March 27, 2008

Hi Ho, Silver Age, Away!

I was going through my various notes and old Moleskine scribbles for blog ideas when I came across a post by fellow comics blogger/Twitter pal/all around cool guy Rich, who was discussing the current back-to-the-Silver-Age trend of DC Comics. To quote my esteemed colleague,
"Sometimes it feels like DC is going backwards instead of forwards and this frustrates the hell out of me as a reader - because it's going backwards to a time that I think simply wasn't that good."
To be honest, I slightly disagree with him - for its time, those books were good, but the fact that they are worshipped almost 40 years later shows that DC is mistaking the imagination behind those concepts...for the actual concepts themselves, which really have not stood the test of time.

(Except Krypto. Like Rich, I believe Krypto is awesome)

Recently, I've been rereading all four volumes of Crisis On Infinite Earths, which reprints the first few JLA/JSA crossovers. (If Marvel had a more personal/soap opera approach to comics, DC went for more iconic/epic/blockbuster storylines). The approach, by our standards, is rather hackneyed - you get more emotional depth and better dialogue in an average episode of Super Friends.

But there was a willingness to push it further - I mean, earths vibrating at a different rate? Different earths with different sets of heroes? And even a willingness to kill off the loved one of a hero? Different colors of Kryptonite? Much of the reason why the Silver Age is so loved is not those (and other) concepts specifically...

...but the willingness to create those concepts,to try ideas no matter how silly or goofy. Some of what seemed so cutting edge in the 1960s now seems quaint, tinted with nostalgia, with little sense of discovery or wonder. It all began (he says with a slight hint of fannish entitlement) with Green Lantern: Rebirth - I still, to this day, do not see why Hal Jordan had to come back. Yes, I'm enjoying the book a lot...but what makes him a better GL than any other character - or better yet, why not create a character that reflects the qualities that Green Lantern had in the 1960s?

Recently, I was reading Tangent: Superman's Reign, featuring characters from DC's Tangent line. Much like Amalgam, it was an enjoyable limited run for one simple reason: the old rules did not apply. Were they cutting edge graphic literature? No. But they were willing to "mess with the formula", to at least try different things and if they stuck, fine - but DC (and most mainstream) comics are slowly, but surely, becoming more like Star Trek - so dependent on harvesting its past (and fan nostalgia) that it forgets that the newness of comics, that sense that we're reading or seeing something we've never seen before - or even recontextualizing old concepts in modern sensibilities - is what really keeps people coming back for more.

Like Rich, I was finding myself also becoming slightly negative about current comics...so much so that I'm risking (as my esteemed colleague Roger points out) focusing on snark. But maybe, just maybe, it's not so much dwelling on the negative...as taking a little time out to find those comics, no matter what genre*, which will hit the old button and help me continue to fall in love with comics again.

EDIT - Although, in all honesty, I am looking forward to the return of DC's classic Earth 2. Some links plagiarized, er, I mean, "borrowed" from Heidi Meeley.

*Except manga. I've tried it, and it's just not my thing. Sorry, Internet.

1 comment:

Roger Green said...

well, I don't want you TOTALLY snark-free. BTW, I answered your questions today.