I've nothing against Superman and Batman and Sgt. Rock (OK, I DO have something against Superman, but that's just me, not them, and I've worked through much of it with my therapist, Dr. Luthor). It's just that when I was a kid, DC Comics were white bread in a whole-wheat world. Pale. Filling yet unfulfilling. Lacking depth, lacking complexity, lacking substance.
Marvel heroes were the stuff of my childhood mythos. Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Defenders, the Inhumans, Prince Namor, Thor, Ghost Rider, Moon Knight and even Luke Cage (who I knew as Power Man) and Iron Fist-- these were my comic-book heroes.
Well, it just so happened that about three months ago I happened across the novel Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis. I liked it. It was over-the-top gonzo bile. Right up my alley. Turns out Warren Ellis writes comic books. Who knew, right? (Gimme a break -- I'm an agoraphobic 40-something with a library card, I don't spend a lot of time mulling over trends in the graphic novel industry. I barely know who Neil Gaiman is. I just know that Chris Claremont wrote the good X-men books.).
So I pencilled "Warren Ellis" into my mental notebook and forgot about it.
Then a comic book store opened next to my neighborhood supermarket. And it became too easy to stop in before the weekly shop and... yeah. You comic book people know the rest.
Marvel's Civil War story arc -- wow. And Warren Ellis writing Thunderbolts. Wow wow.
Stepping back into the Marvel Universe was great. All the old familiar faces and places. The Baxter Building! Like what you've done with the place, Dr. Richards! Hiya, Beast! You're certainly looking more feline these days! Oh, there's Hank Pym. What an asshole. Guy can grow to tremendous size, but he'll always be smaller than his inferiority complex.
There were changes, of course. The Sentry? Worst. Superhero. EVAR. Or at least worst-written. I know Marvel heroes are always wrestling with their inner demons, but The Sentry is so paralyzed by indecision that you just want to slap him. And there seem to be some new mutants running around Dr. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Hulkling? Wiccan? Eh. OK. Whatevs.
But the biggest change I noticed was in the tone of the comics themselves. They seemed... smarter. More knowing. More engaged with the world beyond their covers. Still stuffed with ridiculous amounts of muscle and spandex, still filled with THWACK and BAMF and BOOOOOOM, but somehow more sophisticated than I remember.
Well, actually the BIGGEST change is the price. Comics are no longer cheap! In fact, they're damn expensive.
But I can't help but grin when I go to the comics store and a new comic is in and I know that after I schlep the groceries home I'll have a good half-hour of pure escapist enjoyment...
Plus, that Thor #600 might be worth something someday.