We spent last weekend in Las Vegas for MorrisonCon an event honoring one of my favorite writers, Van Morrison.
The trip did double duty as our first vacation since our honeymoon. Normally Vegas is where single people try to have sex so I think that we had a better score card than 90% of the people staying at The Hard Rock Casino where the music industry intersects with the douche bag industry. I’m not being fair to the casino, with their tribal tattoo carpeting and Ed Hardy wallpaper the facility wasn’t inherently douchy, that is until they booked Pauly D from the Jersey Shore as the weekend DJ. The place was packed with ‘roided up dudes and tanning bed babes but they mostly sequestered themselves to the pool. On the plus side, the muzak and the food was top notch. If you’re ever there for lunch get the cheeseburger at Culinary Dropout, it’s like a Big Mac made right, and so totally unlike a Big Mac.
I think there’s a place for boutique conventions like this and if people had more spending cash there would have been more butts in seats. It was refreshing to sip a Jamaican Coffee while listening to the panelists talk about the comic book industry and with only one panel going on at a time it really relieved the anxiety of prioritizing panels at Comic Con, not to mention no lines and no crowds.
But I didn’t feel like the talent were any more accessible than at any other convention. Melissa got some face time with Robert Kirkman on Sunday morning but he was so hungover he resembled an extra on The Walking Dead. And I didn’t see any sight of the writers on either party night outside of Grants spoken word performance on Friday. Except Jason Aaron the one writer who I’ve never read and didn’t have anything to say to, yeah I saw him a lot. In the lobby, at the club, in the hall everywhere I turned there was Jason Aaron. Che chee chee, ahh ahh ahh.
My biggest disappointment was with myself. I’m still really bad at this whole ‘networking’ thing. Once the conversation gets going I can usually make a good impression for a few minutes, but breaking in, making that contact it tough for me. I just assume that people don’t want to be bothered. That’s something I have to work on, along with my next novel. Because I want to be taken seriously at one of these conventions someday.
I can’t remember the last time I read a comic where the superhero saved someone. Someone other than his supporting cast that is. To be a hero means selflessly risking one’s safety to preserve the safety of another. To save one’s own loved one isn’t selfless, not really. To save one’s home town isn’t selfless either nor is saving one’s home planet. It’s self-preservation.
These days it’s typical for the story to start with the bad guy directly attacking the hero, so the hero is also the victim and there is no selflessness at all, just self defense. And while self defense is rateable or even admirable it’s not heroic. And the superhero concept of hero becomes defined as the guy who didn’t punch first.
“Good guys” who can’t lose being sucker punched by “Bad guys” fighting over nothing of substance with neither side really risking their lives. These aren’t heroes and villains, they’re two armies of vikings in licensed property Valhalla.
I first started reading DC Comics right after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which provided the DCU with a clean sweep, more or less. It was a good jumping on point because everything was new-ish and didn’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of decades of continuity.
But that was a long time ago and DC is running with more baggage than ever and while I can keep up with every new character (thanks to Wikipedia) more and more I don’t want to. Since no one really dies in the DCU there’s a saturation point off in the distance where Mundane-American are the new minority.
I could jump ship to Marvel but they have decades of mutants clotting the system and not one, but four crossovers going on at the moment. They’re following the Lay Chips business model, you can’t read just one, ’cause you’ll never be able to follow the story.
Or maybe the problem is I’m too old to be reading comics. Nope. Because they keep using characters like Cable or Rachael Summer’s as if their personal time lines made a lick of sense.
There’s something to be said for death and entropy.
The Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum. He kills a few people in clever and macabre ways until Batman punches him in the face and takes him back to Arkham.
I’ve seen this cycle so many times that Batman feels like an accomplice. He’s the guy that gives the Joker a ride home at the end of the day. And why not? The Joker’s much more effective at advancing his agenda (kill people) than Batman is at his (save people). If you can’t beat them, join them. That’s the Wayne family motto.
Since the villains are just as valuable as intellectual property as the heroes are the best the hero can aspire to is maintaining the status quo. After racking up a body count in the thousands there’s no reason why the Joker’s still alive except that he looks good on a t-shirt or in a video game.
There are no character arcs here. DC and Marvel have these vast universes of static characters where change is either illusionary or temporary no one’s really fighting for anything. And since they’re also immortal then there’s no good guys or bad guys. Just two armies of vikings, fighting it out in Vallhalla till Ragnarok hits the publishing industry.
I didn’t buy any comics yesterday. But that’s not so unusual anymore. Lately I’ve often walked away from the store empty handed. This week I didn’t even go to the store. My pull list is down to seven titles so it’s not worth my while to drive up there more than once a month. A weekly ritual I’m participated in without fail since 1992 is over. An end that started with Blackest Night.
I was really into the series right up until the final pages of the final issue. With it’s theme of death vs. life I thought for sure Johns was trying to close the rotating door that death has become in the DCU. Instead, I got a mass, snap-of-the-fingers resurrection.
The DC and Marvel universes aren’t filled with characters, they’re filled with walking, talking intellectual property. Every superhero is really Wile E. Coyote. They don’t age and they can’t die, not for long. And if that’s the case, what are these “heroes” putting on the line? What are they risking? If death doesn’t exist than what worth is life?
One exception squeezed thorough this year: Marvel’s 1 Month 2 Live flew in the face of all that immortality. I recommend it.
My comics pull list is down to the two Green Lantern titles and three of the Avengers titles and I’m pretty sure I’ll stop collecting Avengers after they all start from 1 again. That’s the fewest comics I’ve read regularly since I started collecting comics. I’ve been trying to figure out why and I think it comes down to three things:
- I’m waiting for the trade on more titles than ever. Only one title made the transition off the pull list, Fables. But when I pick up a new title I’ve been skipping the monthly all together, like with The Sword, Secret Six or Air.
- I’ve gotten more discriminatory. I was reading some title far longer than I was interested in them, Supergirl, Teen Titans, JSA and JLA come to mind.
- I’m not all that excited with what Marvel and DC are doing. Event fatigue is defiantly a part of this but both crossover events aren’t doing much for me. I can’t tell why Asgard is under Siege (see what I did there?) and in hindsight Blackest Night was written to bring twelve of DC’s pet characters back to life and I hate resurrections.
If Green Lantern is seeped in Brightest Day for another year I might lose interest in that title too. What’ll I do on Wednesdays at noon? Eat lunch or something?
Newsarama: Could Kindle Kill Comics?
God I hope so.
Dispite my love of the medium I rarely read a comic more than once. If I could spend half as much for the electronic version and spend nothing on storage? Yeah, that would be the poop. I think it’d take a really good full color e-reader to finally kill the monthly pamphlet.
Then I wouldn’t have to wait for the trade.