I’ve written about the modern state of mainstream comic books before (DC, Marvel) including how at least some of them aren’t safe for children, and the whole comicsgate vs. social justice comic books drama. Some of this still pops up in my twitter stream, though I don’t respond because, why bother? Still, I do consider the state of the industry as it relates to some of the movies I watch (I caught Deadpool 2 on DVD the other day). And that takes me back to the comic books I used to read, many years…okay, decades ago.
I’ve read some things about the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, which seems interesting, and maps to the original Ms. Marvel comic book of the 1970s, based on a non-superpowered Carol Danvers who appeared in 1968 in this comic book:
Here, Captain Marvel was an alien spy, obeying the commands of his Kree overlords in a spaceship orbiting the Earth, but eventually, he used his space suit’s powers to help human beings, bringing his loyalty into question. Not long afterward, he got a make over and turned into this:
Still pretty old school but more superheroish. It would take quite a while for his powers to be bequeathed to Danvers, and then several other women, including a 16-year-old Muslim girl from New Jersey (and as an aside, the character’s creator is a Caucasian woman from New Jersey who converted to Islam when she was 20).
I mentioned I saw Deadpool 2 not long ago, which featured some of the X-Men, but when I was a kid, the X-Men were quite different:
Of course, by the mid-1970s, they’d turn into something more like this:
I actually enjoyed the new team for a while, but by the mid-1980s, my enthusiasm for comic books in general was waning.
Oh, it wasn’t an objection to the content becoming more mature, because at that point, I was an adult, but being married, going to graduate school, and working full-time didn’t leave a lot of room.
Before you think I have problems with socially relevant issues in comic books, the modern creators at Marvel and DC should remember that they aren’t doing anything new. In the 1970s, a drug abuse storyline in Spider-Man caused the Comics Code Authority to revoke its seal. You can see it’s missing in the upper right corner of the following:
The Authority had a change of heart by the time DC published its own drug abuse related story:
What pulled me back to comic books in the 1990s was the fact that my children were old enough to enjoy them, and the wonderfully fascinating “Death of Superman” story arc:
This was Superman at his finest, giving his life to save the innocent. Still, in my heart of hearts, the old George Reeves Superman TV show will still be “my” Superman, as will the comic book below. I still remember reading this issue as a kid:
It creeped me out that Superman’s hand could actually be bitten.
I could go on, but perhaps you’re wondering what my point might be? My point is comicsgate and social justice posturing aside, comic books used to be fun, and that was the whole point. Once they became a “cause,” and that became their primary or only role to their audience, the fun ride stopped.
I don’t know if (physical) comic books are dying, but they sure are changing. There used to be several comic book stores in the Boise area. Now there’s only one, and I’m not even sure it still exists (EDIT: it does). I remember when you could buy comic books in the local drug store. Not anymore. And given things I’ve said above, I’d never read a modern comic book to my grandkids the way I read them to my children when they were little.
When were comic books fun? I guess the answer depends on your point of view. For me, this is the answer.
This, for me, was when comic books were fun. I guess that’s how nostalgia works, but it’s more than nostalgia that tells me these comic books are a lot better for children than what I hear is being produced today, at least some of it.
I could go on, but I’ve said what I came here to say. Tha-tha-that’s all, folks. For now, anyway.
EDIT: I’m not sure if the links I’m posting here fit, but if the content can be verified, it makes Marvel Comic books a very strange place, and more highly biased than I could ever imagine. The first blog post is written by the controversial SF/F novel and comic book creator Jon Del Arroz, but mainly he’s quoting the even more controversial Vox Day’s article Mailvox: Marvel and the Swamp. Really, I don’t know what to think.
Another Edit: The Atlantic article The Real Reasons for Marvel Comics’ Woes was published in May 2017, but it gives a good summary (a bit of a long read, but worth it) of how Marvel Comics has been continually shooting itself in the foot. The author obviously approves of Marvel’s social justice direction, but also outlines the contention within the industry, between Marvel and its fans, and how ownership by Disney is primarily about using existing Marvel IP to fuel blockbuster movies, not to drive new audiences to comic books or to produce better and more interesting print/digital stories.