Comics in the Rear View Mirror

Spider-Clone

A boy’s elders telling him he’d grow out of comic books used to be a common American cliche. That was back when America was still a country, we didn’t hate our kids, and the comics industry wasn’t just an IP farm for rootless megacorps. If you want a picture of the comics business today, imagine a caped superhero lying brain dead in a guarded hospital room like Pete Postlethwaite’s from Inception, kept alive only to harvest his blood and organs.

The standard response from the kid was always to declare that he’d never grow out of comics. Take a quick look at the pop culture landscape, and you’ll see that many Boomers, Jonesers, Xers, and Ys kept that pledge. As recently as the mid-90s you could get stuffed in a locker for being a comics nerd. Now comic book movies are bigger than Star Wars. Only A list characters like Superman, Batman, and Spidey used to have broad mindshare. Now everybody knows even niche characters like Deadpool.

It’s a testament to our cultural dysfunction that liking comics back when they were good made you a social pariah, but it’s hip to like comics now that they’re garbage.

Another, more personal paradox: My folks never gave me the “You’ll grow out of it,” speech. My dad actively encouraged my comic book hobby. Yet I did in fact grow out of comics. Chalk it up to the fact that I’ve always a) been an introvert and b) viewed the in-crowd’s fads with skepticism. I read comics because reading comics was fun. When they stopped printing fun comics, I stopped reading. That’s all.

Case in point: The Spider-Clone fiasco was the canary in the coal mine that alerted me to the possibility that all was not well in comicsland. A quarter century later, Marvel is still trying to squeeze juice from the Clone Saga’s rotten fruit.

The SJW vandalism going on at Marvel and DC has drawn a lot of eyeballs, but look past it, and you find that the Big Two are simply out of ideas. They have been for a long time. Consider that Bane, a Batman villain created almost thirty years ago, was the last comic book character to break onto the A list. A couple years before that, Marvel revamped their jingoistic 1960s Howard Hughes pastiche into a glitzy whip-smart megastar. Now Marvel is scrambling to foist Tony Stark’s black female replacement and Ms. Marvel’s secularized Muslim replacement on the normies.

That is not a House of Ideas. That is a Tomb for Ideas. Yet they keep crawling from their graves like zombies. See Lucasfilm’s recent efforts to propagandize Star Wars for a preview of what’s in store for the MCU.

Folks in our camp take pride in being the reality-facing side. We know that the bitterest truth is better than the sweetest lie. Maybe it’s time to consider the unpleasant possibility that comics aren’t coming back. While Sad Puppies alums have gone on to bigger and better things, and print science fiction is flourishing, #ComicsGate succumbed to internecine rivalries faster than #GamerGate. GG had its faults, but we did take down Gawker. In contrast, CG made a few folks some money, but DC and Marvel remain. When the Big Two finally fold, it will be due to their own incompetence.

Comics as we knew them were largely the product of some nice Jewish boys working in mid-20th century New York. They had a work ethic that only hungry artists can muster and prevailing cultural conditions that have long since disappeared. The whole concept of any property with universal appeal is become more and more meaningless each day. Whatever the future holds for comics, it’s not going to look like the heady days when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby presided.

The comic book industry might be in a death spiral, but thanks to indie, science fiction is booming! Support independent sci-fi. Back Combat Frame XSeed today and get your own mech while supplies last!

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