My first comic book was in 1981, and I grew up on cartoons such as Superfriends, The Amazing Spider-Man, Popeye, and many others. My grandmother read Batman as a kid. My grandfather read pulp magazines like Flash Gordon. My mom was into Harvey Comics in the 1950s. A friend to the family was into Superboy, Herbie, and Fantastic Four in the 1960s. My friends watched cartoons. Suffice to say I was born into the world of comic books, and I was passionate about it.
So why did I stop?
The first sign was that I took a hiatus from buying weekly comic books around 2002. My local comic book shops closed, and the last remaining one did not have a personalized store owner. I had been spoiled with my comic book stores. With so many crossovers, mini-series, and titles, I just could not keep up. I stopped in 2006. DC and Marvel were getting out of hand with their continuities, and treating their writers as rock stars. In the 1990s, the artists were treated like noblemen. In the 2000s, it was pretentious writers who had full reign to do whatever they wanted. Comic books used to be part of kids’ lives back in the 1940s to the 1960s, but it became a direct market niche in the 1980s and the speculators killed the market in the 1990s. So there are millions of people who stopped collecting comics- I am part of the majority this time.
The Digital World
In 2008, I began to download digital comic books and did that religiously for around 6-7 years. I finally was able to read entire runs of titles, plugged my collection, and basically got everything I had ever wanted. Granted, I had so many trade paperbacks, hard covers, Essentials, and boxes of real comics, that I was able to justify getting the digital ones without paying the companies. I loved reading the back issues, modern Green Lantern, the DC events, Astro City comics I had missed, and much more. But most of the new comics just collected digital dust, even The Walking Dead. Final Crisis was pretentious. Secret Invasion was a joke. Spider-Man was ruined. The different colored Hulks disrespected everything Peter David had done. I tried getting into The New 52 three times, but there were just too many issues. Marvel- to me- has not been readable since 1999 with Fantastic Four being an exception.
On the movie front, I had watched almost every comic book related movie, either at the theater, video tape, DVD, streaming, or torrents. The last superhero I paid to see was Iron Man 2 in 2010. Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man 3 bored me and did not live up to the hype. That was the major sign to me that I should probably not look forward to comic book films anymore. A previous sign was that I was never excited about any X-Men movie after the first one, which I had loved. For one, I got tired of explaining superhero movies to my mother and my wife. They just never got who the characters were or how they are related. My wife, especially, never read comics so she had no emotional attachment or sense of history for comic book films. I always tried to be in her shoes and I guess the films I made her watch must have been like forgettable sci-fi action movies.
With Marvel and DC both putting out so many TV shows, movies, and cartoons, I was getting more and more turned off. I ignored Arrow until Season 3 and binged it from the beginning. I loved it, but then I realized it was an unrealistic soap opera. The Flash lost me after a few episodes, and I never looked back. Agents of SHIELD? I lasted 3 episodes. Never wanted to try Gotham or the others. Loved Daredevil Season 1, which I saw a couple of years after it came out, but got turned off with Season 2. Never sampled other the Netflix shows. Ignored the cartoons, although my nephew made me watch a couple of DC movies, and a kid told me to watch Hulk, but I only lasted two episodes.
I did like Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, but had no interest in seeing the sequel. Avengers 2 felt empty. No interest in Civil War. Was forced to watch Dr. Strange (boring), Batman vs Superman (sucked), and Logan (should have been the last superhero movie ever made, as it deconstructed the genre).
The thing is, I don’t have kids, I don’t buy the toys, I read the comics, I don’t care anymore. And it’s frustrating to me that my old friends keep telling how great some of these movies are. When I was younger, I always hoped comics would have been accepted by adults and mainstream society, have TV shows and documentaries, and more action figures and cartoons. Now that they are here, I reject them all. I realize I may sound like a hipster (the old trope about hating a rock band once they are no longer cult), but I am not.
I feel isolated from the Gen X pop culture society and millennials, who get excited to see movies based on stories I’ve read in 1986. All of a sudden the Guardians of the Galaxy is the most popular movie in the world, and it’s not even the original team I read from the 1970s and 1980s. People discovered Wonder Woman for the first time! Seriously, a character that has been around since 1941, had a popular live action TV show in the 1970s which was replayed in syndication, was part of Grant Morrison’s famous JLA relaunch, and was in numerous cartoons in the 21st century is brand new now!
