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What's the point of reading long-running superhero comics anymore?


#1

Not trying to be overdramatic here, just been really thinking about this stuff because the nature of long running superhero comics it’s fascinating to me. This is a serious question I’ve been asking myself for a really long time.

It particularly struck with me when I was thinking about the “young” characters of Marvel/DC universes and how eventually they reach their maximum possible development and everything just stalls or gets resetted to status quo due to the never ending nature of those universes. Batman and Superman’s kids are never going to grow up. Wally West had an excellent 20+ years run and he effectively replaced his mentor Barry Allen, but DC dialed up back and brought him again, negating those stories. During decades these companies have been selling the illusion of change and development and that’s why readers stuck with them but I realize that we’ve reached a point where that became harder and harder to maintain. Spider-Man is eventually going back to being a teenager again. So what’s the point of reading a story that at the end it’s not actually telling a story because there will be no consequence?

On the other hand, characters like Batman and Superman that don’t depend on a specific development exist in this sort of mythical limbo where you can tell any story about them in any point in time or different universes even. They can have a continuity, but it doesn’t really matter as with other characters.

So, what do you think?


#2

Multiple choice answer:

  • There isn’t any point to it - read other comics.

  • The point is what you make it.

  • No one is supposed to read superhero comics non-stop for 20 years - these were aimed at kids who read them for so long then stopped.


#3

This is actually a great answer, these characters were never supposed to develop and end, but I think Marvel changed things forever with their concept of continuity and the illusion of change and DC followed suit, but I guess they never counted on life long readers existing.


#4

Aye, Ben covered all the basics.

Right now I’m only reading comics to discuss them with others and the ones I’m reading just for actual enjoyment could be counted on one hand.


#5

Which really sucks if you’re the Onion Knight.


#6

The sensible thing to do would be, I think, to give an actual conclusive end to those characters’ histories before doing a reboot. Sort of what they did with Superman after the Crisis. But they just reset status quo inside the same narrative.


#7

I think the companies have been wise to that for some time - you only have to look at how both companies have been co-opting genres for the last 2 decades - spies, SF, politics, myth - but, good as those attempts are, there’s only so far they can go.

I wish DC had done this pre-New 52 (still the most opaque reader-unfriendly term I’ve ever seen).


#8

I agree wholeheartedly. The problem with New 52 was the messy way it was executed, not the concept itself.


#9

Yep, which was: We’re rebooting in 2 months, tie your stories up now.

So, we are never getting the story of the Birds of Prey’s revenge on Junior for instance.


#10

I think the problem with the new 52 is that it went completely off the rails

It was looking very much a success at first until editorial interfence got completely out of hand and they just ended up publishing a large number of shitty comics while treating creators really badly into the bargain


#11

Aye, the best ones of the early era were from creators who can work on the fly or series that were already in production.


#12

It´s, indeed, a good Question.

Personally, i tend to read “Runs” made by people, creators, that i like and, when those runs are over i check if it´s worth still sticking around.
I treated them as if they were Image comic… sort of speak.,

Right now, the only long ruynning superhero comic that i read is “Batman”, but only because it has had a long running series of authors that i like very much (Morrison, Snyder, King).


#13

Comics are built on the periodical. We’ve now had generations who have enjoyed these characters. If you’re really that tired of them, hop of the merry-go-round for a bit and read something else.


#14

It’s funny, because Image actually has two titles that have been running and evolving continuously from the very start. I don’t know how many original readers are still onboard, but they’re both over two hundred issues at this point. They’re Spawn and Savage Dragon. I’m less familiar with what’s been happening in Spawn but in Savage Dragon Erik Larsen has been moving the story along so that the star of the book isn’t really the star anymore, but his son, who looks for all intents and purposes exactly like him, and of course the basic story has changed because the son doesn’t have the same backstory (amnesiac bad guy, which was totally genius).

I bring this up because whether or not these things were originally meant for kids or best understood as being for kids, that’s been beside the point since the Marvel Age began, and even earlier, when DC kicked off the Silver Age with “The Flash of Two Worlds,” which is not a story you’d do if none of it is supposed to mean anything after a certain point.

If you find yourself growing distant from the concept of reading comics over a long period of time, then it’s absolutely up to you to just walk away. Because, and fans have the hardest time with this, if you persist with something you no longer enjoy, you suffer and your perception suffers, and you end up assuming it’s because of the material when it’s really…It’s you. It’s you. It’s always you.

Comics were at their most popular when they were being read by soldiers during WWII. The perception that they were kid material ironically traces back to Seduction of the Innocent, in which some nutcase tried to scapegoat the medium for what he perceived as…what every previous generation perceives, that the one that follows is inherently worse, “corrupted.” The longer comics have been around, the more natural that awareness of who’s reading has evolved. It’s not even why they’re reading or how, but that increased awareness of the readership by the readership, the fans coalesce their perceptions and are convinced they have a right to dictate in a direct fashion what happens next. They’re disappointed and so they complain loudly. It should probably be called Internetting. When fans used to get together, it was for something positive, like helping bring back Star Trek (temporarily). Now they seem intent on killing everything they love “for its own good.” Which personally, I find insane.


#15

That statement was true decades ago. But for the past few decades, every comic writer and editor has understood that most fans have been reading them just as long as they have. “They are aimed at kids” and/or “you’re not supposed to read them for more than 10 years” is no longer a viable premise to base storytelling decisions on.

Unless they really do want everyone to stop reading after 10 years, in which case, uh, good-bye super-hero comics industry :worried:


#16

I don’t mind drawing attention (again) to Erik Larsen’s SAVAGE DRAGON, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary with issue #225. The original Dragon has aged 25 years in that time, became a father and now a grandfather, and has now stepped out of the spotlight while his son Malcolm has become the star of the book. No such thing as a return to the status quo for this book.

Best superhero book currently being published, if you ask me.


#17

Judge Dredd also operates in real time.


#18

Astro City’s characters age and are replaced, and the stories being told now are set 20 “real” years after it started. But it’s a bit different in that no one “name” character is the star.


#19

And this is one of the things that had added to its longetivity and made it so special, in my opinion.


#20

Hulk smash puny selective quoting, not reading whole thread poster!

More seriously, it comes down to what you’re reading for - if you are looking for something new, after 10 years, it’s unlikely you’ll find it in DC / Marvel superheroes. By this point you’ll be familiar with the moves, with the way stories start, develop and tend to conclude. But what if that’s what you’re wanting? People watch soap operas for years on end in part because the familiarity is reassuring, I don’t think it’s much of a jump to say the same is true for superhero comics - if you keep reading them, it’s likely the sense of familiarity it conjures up or it’ll be something else, but it won’t be that you’re after something new and unique.

Did you ever read Slott’s She-Hulk issue where he took aim at this exact tendency? It’s about a decade old now yet likely remains bang on target.