhero comics fandom. I mean, I can trace all the steps along the way, but it just seems like escalating bad decisions. (Note: I will be using "comics" as shorthand for "mainstream US superhero comics".)

At some point after I started reading manga, I took a look at superhero comics to see what was what. I don't really remember if I had already preconceived notions about them. I didn't about comics in general, obviously, it always seemed incredibly obvious to me that it was stupid to write off an entire genre, let alone an entire medium. I never read comics as a kid because it honestly never occurred to me - there weren't enough words. Why read something that was mostly pictures when I could have a big meaty novel instead? But the manga volume format was much more appealing to me, so I looked into American comics as well. I decided against reading them for several reasons.

First was aesthetics. I find most manga art more appealing than most comic art. Yes, even the gigantic shimmering eyes. I also prefer black & white to color. A lot of comics art feels sort of dark and muddy to me, so crisp black and white with judicious screentoning is a joy to my eyes. I can also handle a lot more gore in b&w. And I just plain don't like the way a lot of male comic book characters are drawn, bulging with spandex-clad muscle and a scowl. I will take a slender bishounen with hair down to his ankles any day. With the women, it was harder to call. There are a lot of basketball-sized boobs on both sides of the line, but manga won because the women's outfits in general seemed a lot cooler to me. The art style applied across all genres of American comics, and I decided I was happy enough exploring manga without searching out indie comics at that time.

But what really turned me off superhero comics was the ongoing nature of the narrative. While I will happily read things for amazing worldbuilding or interesting concepts, what really grips me are characters. I want each character to have a journey, and be changed by the narrative. I want that journey to come to a satisfying conclusion. What happens to that concept when the character goes through story after story, each told by a different person, and can't deviate from their archetype? Can the character ever experience real change? Can their story ever have an ending? Not really, when even and especially death is treated as a revolving door in comics. This concept of the narrative never concluding continues to really bother me. Of course individual story arcs come to a conclusion, some quite satisfying, but the next month things continue on as usual, with the lessons learned in the previous story maybe or maybe not taken into account.

This isn't uncommon, of course - it's the standard for procedural shows and mystery novels in a series. But with those things, that's what I'm in it for. I primarily want to see the case solved, and the characters are secondary. With comics, I'm in it for the characters. A lot of the time I don't especially care about the plot, or who or why they're fighting that week. I want something out of comics that comics aren't designed to deliver.

I knew that comics didn't deliver the sort of things I wanted, so between that and my (extremely ironic considering how many I follow) dislike of serial narratives, I chose to stay far away. I knew that reading comics would only make me unhappy in the long run. And none of that has changed. I still dislike the essential concept of comics. I hate the incoherency of the worldbuilding. I hate that different writers take characters in such different directions that the things that I found appealing about the character in the first place are destroyed. I hate that the art can vary wildly from issue to issue within a series. I hate that half the comic book industry seems to actively not want me as a customer. I hate that the only character's whose stories end end in death, but that death is not the end for others.

Why, if all this is true, do I continue to read them? I don't know. I didn't intend to get into comics fandom. I thought I'd give one series a try, and then quit. But real life sucking drove me deeper into fandom, and this was the fandom grabbing my interest at the time. For now, my enjoyment is outweighing my dislike. But there are too many things I dislike about the genre for it to be a long-term thing. But maybe it will stick - it seems to be a tradition among comics fans to intensely dislike a lot of the things they read. I'm just taking a step back and disliking the genre as a whole.

(And to head off misinterpretations - I am aware that these are entirely my own reasons, and that a lot of people like comic books exactly for the reasons I don't, and for heaven's sake I am not judging your preferences.)

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