When I was a kid, I was hard pressed to find anyone who knew who Green Lantern was, or Iron Man, or Thor, or, well, you know, most superheroes outside of the ones who had Saturday morning cartoons. You know, Superman, Batman, Spider-man…I think most of the Super-Friends had been forgotten about by the time of my childhood.
It was a rather dark period for the characters of the comic book. And an even darker period for those of us who were fans of people who could perform extraordinary feats…and did so while wearing their underwear on the outside.
Of course, this was also the time period where comic book creators began trying to get really creative with what their were doing in their books in order to make more sales, creating some of the best stories in comic book history with things like Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Death and Return of Superman, and The Alien Costume (where Spider-man books are forever changed because of the introduction of Venom). That’s to name a very small number of the amazing storylines that were introduced during the 80’s and early 90’s. So, although it may have been a horrible time to make friends based on your interest in these characters, it was a fantastic time to be a reader. Comic book creators were working their butts off to sell books, and we, the few who were reading, reaped the benefits. Well, us and Hollywood of today, of course.
Speaking of today…things are almost like a parallel universe of difference. Not only can you find Superman and Batman and Spider-man and even Wonder Woman apparel almost anywhere, you can also find a whole host of other heroes stuff, like Green Lantern, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and, well, you know…all those movies that keep coming out. And of course, the entertainment industry is rife with those colorfully uniformed fighters of justice. I’m still trying to make it out to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier so I can figure out what the heck is going on with Agents of SHIELD…and of course, to see what all has changed that will lead into The Avengers: Age of Ultron, coming out next year. I’ll still have Guardians of the Galaxy to tide me over until then, which’ll be good, because otherwise I’ll just be stuck watching the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and a new Sin City….
Well, that, and, of course, all of the items sitting in my Netflix queue right now, like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Green Lantern Animated Series, Young Justice, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (new series), Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, Dredd, Arrow, and I think you get the idea.
Heck, there’s even a show dedicated to talking about comic books on AMC, the king of prime time entertainment right now, Comic Book Men!
I honestly have a hard time walking through the toy department nowadays without having major battles with my kid-self about whether or not I should buy every single thing in the action figure aisles (for my son, of course).
When I was a kid, you had to fight to get your dose of superheroes, unless you could be satisfied with the watered down story telling of the animated series of the big three on TV. Today, my kids have a much stronger knowledge of the detailed universes of both DC and Marvel than I did until the internet came around and broke it all down for me. And they’re just turning on whatever looks pretty when they open up netflix.
Seriously…play a game of superhero identification with my kids…heck, with your kids, I bet…they will show you a talent you will be amazed by, and that the bullies of your own elementary school would feel their punching knuckles itch from.
Of course, the question that begs to be asked by those who are looking for easy soundbites is, is this a good thing?
My simple answer is, Yes, of course it’s a good thing, dummy! Comic books are a big part of our nation’s cultural history and deserve to get in the spotlight!
My more complex answer is, it should be. The reason comic books were so great for us as kids is because they told stories we weren’t seeing elsewhere. Sure, the film industry tried taking some of them on and capitalizing on their awesomeness, but comparing the Ninja Turtles of the late 80s/early 90s with the original Eastman/Laird creation is almost impossible to do effectively. They’re very different stories, one being a lot like what we were used to seeing on Saturday mornings, but, you know, with the cool weirdness of the characters from the comics, the other being this gritty satire on comics in general, while also a great look into the world of the ninja.
I do see this as being a good thing now for one major reason…Marvel has finally figured out that comic books don’t have to be nerdy. With the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, they’ve stopped hiding from the quirks of the comic book genre and have embraced their own history, something Hollywood just hasn’t been able to do. Because of that, we’re seeing Marvel own the box office, because they’re doing in a large way what has been happening in the comic book medium for over 75 years now…telling unique stories, and not being afraid to do it with a hefty dose of the weird.
Which…of course..we’ll see in full effect once Guardians comes out, and even more so once Age of Ultron happens.
As a DC nerd, I can only hope that Warner Bros. realizes that the best way to succeed in their attempts to emulate Marvel is to be true to their characters…there’s a reason Superman and Batman have been around for over 75 years. Why muck it up now?