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I’m a Marvel … and I’m a DC

by  in Comic News Comment

Yeah, I know that joke’s been done. I don’t care!

So there I was, following Bill Reed’s links to David Brothers’ post on “detoxing” from comics. I actually skipped Brothers’ post the first time I came across it, but I’m not sure why – I may have been pressed for time, and it’s a good hefty post. But then I read it, and the comments. One of the commenters writes, specifically, that he’s a “Marvel guy.” He points out that if he had been a bit younger, he would have watched Batman: The Animated Series instead of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and probably have been a DC guy, but based on DC’s current output, he probably wouldn’t enjoy being a DC guy.

This gave me pause, as it always does when it comes up. The habits of superhero fans rarely make sense to me, even though I’m a superhero fan. This commenter made it sound as if it is impossible for him not to be a “Marvel guy.” He claims that if he was younger and was a “DC guy,” he wouldn’t like it based on the end of Cry for Justice and Blackest Night. I wonder if he even considered something … DC and Marvel are not forcing anyone to buy any of their comics. He says he’s a “Spider-Man guy.” I mentioned this before, that at my comic book store, some people buy every single Spider-Man comic even if they don’t like the creative team. Recently, a guy who hangs out at my store mentioned that he was pissed that David Lapham’s arc on Detective Comics, “City of Crime,” sucked so hard. Now, ignoring the fact that he’s so very, very wrong about that, it wasn’t that he bought the trade and was stuck with a twelve-issue arc that he thought sucked. No, it was that he had something like 300 straight issues of Detective and Lapham’s run was so bad he had to break up his run. He said he wouldn’t have minded if it was a three-issue story that sucked, because then it would have been over quickly. No, because it was twelve issues (twelve issues interrupted by the two-issue “War Crimes” crossover, I might add), he actually had to stop buying it and break up his collection. Now, I can deal with this a bit if it’s every issue of a long-running Marvel book that is supposed to be one story, even though the “continuity” of these books gets ignored or highlighted based on whim, but for a comic like Detective, which has for years been simply stories of Batman, with very little continuation of stories and characters when a different creative team comes on board, makes no sense to me whatsoever. I mean, this guy bought every single “No Man’s Land” issue? Really? I can sort of see where he’s coming from – for the most part, issues #550-800 on Detective are, stunningly, quite good (“stunningly” because that’s a long time, and with many different creative teams) – but to get angry because your run is broken up? That’s just odd.

I just wonder about this idea of being a “Marvel reader” or a “DC reader.” I know people still have that mindset, but it just makes no sense to me. Can anyone explain it to me? I get liking a character when you’re young and falling in love with that character. I loved the old Spider-Man cartoons when I was but a lad (even though I could never figure out what he was swinging from – the clouds? a passing blimp?) and I also loved Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. I also loved Batman, because, well, HE’S GODDAMNED BATMAN!!!!! So when I started buying comics when I was 17, I bought Batman and Spider-Man comics. That’s cool if you love a character and want to read about him or her. When does it become a burden, though? If you’re reading a Spider-Man comic, don’t you notice who’s writing it and who’s drawing it? If you read Detective and Writer X is doing a great job and then Writer Y comes on board and stinks, don’t you give up on it? And if Writer X starts writing the adventures of another character – one you’ve never had an interest in – wouldn’t you at least check that out? If the much-loved Artist Q ditches Amazing Spider-Man and goes to another book, wouldn’t you at least give it a look? Especially if Artist J, who takes over for Artist Q, is lousy?

This is especially vexing today, when creators are flexing their muscles much more with regard to character creation. I read some of the Essentials volumes from Marvel, and it’s fairly obvious that back in the 1960s and ’70s Marvel wanted to keep things as close to a “template” as possible, especially with regard to their flagship characters. So I can understand someone reading Amazing Spider-Man in the 1970s not thinking about who was writing it or who was drawing it, because Marvel obviously didn’t allow them to deviate too far from “who Spidey is.” But that kind of attitude hasn’t been prevalent in comics for 30 years. Are people really still carrying that baggage from three decades ago, and that “forces” them to read only Marvel or DC because the characters are so dear to them? I understand that childhood obscures your critical faculties occasionally (did you say something against Manimal, asshole? I didn’t think so!), but that much? Man, that’s a tough way to read comics.

I just wanted to point this out, because it’s such a strange phenomenon. It also seems like it’s confined to comics, mainly because the characters never age. Beloved television series can get rebooted, but they need to find new actors and it’s definitely a “new” product – you might watch The Rockford Files this fall, but no one can convince you that Dermot Mulroney is Jim Garner. We might watch James Bond movies for 50 years, but as the people playing him are completely different actors, the conceit that it’s the same man is lost. (As an aside, I read somewhere that in Die Another Day, the 2002 “40th Anniversary” Bond movie, they were going to reveal that the name “James Bond” is handed down through different agents, which is why he looks so different. I thought that was a fantastic idea. I have no idea if it was just a wild rumor or not, but it would have been awesome. The CrossGen series Kiss Kiss Bang Bang did something similar to this, and it’s well worth a read. Too bad it came out just as CrossGen was imploding.) Comics readers can convince themselves that 2010’s “Peter Parker” is the “same” as the one from the 1970s, and thanks to certain people in the industry, they’re right. This is also a phenomenon not seen too often in books – it takes a bit longer to produce prose, after all, so there can never be as many Anita Blake books as Captain America comics. And, of course, authors tend to own their stuff, so no one else can work on the character without permission. So in comics, we get characters who never age and therefore, people who read them today can believe they’ve never changed over 30 or 40 or 50 years. Is this why we get people claiming they’re “Marvel” or “DC” people?

I’d really like to know what our readers think. Are any of you “Marvel” or “DC” people? If so, why? The only reason I care is when people say they can’t afford smaller, less commercially viable books because they really need to buy every single Marvel book that came out that week. I mean, some of them have to suck, right? So why not take a chance on something smaller? If you’re just a Marvel person or just a DC person, you’re really missing out. I can understand people not liking DC because they slaughtered Lian Harper or Ryan Choi, but that ignores the stellar work Gail Simone is doing on Secret Six. I can understand people not liking Marvel because they took a major event in Rogue’s life and made it a stupid little part of Sentry’s Christological goodness, but that ignores the rousing adventure that Greg Pak and Fred van Lente are writing over in the Hercules/Amadeus Cho corner of the universe. Marvel and DC aren’t monolithic entities. There’s plenty of shit coming out from both companies. It’s so bizarre to me that someone would claim they don’t buy DC comics because they didn’t grow up with them. I can see being pre-disposed toward certain characters, but not to the point of ignoring an entire company because they don’t publish that character. That’s just weird.

So chime in. You can spend your money however you like, of course, and I’m not bashing anyone. I’m the last person who should be bashing how people spend their money. I own three (3) Kelly Clarkson CDs, after all. I just wonder how you spend your money. If you’re a Marvel or DC person, can you tell me why? I find things like this fascinating. Thanks!

[Yes, I started this a few weeks ago, which is why the links at the top are so old. My wife was in the hospital for a few days and then my mom came to town, so it got put on the back burner. My point still stands, though. I hope you can forgive me for being slow!]