I recently read a comic miniseries called “I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League!”
It is a lighthearded and entertaining look into a team of generally B-list superheroes, whose dysfunctional group is referred to as the Super Buddies, and who spend as much time dealing with troubles of their own devising as taking care of actual supervillains.
It’s a good read – a fantastic read, even – but it has unfortunately slipped a bit behind the times. I’m sure most comic fans are already aware of the current state of affairs in the DC universe – in general the result of Dan Didio, the Executive Editor, wanting to take things in a more serious direction.
Let’s take a look at the result this has had on the Super Buddies, shall we?
I was going to type up my own list of the impact on each one, but I see someone on Wikipedia has already done so – so I’ll just copy that:
- Blue Beetle Ted Kord is dead, killed by Maxwell Lord.
- Maxwell Lord himself was killed by Wonder Woman and retconned into always having been a villain.
- Fire has returned to being an assassin, working for the Checkmate organization.
- Booster Gold was killed defending Metropolis.
- Mary Marvel is currently depowered and in a coma.
- Sue Dibny has been killed.
- Without his wife, Ralph Dibny is a shell of his former self, and appears to have snapped following a botched Kryptonian resurrection ceremony.
Now, some of you may recognize these names, and already know them and their fates. Others might have no idea who these people are. But it should be clear even so – pretty much every member of this entertaining, and for the most part happy, crew have had their lives torn apart and dragged down.
This is just one example. As I said – throughout the DC universe, the goal is, you know – Drama.
Now, a lot of people have complained about this. Some have called out for a return to the ages of yore, when comics were light and entertaining.
Myself? I don’t agree with that either. Sure, comics for kids are fine – and I approve of their existence. I just, well, wouldn’t buy them. I like story, and character development, and something more than “Biff! Bang! Pow!”
That’s the thing. I don’t think comics are going in the wrong direction in principle. What got me started on comics in the first place? It was the Death of Superman and Bane’s breaking of Batman. Big events, dark events, that drew in a large audience. Their trick works.
And, clearly, the same holds true with recent stuff. Sure, fans complain. People hate Didio. He is destroying the characters they love!
…but they are buying the books. They bought Identity Crisis. They bought Infinite Crisis. They are buying 52, and the new titles taking off in the aftermath of it all.
I like having stories with depth. I like superheroes having an element of real people that I can connect to. I like stories drawing forth emotions beyond simple humor.
But that doesn’t mean that drama can only come from darkness, that characters can only develop from having trauma after trauma placed upon them! That doesn’t mean that there is no need for genuinely happy superheroes. For innocents. For goofballs. That doesn’t mean the only way to draw forth emotion is through pain and suffering.
It isn’t the goal that I take issue with, it’s the execution. We don’t need children’s tales. Go for the serious stories. Just, please – spend some time thinking them up. Actually design a story – don’t just think that a sudden act of drama will be enough. You’ll get us for a moment, sure – but once you’ve cut the strings, you’ve got nothing left to work with.
And you might keep people buying with every new disaster and every darker turn, but when you reach rock bottom, there won’t be anything left.
We’re not saying you need to kiddify the books. (Well, ok – I’m not.) And we’re not saying that darkness shouldn’t exist – occasionally that moment of shock, of intensity, can bring the entire picture into perspective.
But when it happens to every single character? When you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting seven dead or dying heroes?
Trust me. I felt the first one. At the second I started to get outraged. And by the point we are at now? I’m dangerously close to not feeling anything for the comics any more – and once it reaches that point?
Well, I’m gone, and that’s game over.