ThorMay 11th, 2011 |
At first after I saw Thor today I thought I really didn’t have much to say about it, and I don’t, really. It’s a decent enough movie, very pretty sometimes, Loki is kinda hot, that’s about it. As far as a silly kinda fun thing with a good balance of self-respect when it should take itself seriously, and when it should relax and have fun with the basic nature of what it is, it did alright.
I realized that the reason it’s kinda bothering me is the way it, and the recent and future stable of Marvel and DC movies, have been discussed that bothers me. It bothers me that when people see these things, they think that these are what comic books are. I mean, of course they’re from comic books, but how did we get to a situation where this is the representation of an entire medium? A lot of people watch these movies and then never go to comic books, because these movies don’t show them anything about what comics can be. Superheroes are fun, I like ‘em, and they could have a place in the comic book world if they were handled differently. But these are movies from comics books, I don’t like calling them “Comic Book Movies.”
I realized that the problem isn’t just the superhero genre, it’s the way that that genre has been handled and manhandled since, seemingly, time immemorial by the various publishers through the last several decades that have now, more or less, boiled down to the “Big Two.” I think the distinction that it’s important for us to make now is that Marvel and DC just really aren’t comic book publishers at all now, haven’t been for a long time. What they are is a couple of large corporations with baroque, tied up business obligations that compel them to maximize the profits that they can turn from a small stable of licensed “properties” which are sometimes actually used as, and at other times erroneously referred to as, “characters”.
Some of there characters are cool. I’m being honest here, I read Batman a lot, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Fantastic Four and Spider-man since I found them in liquor stores at around the age of 10. But think about it, man, is there any other medium in the world where the same “character” has been in continual– monthly, not occasional, and often between four and eight times a month– publication for 70 years? I mean, what the fuck is that? Genuine personal and artistic expression can and have been found with these licensed characters, but I’d say it happens a handful of times a decade, which would put the number of stories using these characters with a non-financial impetus at about, I dunno, some small part of a percent of the vast sea of junk that’s shoved out with ‘em. And in many of these cases, the comics they make with these characters aren’t even the real impetus so much as lunchboxes, T-shirts, whatever, action figures and, yeah, feature films.
And that still wouldn’t be such a big deal, if these two tiny, claustrophobic companies hadn’t managed to almost completely take over an entire medium. You go into most comic book stores, and they mostly, if not exclusively, carry books by these two publishers. This has happened for a variety of reasons, distribution considerations, and is sometimes the fault of the consumers, too, but can you imagine going into someplace called a “Movie Theater,” only all they played, 24/7 was Star Wars, and maybe Clone Wars episodes. Imagine, nobody calls this a Star Wars store, they just call it a Movie Theater. I have to think that anybody who really loved movies, or especially anybody who was interested in making them and saw film as an inspirational outlet for his creative expression, would be kind of fucking irritated at these novelty shops taking over.
And again, the thing isn’t just superheroes in general, or even the particular superheroes that are most popular, it’s the shortsightedness and, historically, frequent cowardice of these companies that’s the problem. I keep seeing the movie Thor being cited as risky of them, because he’s a “lesser known,” hero, or that the success of Thor is an exciting affirmation that they can dig deeper into their stable of established characters and still sell movie tickets. Wow, that’s exciting. Call me an elitist (And that’s been done) but I really don’t consider making a mega budget superhero movie that ties into a dozen other Avenger tie-in movies and is based on a character that’s been continually used to pump out popular merchandise and magazines for about 50 years like some great red-caped sausage factory, that just doesn’t exactly reek to me of cutting edge risk or avant-garde filmmaking. It is what it was, which was a fun summer movie, but, because character B has slightly less underroo exposure than character A, that the people on the business ends of these things look to this as their version of a risky or innovative endeavor? Jesus. And the fact that this signals to them that they can dig deeper into their stable of characters, by the way, does not signal that they have any interest in producing new or interesting characters or comic books, it signals the opposite: that they’re excited that they can get even more mileage of strip-mining the bitches they’ve already been riding for decades. That is not exciting to me.
What is exciting to me is the internet. As these people bitch and moan about the loss of print sales– while simultaneously of course refusing to do anything to make their printed comics any more accessible or interesting to a fanbase outside of the aging group of people they have who have already been reading these comics since they were in their teens or younger– they have of course ignored that the technological advances that might be making people loose interest in print are opening up an exponential number of new opportunities. They’re doing exactly what the music industry did, which is to bitch about what it’s loosing rather than making any real effort to see what they might gain. And if it fucks ‘em out of business, well I can say that might just be the best thing for comics ever, really. The internet is a great way to distribute and consume comics in traditional formats, and it’s also a great way to innovate and play with the artistry in ways that paper might never have allowed. Things like Body World, Chester 5000, and, hopefully at times, my own comics, are all things that previously never would have seen the light of day in the formats they seem to thrive best in. And while a lot of those have initially been available online for free, their later publication in print, and in some cases their ancillary merchandising sales, have proved that people are still perfectly willing to spend money on art and entertainment that they like, even as their preferred methods of consuming it may change. Things like Achewood and Penny Arcade have shown you can do pretty alright money-wise from webcomics. Bands like Pomplamoose, simultaneously, have shown that with, youtube and other digital distribution, you can make a living from music now without ever pressing CD’s.
And if the main distributors of these things are as timid and retrograde as they keep proving themselves to be, well, I like Batman, but I’m not gonna cry about DC fucking itself over. I think that with the internet, actually, comics are going to prove to be one of the real populist mediums. With media as prevalent as it has been in the last several decades, a large portion of the way that people think about the world and express themselves now contains a non-verbal visual element. To use that visual vocabulary for self-expression, film and video games and things like that are of course awesome, but the problem with those for me is that there’s so much money and so many people involved. With comics, if all you want is a pen and some paper, you can make some comics. Before what was standing in the way of those comics being shown to the world was the business interests of the companies that published them, and now that’s not the case. Comics seem to me like they’re rapidly becoming seen as an egalitarian way to tell stories you want without a budget, and to tell them how you want, and their limits as a vehicle of personal expression seem to me, well they actually almost don’t seem to have any. And that’s a really fucking good thing.
Oh, and speaking of comics, for anybody who’s been wondering where I’ve gone since I posted the most recent one of mine, I’ve been planning a lot of things for the upcoming comics, and I’m gonna post a new one on Monday, so check back then :)