Monday, January 7, 2008

Comics Hate

I was reading my copy of Omega the Unknown #4 when I flipped the page to the Questions That Need Answers section of the comic book. In this installment, comic creators answered the question: What did your parents think of you reading comics when you were a kid? Many of the answers were the expected waste of time or didn’t care variety, but J. Michael Staczynski’s…

They thought they were a bad influence on me, not understanding that it was comics that taught me how to read, and gave me a sense of morality and ethics to this day. They thought comics were a distraction from my school work. I, on the other hand, treasured my comics. I kept them in a tin box to protect them from the environment, stacked them front-to-back the way you are supposed to, to keep them from bending up. I had compete runs from everything from X-Men to Journey into mystery and Thor and Amazing Spiderman, and Daredevil and Conan and Eerie and Creepy and on and on and on, all in pristine condition, not because I thought they’d be worth something someday, but because I just liked keeping them that way. So one day, when my grades weren’t sufficiently high, my father sat down across from me, opened up the tin box, and one by one, tore up every single one of my comics as I stood by and looked on. “This is for your own good.” He said “You’ll never make a living from comics, you know.”


Shocking, to say the least. My parents could have cared less that I was reading comics. I’ve just never understood the violent, yes violent, hate some people have for comic books, but with attitudes like Staczynski’s parents it’s easy to understand why the medium has never garnered much respect (my opinion of most of DC’s and Marvel’s modern output aside). Now, there are all sorts of reasons for this attitude, one of them being the Comic Code Authority, but the saddest part of this whole story is that there are huge swaths of the general public (IMHO) that would really enjoy comics but because of the bad rep they have, most people will never try them. When I tell acquaintances about comics they immediately dismiss them. If by some chance I can get them to read something written by say, Alan Moore, they’re rather shocked at how good it is. I lent my copy of Watchmen to co-worker I know. He’s a scriptwriter and filmmaker on the side. But he never got around to reading it because it was a comic. One of the best things ever written period, and he couldn’t bring himself to crack it open. That’s another thing that bugs me too, a lot of people that work in film and video often dislike comics as well. They work in a “Visual Medium” and they detest comics…?! I just don’t get that. Tim Burton has publicly stated that he would never read a comic… then why the fuck did you direct Batman Tim? I happen to be one the few people on the planet that thought that film sucked by the way. Some of that is changing, a little, as films like Sin City, 300 and Spiderman have amazed the general public, but I’m ever envious of the exalted position that comics hold in Japan. My eyes almost teared up the first time I was in a Japanese bookstore because of the rows upon rows of comics in every conceivable genre (but that’s another post). But you never know. Perhaps if my dad had ripped up all my comic books maybe I could have had a career as a sci-fi and comics writer too.

7 comments:

ladybug said...

I don't know what's up Tim Burton's Butt ("I'm so cool I don't read comics"??!!)...I mean he's supposed to be all "weird" & "goth" or whatever his visual aesthetic seems to be....

Anyhoo it's all pretty stupid as Hollywood seems to be out of ideas, keeps borrowing characters, storylines and whole series....It's false snobbery!

I guess I do feel lucky that I was able to read anything I really wanted and our parents didn't say much....kind of the opposite of today's parents, who either seem to be redneck methheads or overprotective yuppie repukes...

Eaglewing said...

I concur. I'm always disheartened when the very mention of the word 'comics' is invariably met with derision or laughter. Then I ask people if they enjoyed the movies 300, Sin City, Road to Perdition, or History of Violence and when they say yes, I tell them they're from comics. Imagine the surprise.

Only midway last year I finally noticed the Chapters book store stocking graphic novels, trades, and comics - in the far back corner. At least its a start though. Never been to Japan, but their respect for the medium sounds refreshing.

Don Snabulus said...

Staczynski’s dad was pretty hard core on that one. I'll bet he thought he was practicing "tough love" when he was burning his son's soul in front of him. I am glad Staczynski stayed with it.

Burton has had some good films, but him and Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman seem to be in more of a rut than a groove anymore. That's what happens when you fall in love with yourself I guess.

Swinebread said...

LB – Yeah exactly, you’d think Tim would have at least picked up Sandman, for god’s sake. The guy has cultural tunnel vision. Hollywood is going after comics like crazy but the source material is almost totally ignored when it comes to accolades. We were lucky in that respect.

Eaglewing – thanks for stopping by! It’s a real struggle to explain and defend comics over and over again, although it’s been slightly easier here in Portland the last few years. I have a feeling that after the Watchmen movie we’ll see an even bigger shift… or maybe that’s just me being optimistic.

Going to Japan was a revelation; there is no other way to put it. Comics are everywhere and everybody is reading them.

Snab - Staczynski’s story is just so Alien to me. It’s sad, but I’m sure he learned from the experience. Many creative folks seem to have similar stories.

Burton has some excellent films; Batman just isn’t one of them. Creatively yeah, all three are in a rut. Depp is not in a rut money wise though.

Doctor Smoke said...

I don't take Burton seriously anymore.

especially after 'Necrophilia, the musical'.



...




oh sorry! I meant Corpse Bride.

Dean Wormer said...

Odd, because Burton got his start as an ANIMATOR for Disney.

First - your story made me happy my parents didn't see comics as a bad influence. I used to get a comic and a slurpee as a reward every Sunday for serving as an altar boy.

The idea that comics helped form Staczynski’s moral code is exiting. More importantly I think comics reflect the moral code of our society. The comics he read growing up are much different than today in that regard.

Some of the things I think might of seeped into my being through reading the biggies (Supes, Spidey) as a kid are a sense of self-sacrifice, sense of humor in the face of adversity and doing the right thing even under difficult circumstances.

I've mentioned this to you before but I always identified more with the "real" side of the Superhero, particularly as I entered my teen years. Clark Kent and Peter Parker could do all these amazing things but had to keep it secret. It sort of played into my self image that I was a lot cooler than people acted towards me.

If they only knew what I could do...

Swinebread said...

DR S – The problem with Tim Burton is he isn’t the genius he thinks he is but he will always be the guy that made Ed Wood, and Mars Attacks… Sadly he is also the guy that made Planet of the Apes the remake…

Dean – Sometimes I forget how much comics are disliked. I just don’t understand it.

You’re are right though, when you talk about comics having ethics at one point.