Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stuff I Like In Modern Superhero Comics

As I think I've made clear, I don't read contemporary superhero comics anymore. Unlike a lot of my peers in the same boat, I don't hate them. Oh, I suppose I once did, but I have mellowed in my viewpoint. They just don't appeal to me or interest me, so I choose not to read them. The fact that I once held an attachment to a lot of those characters has faded over time. Now, I just disregard things that I don't like as not affecting the comics I still hold dear.

However, I've been mulling it over recently, and there are a few developments in recent comic book lore that I do like. Therefore, in the interest of being balanced, here is a list (2 apiece from Marvel and DC) of stuff I like in modern superhero comics.

1)Namor as a member of the X-Men: No idea if he still is or not, but I love this idea. The Sub-Mariner is the oldest Marvel superhero, but you sure can't tell by the respect the character is afforded. In fairness, Subby has worked best since his revival either as a noble adversary or as a team member. Making a solo strip work has been a harder sell, though Marvel has given it the old college try.

This is why I love integrating Namor into the X-Men. There is a perfectly valid background for it, dating back to the Lee/Kirby days of the title. It elevates Namor's importance in the Marvel Universe by association with those other famous mutants. He's a great character, though maybe his ability to carry his own book in the current marketplace is lacking. That's no reason to retire him, and using him in the X-Men allows him to be front and center.

2)Swamp Thing rejoining the DC Universe: Ditto for Animal Man, John Constantine, etc. Look, I get why Vertigo was and is an important thing for DC. I realize superhero hijinks were not what the Vertigo audience wanted. But the "embargo" on certain characters from interacting with the mainline DC Universe was silly. One of the strengths of the Moore/Bissette/Totleben Swamp Thing run was how it utilized all the DC character appearing in its page in new and interesting ways. That was the book that served as the very FOUNDATION for Vertigo.

I understand that Vertigo has mostly moved on from its ties to the traditional DC Universe. But really, things like THE SANDMAN and THE BOOKS OF MAGIC would not have happened without those ties. There's really no logical reason in a shrinking market to limit where Swamp Thing can appear simply because it isn't deemed "realistic" enough.

3)Carol Danvers as the new Captain Marvel: This has been long overdue. Understand, Billy Batson has the "moral" rights to the name as far as I'm concerned. However, for trademark purposes, Marvel needs a character with that moniker. Mar-Vell sufficed until Jim Starlin killed him off in a brilliant graphic novel. That has led to many, many attempts since then by Marvel to figure out how to keep the name alive. There have been a couple of new Captains who were perfectly fine characters, but lacked a certain something to make the name meaningful.

Yet, here we have the much-abused Carol Danvers character, and who better as a successor to the name? She was a supporting character in Mar-Vell's strip well before someone decided to make her a superheroine. If the original claimant is gone, why shouldn't Ms. Marvel take over? She has the history, she has the powers, and I can't believe no one (including me!) thought of it before. I don't know if this will succeed, but it has a better chance of sticking than a Skrull wandering around thinking he's a deceased hero.

4)The "new" Alan Scott is gay: The original Alan Scott, the one in those comic books in the 1940s, was not gay. There was entirely too much sexual tension with the Harlequin for this to be possible. However, the "New 52" means everything is starting over, and in that spirit, I really don't consider the characters running around in the current crop of DC books to be the same ones I read as a kid. I mean, I haven't for a long time, but this just makes it official.

To clarify, I don't really have a problem with this. Honestly, part of me wishes DC had done this hard reset back in 1986 instead of what we got. In that respect, I have zero problem with this new version of Alan (Green Lantern) Scott being gay. I think it's good to have comic books represent diversity, and since it's all on a parallel Earth (again!) anyway, DC can have their cake and eat it, too. It's pretty much win/win as far as I'm concerned. Which doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people out there declaring it the Worst Thing Ever, but seriously, when isn't there?

What do you like?


  1. I don't hate comics but I am jaded. I got so tired of reboots, reworking continuities but I have read the occasional thing that was not bad. I do not hate today's comics but I feel no overwhelming urge to read them.

  2. I love Mark Waid's "Daredevil"; Waid took a title that's pretty much been creatively stagnant since the '80s, took it out of the mire of angst and misery it had been operating in for years, and made it cool and genuinely fun.

    I'm also really happy to see the apparent rise in popularity of Iron Fist. I've been a fan of Danny my whole life, and I loved "The Immortal Iron Fist," but having him be a full-fledged Avenger? Yeah, I'm down with that. (It's just a shame he's mostly appearing in books by writers I can't stand.)

  3. @Chad - It's common enough. I think the real value is in the way the comics, old and new, inspire you.

  4. @Travis - I have heard good things about that book. Karl Kesel tried to do something similar, but pretty much got cut off at the knees quickly.

    As far as Iron Fist, not bad for a dude who got killed off in the 1980s. Wasn't that revealed to be a tree man or something?!?