My tastes matured. I like Korean dramas and indie dramas. I always despised big Hollywood movies. I skipped Jurassic Park, Titanic, Independence Day, and Pearl Harbor in the theaters. I don’t need to turn my brain off for a popcorn action flick. I don’t want to support that industry. Superhero films are not deep. The directors are egotistical. I like movies with meaning. My friends and millions of others who consume Hollywood crap and get excited over the hype of Star Wars Part 14 do not act like mature adults to me anymore. “Did you see it?” “Are you going to see it?” NO.
Another factor is the over-saturation of blockbusters in general. Back in the day you had to wait a long time to come across a “major event” movie. Now we get exposed to dozens of them a year. Hollywood has always had sequels and even prequels, but it does not excuse the frequency and even mandatory trilogies we have today.
I find something unmasculine about fathers geeking out with their kids for every new superhero movie with their kids, or binging on Netflix by themselves. How about doing something creative, educational, spiritual bonding, religious, or productive? A long time ago, fathers would take their kids into the wilderness or work on carpentry. Nowadays they play video games together. It’s not like superhero movies, TV shows, and cartoons even encourage reading or writing. Most kids I know don’t want the source material comic books. One kid who does just wants to collect stuff because he’s already a brainwashed consumer materialist. Another boy I know loves to watch WatchMojo Youtube videos of people reading off Top 10 lists. But to actually buy a trade paperback? No way. It’s too costly, video is easier on the brain, and more importantly no one else at school does it. Old men read comic books. Get it yet?
I have problems with older men still being attached to superheroes. I have problems with young men getting interested in superheroes via movies, TV, cartoons, and video games, but not the actual comics book from whence they came. I have issues with being addicted to nostalgia and brands. The entertainment industry has become lazy with recycled ideas, reboots, and remakes. Intellectual property licensing is the whole industry in a nutshell. How offensive was it to reboot The Hulk so quickly and the games Sony played with its Spider-Man license? Comic book characters are not allowed to mature, grow old, have kids, and die in peace.
I knew how I felt, but Alan Moore put it into words and I digested it in my own way. His message was that the purpose of a creative work is not to give what the people want (crass entertainment), but to give them what they need. And what they need may hurt their feelings or make them come face to face with an ugly truth which they are ignoring. It’s holding up the mirror of reality and reflecting it back to them. Real art is a wake-up call and offers a message about society or the human condition. It can be done without being heavy-handed, it can be done with comedy or parody. It can be done without you knowing it. In the battle between art and entertainment, true creativity is about challenging the audiences or readers. Entertainment is pure mass-marketed low-brow empty content. All Hollywood cares about are profits and sex.
Additionally, Moore criticized comic book movies specifically, and I hold his words to heart, anytime I come across hype for a new movie:
“To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence. It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics. I would also observe that it is, potentially, culturally catastrophic to have the ephemera of a previous century squatting possessively on the cultural stage and refusing to allow this surely unprecedented era to develop a culture of its own, relevant and sufficient to its times.”
“People have been saying since the mid-’80s that ‘comics have grown up.’ I don’t think that’s factually true. I think what happened was that there have been a couple of comics that seemed to be reaching for a more mature readership, and that has coincided with the emotional age of the mass audience coming the other way.”
“What are these movies doing other than entertaining us with stories and characters that were meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of 50 years ago? Are we supposed to somehow embody these characters? That’s ridiculous. They are not characters that can possibly exist in the real world. Yes, I did Watchmen. Yes, I did Marvelman. These are two big seminal superhero works, I guess. But remember: Both of them are critical of the idea of superheroes. They weren’t meant to be a reinvigoration of the genre.”
“The superheroes of my youth had dogs that dressed in capes and masks! It’s obvious they stand for nothing other than the power of the imagination. I tend to see a lot of these current figures as the focus of a kind of unhealthy escapism…I can understand the desire to hang on to your childhood but, it turns out, you can’t. There’s nothing wrong with having fond thoughts about this or that but you don’t have to carry it with you your whole life like some sort of suit of magic armor.”
Want to read about comic book personality types? Click here.