by KC Carlson
When last we met, I was middle of another long and ponderous rant on how to fix comics, once and for all, and promised to do some more of that next time.
Well, screw that.
You know what, it’s been a billion degrees* here for most of this last week, everybody’s been at San Diego, and the entire comic book industry has pretty much shut down completely. It’s the Monday after ComicCon, and most everyone is on a plane and hung over (ah, I remember the days…) or stuck on a freeway in California (or Idaho) right now. Bottom line — no one is going to read this anyway.
So… Let’s play “What if…?” and imagine an “Elseworld” where all of comics’ biggest problems could be fixed by a demented geezer with a keyboard and a melty brain.
Or in other words… “Monday”.
But first, everybody sing along!
It’s Monday, Monday
Gotta get up on Monday
Nobody can remember the weekend, weekend…
Okay, maybe not…
WELCOME TO THE MYSTERIOUS WORLD OF COMICS IN YOUR FUTURE (Pretty scary, heh, kids!)
• Forget the hassle of comic shops and digital downloading. From now on, every Wednesday, Stan Lee will show up at your house, leap up on your desk, and act out the week’s comic book adventures — sound effects included!
(Note: it may cost a bit extra for Stan to act out your favorite DC Comics titles. But it is SO worth it! You don’t want Dan DiDio in your house. He’ll start telling a story, get halfway through it, and then change his mind and start all over again! You‘ll never get him out of your house! And he’ll never finish the story!)
• In an effort to make printed comic books more attractive than digital downloading, all comic books will now be printed on cheese. If you like the comic and want to keep it, the cheese will age gracefully (assuming that you wrap it carefully and refrigerate it). And if the comic sucks, you’ll still have a tasty snack! Mmmm… Cheeeeese…
(Alternative formats for those lactose intolerant include red licorice or cabbage.)
• To save money, comic book staples will now be made of Illudium Phosdex, the shaving cream atom. (Although I hear amounts are alarmingly low.)
If a shortage does happen, comic books will then be held together with the Universe’s most powerful bonding agent — Love. That’s all you need. (Thank you, J, P, G & R.)
UNSOLVED QUESTIONS STILL NEEDING RESOLUTION
• If Goofy is a dog, then what is Lockjaw?
• What is it about gorillas anyway?
• Is Doctor Bong named after the sound of a bell or … something else?
• Kirby Krackle: What is it exactly? Does it hurt? Can you eat it? Would my mom approve of me marrying it?
• What’s the big deal about secret identities? Isn’t everybody’s identity a secret — until you tell somebody who you are? Geez, there used to be game shows about this. Now we have to settle for watching shows about being hit in the crotch or tied up and dragged from airplanes.
I’m sorry. What was I saying?
BRING BACK (AND UPDATE!)
• Hostess Ads. Except integrate them into the stories. (Hey, product placement works! Ask anybody who doesn’t care about literary merit!) Perfect for the Corporate Age of Comics!
• Go-Go Checks. Except now make them strobe! Groovy, baby!
• The Elf with a Gun. Mindless violence is timeless and needs no real explanation or motivation. See 90% of current superhero comics. (I miss Steve Gerber.)
• Steve Gerber! Even Zombie Steve Gerber would write better than much of the current superhero writing.
SOMETHING SLIGHTLY LESS SILLY
Here’s a novel idea: How about some superhero comics with some non-super people in them? We used to call them supporting characters, back in the days before fire was invented. You know… girlfriends, boyfriends, co-workers, relatives, ex-jocks who torment you, scheming vixens determined only to discover your precious secret identity. Human characters to relate to so that the superheroes can identify with the people they’re saving. Or have actual human relationships with.
For that matter, how many superheroes beyond Peter Parker and Barry Allen have we seen recently actually holding down real jobs? Everybody always wants to get away from the old superhero clichés, but then again, how realistic is it to be in the costume 24/7? Ewww… No wonder some of these guys don’t have any friends or girlfriends anymore…
Or… remember subplots? A lot of writers don’t bother with them any more because either they’re only writing for a few issues before leaving (or being replaced) and don’t want to be bothered. Or another aspect of writing for the trade means that everybody (and everyone) introduced into a new storyline must be resolved by the end of the trade.
Some of the best stories in comics began as subplots that built up for months before exploding into a classic story. And some of the best characters in comics are supporting characters (Alfred, J. Jonah Jameson, Lois Lane, Sharon Carter, Slam Bradley, Amanda Waller, Moira MacTaggert, Beverly Switzler). How often do we see those characters these days? Whenever a six-issue storyline/trade paperback serves as a potential template for a film screenplay (i.e. always), extra characters are often surplus to requirements. People are money, you know.
Other superheroes are not supporting characters — they are teammates and allies. When superheroes only hang around other superheroes, it makes them less human. Do most superhero comic book writers not relate to or identify with real people any more? Or do they have problems writing both superheroes and normals at the same time, because then the superheroes can’t be all whiny and conflicted? Let’s bring back some happy, heroic superheroes that inspire and relate to other people and support comics as a vibrant, progressive medium that exists to entertain real people. The tortured and grim superhero — so 1990s.
Then again, superhero comics used to be written towards a more general audience — potentially millions of people — not the few thousand hardcore fans on the internet that only want it their way. Not that anyone on the internet can agree on exactly what way that should be.
I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I?
Not that this will ever happen, but one way to help garner more nominations and voting for the various comic book awards would be to have a category at each awards called something like Most Frustrating Creator. People could nominate and vote for the creator that they felt most let down comics the previous year — either didn’t meet their deadlines, or produced really unprofessional work, or spent more time on the internet shooting their mouth off than actually producing comic books. Some other qualifier might be attached (maybe it might be called the Phoned-It-In Award) and the award would have an actual consequence attached — something like no interviews or no convention appearances for a year.
Since each comic award is nominated by a different set of people (fans, professionals, peers), there might be a different set of individuals put on the hot seat each summer. No one likes being publicly humiliated, so something like this might make some of the chronic troublemakers of the industry try just a little bit harder. It’s the award that no one wants to win!
AND, IN CONCLUSION
• Two words: Bat-Hombre!
(Or is that one word? This comic book stuff is so confusing…)
NEXT: 10 Things! Except it’s never 10 things. It’s always 27 things! Or 52 things! Or the same seven things over and over again. He’s not fooling anybody!!!
KC CARLSON is seeking professional help. Thank you for your concern.
WESTFIELD COMICS: As always, should you or any of your WF Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of KC Carlson’s actions.
* Not a meteorologically approved measure of weather. Your temperature may vary. Always use a thermometer!
JLA Annual cover from the Grand Comics Database.