Thursday, 24 March 2011

State of the ((superhero)comic book) arts

Like the majority of comic book fans, my gateway books were all superhero titles. In the most part this is due to the fact that, well, super hero books make up the majority of what is out there. Being from the UK I had other options in the form of 2000 AD and the like, but a lot of them tapped into the same experience we all craved as youngsters- that of a talented individual (or a group) facing off against overwhelming odds. Not a lot's changed to be honest, apart from the medium I use to get my fix. I mean, I'll always love superheroes, but it seems to me that the genre that birthed them has given up trying anything challenging or new with them. It seems to me like they're just slowly letting them die. Just why are there so few good superhero comics anymore?

This all started when it occurred to me recently that of my top ten favourite superhero projects over the past few years, only one of them was a comic. The initial plan here was to give you that list but I realised that would be tip most of you over your justifiable boredom threshold. Suffice it to say- just the fucking one. From the genre that birthed the superhero. That seems shocking to me. It's only since I've been revisiting recent-ish DC and Marvel books that I've realised just how shocking the general quality is. Sure, we can rightfully bitch about the quality of so many film scripts too, but they're like 'The Catcher in the Rye' compared to your average superhero book.

I hope they weren't always like this. I hope that my early memories of comics aren't as rose-tinted as I now come to suspect they are. Really, I'm writing this in the hope that somebody will come along and go 'Look, asshole, here's an amazing superhero book. You don't know what you're talking about!'. I am horrendously out of the loop these days, after all. I'll just keep my fingers crossed as I still love the medium, and always will. There are still so many quality comic books out there, it just makes me sad that my old friends, the superheroes, seem to be getting such a short shrift these days. Apart from their non-unionised, Hollywood equivalents, of course. So, am I wrong? Is their hidden amazingness going on that I'm not aware of? Can you show me? Please?


  1. Hey dude.
    I assume you've checked out 'The Boys'?
    Garth Ennis's latest effort - easily one of my favourite reads of the past year.


    The most purely enjoyable superhero comic I've read in a long, long time. It is, by turns (but more often all at once), fun, funny, charming, touching, thrilling, heroic, relatable and, above all, masterfully written and breathtakingly illustrated. Seriously, Chris Samnee has catapulted to the upper echelon of my favorite comic book artists, occupying a position of purchase-any-book-he's-drawing.

    I can also recommend with the utmost Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine, written by my favorite writer of the moment, Jason Aaron. It's a 6-issue miniseries published bi-monthly and because it's non-canon it allows for involving time-travel, living planets, guns with the Phoenix Force and much more. You know, fun stuff. Issue 5 just came out, so it won't be collected for some time, but keep it on your radar for when it does.

    And, finally, there's Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman, a 12-issue examination of what makes Superman great as he faces his heaviest challenge: mortality. It's more or less the last Superman story that needs to be told.

    It should be noted that I am not, nor never have been, a fan of Thor OR Superman. So these recommendations are surprising indeed. In fact, the first issue of Thor: The Might Avenger was the first Thor comic I'd ever purchased in my 26+ years of comics reading.

    (Oh, and David should be able to pass along the contact info for a comic shop proprietor friend of mine, Geoff, out here who will gladly take your money and send you any books you're looking for.)

  3. Addendum: My only major gripe with THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER was that it was originally intended as a 12-issue miniseries, but was canceled after eight issues due to flagging sales, despite it being mind-blowingly awesome.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys.

    I have read both The Boys and All Star Superman. I'd forgotten about the latter, shamefully, but it was amazing. I enjoyed The Boys too, but if I'm honest, I'm getting a little bored with Garth Ennis' writing.

    Thor sounds great though. I'll get on that. Also, I didn't know that Jason Aaron was doing some Marvel books. They definitely sound worth a look.

    I've never been a fan of Thor or Superman either really, but in the right hands...


  5. So what was the one superhero comic you enjoyed these last ten years? You filthy tease!

    Oh, and allow me to state that I've been a member of the "bored with Garth Ennis' writing" club for a few years now. I can only approach him as the dark sitcom writer of comics and will look for weightier drama elsewhere.

  6. Sleeper of course! Not only the best superhero comic ever, but maybe the best comic series ever. I'd marry it if I could.

  7. "Sleeper of course! Not only the best superhero comic ever, but maybe the best comic series ever. I'd marry it if I could."

    Sorry, Andy. SLEEPER and I have eloped and are living in an undisclosed location that looks a lot like Los Angeles but is NOT Los Angeles.

  8. THE BOYS - Sum up this comic in three words: TRYING TOO HARD.

    Also, I hate to stereotype by stereotyping but why is it that most UK comic writers think "Motherfucker" is a dialogue tic in African Americans?

    As for good Super Hero comics

    Super God by Warren Ellis - Only a few issues and is a great idea if the superpowers in the world create a super powered individual that trumped nuclear warfare.

    Ultimates by Mark Millar - Was the only super hero comic that reads like a blockbuster movie. (The Authority is not marketable jerkoffs) Amazing revamping of old characters by making them modern while playing tribute to the lore that made them great.

    Secret Warriors by ?

    Nick Fury leading a private army with some super powered individuals. Layers upon Layers of intrigue and standard powers vs power clashes.

    SHIELD by Hickman

    Um, too crazy to explain but basically the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D this guy is a bit fucking verbose so read "The Nightly News" before you even think about reading anything by him.

    Phonogram is vaguely superhero if superhero comics were written by British Hipsters. but I liked it especially the singles collection. They have a part in the back to explain all the references I didn't get which was awfully considerate.

    The War between the Green Lantern Corps vs The Sinestro Corps was really dope.

  9. @Critic: Hickman is also responsible for Secret Warriors. And man, is that book just as crazy with its layers upon layers and wheels within wheels. Love it.

  10. I've heard great things about Hickman's FF stuff too. I think all my apathy has to do with my distance to more recent stuff. All the more of an excuse to buy an iPad!