Why I Review Comic Books
My relationship with active comic book publishing and the subsequent purchasing has always been on again, off again – yet my passion for comic books has never waned. I began reading comic books shortly after I learned to read (and this quickly put me ahead of most of the other kids in terms of reading skill because I simply read a lot more than they did), and I stopped buying my favorite comic book, and essentially the only comic book I read with any regularity, Captain America, around 1994 or so. I attribute this mostly to what I refer to as the Mark Gruenwald ten year reign of terror, during which he transformed Cap from a respectable magazine to a Dynasty styled mess of a soap opera and finally into some weird Sci-Fi nonsense… Man and Wolf was where I threw in the towel. It was pure garbage, I couldn’t take it anymore… but somehow, in early 2001, I gravitated back toward comics, Captain America, and whole host of other titles. Besides The Avengers, Iron Man and other Marvel titles, I began reading DC titles for the first time, including Superman (various titles), Batman (various titles), Green Arrow (the Kevin Smith run was particularly memorable – for me, anyway) and the occasional indie comic book. This time, the divorce between me and comics wasn’t as clear, and I think I just slowly gravitated away from it. Suddenly, the bug hit me again a few years ago, and here I find myself, buried in comics again. I think I’m about to have a (at the least) trial separation with the various Batman books, mostly because there are too many of them – although I think I’ll hang on to Batman Confidential as it seems to be independent of the other book’s story lines.
Beyond my own personal history with comic books, I love the medium. Comic books are that rare multi-genre medium that is both a visual medium like movies but also a literary one, like books. Unlike film, a lot more freedom is tolerated in comic book layouts, where as you rarely see any unusual image shapes due to the standard full frame rectangle screen size (see any Steven Spielberg movie) or scope rectangle screen size (see any Star Wars movie), so we see all sorts of different panel sizes and shapes in comic books. But more than that, some stories just work better as a comic book, and I still think nobody does Noir like comic books, movies be damned. Comic books stretch the imagination in ways and directions that other mediums rarely tread upon.
The bottom line is that I review comic books because it’s something I have a lot of passion for, and whether I’m actively buying or not, I’ll always love comic books.
About Comic Books – A Brief History
Here’s what I’ve read or heard, and now regurgitated off the top of my head, so there might be errors.
In any case, at some point, there were comic books. Then, there were super heroes: Superman, Batman, and then later Captain America, and a whole host of other characters that have gone by the way side… Oh, and they all seemed to have weird kid sidekicks – Jimmy Olsen, Robin, and Bucky Barnes. I say weird because who’s idea was it to suggest that children should get into these violent situations? It’s a convention that has pretty much disappeared (at least by comparison of this era), with the exception of Robin. But superheroes fell out of style after World War II, although Timely Comics the precursor to Marvel, tried to cling to the super hero comic books ways (as I’m sure others did) – instead of having Captain America fight the Nazis, he moved on to fight the Communists in the aptly named Captain America: Commie Smasher. (By the way, Captain America: Commie Smasher was considered so bad that Marvel worked up a wild story how the Cap from the Commie Smasher era wasn’t Steve Rogers, but another guy because of… you know, blatant McCarthyism.) So, comic books became all kinds of Sci-Fi, like the stuff George McFly is reading in Back to the Future. Oh, and monster comics, lots of monster comics. In response to this demand, Marvel Comics had what I refer to as the ‘Tales’ books: Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, Journey into Mystery… stuff like that. I’m not sure what happened to Tales to Astonish, but Tales of Suspense eventually came to star Iron Man when Super Heroes came back into fashion in the late fifties, early sixties and subsequently, to become a double billed book: Tales of Suspense, Starring Iron Man and Captain America, giving each character half of the book to have their own story. With issue number 100, the book dropped the ‘Tales of Suspense’ and the Iron Man feature and became simply Captain America – so there are no issues 1 through 99 of Cap in volume one. Meanwhile, Journey into Mystery eventually came to star Thor. And so we’ve rolled on every since, as comic books have become progressively smaller in size and more expensive in price. I remember when comic books jumped to a dollar each – it didn’t seem crazy at the time, but I would chuckle when I came across a back issue that would proudly proclaim, “Still only 35 cents!” I do remember being shocked at the jump to $1.25 but these days, you’re lucky if a comic book is priced at $2.99 – it feels like everything is four bucks these days. Back in the day, a little kid could get a five buck a week allowance and do pretty well at the comic book store, but these days, even at $10 a week, I can’t imagine a kid would buy more than four comics a month. As it is, I haven’t seen a kid in a comic book store in… I don’t know, not since I’ve been buying comics over the last few years.
It’s strange; these days, a little kid could be totally unaware of the phenomenon of comic books and yet still be intimately connected with the characters. Between cartoons, movies and video games, comic book characters are more prevalent than ever, and in a way, it’s a great time to be a comic book fan, even if the medium’s popularity seems to be lower than ever. The final thought I’d like to leave you with is if you’re a peripheral fan of the characters via movies and what not, take a chance on a comic book – any comic book. It might just surprise you.