Monday, September 12, 2005

Looking To The Stars: A List of Grievances

First things first; if you missed last week’s column regarding the whole Katrina situation, read it now! Just because a week has passed and I’m finally taking some time to *GASP* write about comics doesn’t mean you get a pass on trying to do something. Hell, go out and do something for SOME good cause. Be a hero yourself in a small way instead of just reading about them.

Now, with all apologies to George Carlin, here is a list of some things and people in the comic book industry and comic book fandom that are just plain pissing me off!

First thing I could easily do without; the adults-only crowd. We need to get rid of every writer, artist and marketing executive hoo-hah that insist that it is a waste of time and effort to try and market comic books to kids anymore. There is a market out there. Trust me; I have seen too many kids who watched Spider-Man 2 over and over and over, have a Fantastic Four T-shirt or dress up as Batman at Halloween to believe that there is no market out there for safe but enjoyable comics written for younger readers.

Which leads to me to something I’ve written about in depth once before; let’s have a few more books like The Stardust Kid, The Thief of Always and Gus Beezer and a few less books like Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. You wonder why kids don’t want to read all the comics you make for kids? It’s because most of them suck! Get Stan Lee to come back and write a Spider-Man title instead of publishing some half-assed, third-rate rip-off of his best works. Get someone to help punch up the dialogue if you MUST have cool modern slang but let that man spin the plots if nothing else.

And we could easily do without the comic fans who complain about kids in their store. Yes, it happens. I had one customer ask me once why we had the Hentai Manga sealed up and declare, after I explained it was to keep children from reading it accidentally, “What are you doing letting children into a comic book store?” Sadly, he was being serious.

So if the presence of children bothers you that much, come in the middle of the day while the kids are still in school or during the middle of the week when they are less likely to come in. Or use a mail-order comic service. Your need for creepy Japanese tentacle porn does not exceed the rights of all the parents out there.

And while we’re on the subject of parents and protecting the children… let me say a few words about clueless parents who don’t do their jobs.

My comic shop goes through a lot of effort to make sure that books that aren’t for children stay out of their hands. We put them up on high shelves. We seal up the particularly nasty issues in laminated bags. One of the higher-ups reads through all the preview comics and makes a list of which new titles should be kept out of reach. And all the employees are expected to keep track of this kind of thing and inform parents when they are about to get their kids something inappropriate. A lot of comic shops use the same or similar safe guards.

So it really chafes me when I have someone come in with their five-year-old and then proceed to buy 20 bucks worth of Spawn comics and I tell them that it’s probably not appropriate for them and they start screaming about how they have the right to decide what their children read. Well, you know what? I have the right to cover my ass and say that you were warned before Timmy becomes a chronic bed-wetter and you decide it would be a really great idea to sue me for selling you the evil comic book that scared him so bad. So pardon me for trying to protect your children from things they probably aren’t ready to deal with. Maybe if you did your job as a parent, I wouldn’t have to.

But let’s not forget the flip-side on this. The over-protective nuts. The people like the woman who complained to me at length, using some most unfriendly words, about how Betty and Veronica’s bikinis made them look like “sluts”. These were not thong bikinis or something like that; just regular, full-bottomed two-piece swimsuits.

You know, Betty and Veronica have been drawn rather sexily and scantily for some time now and apart from sparking several disturbing drunken bar talks about which fictional characters a group of friends would like to fornicate with (I was always partial to Cheryl Blossom myself), I don’t think that a drawing of a girl in a bikini does anyone any harm. Well, unless a guy stares at it while trying to drive and has a car wreck… but that’s besides the point.

And while we’re on the subject of parenting, here are a few more folks we could do without…

Every parent who brings their children into a comic store and devotes all their time to trying to get a bored son to pick out something to read, while discouraging their daughter who is looking at everything, saying that it is “boys stuff”. I say “parent” instead of father because I’ve actually seen mothers do this too! And people wonder why there are so many girls who fail to get into reading at a young age.

Every parent who, while getting their own comics, discourages their children’s curiosity over something they enjoy and tells them “not to touch” the comics for any reason other than “your hands are dirty” or “that book isn’t good for you”.

In fact, let’s go one step further and call out every parent who comes in looking for an “investment” for their children. God forbid your kids should actually be reading the comics.

There’s another thing that’s been annoying me; comics as an investment. Is anyone besides the publishers and a few of the middle-men comic shops actually making money off of the special edition variant covers? I don’t think so! Aside from inflating order numbers and providing work to artists who lack the drive or ability to do a monthly title, what purpose do they serve?

And whatever marketing weasel came up with the idea of alternate-cover hard-cover collections (like with the upcoming Identity Crisis HC) should be strung up by the ankles and lashed with a rolled-up copy of X-Men #1.

Is it safe to say that we’re all sick of overly-hyped, disappointing mega-crossover events with book tie-ins that really have no connection to the mega-crossover? Just checking.

But enough generalities. Here’s a few more specific examples of people I can do without.

* Judd Winick fans complaining about nobody else following Judd Winick’s continuity – you lost whatever sympathy I may have had for Devin Grayson ignoring what Judd was doing in Outsiders and Batman had you shown me any when I said “You know, Black Lightning would never use his powers to kill,” and wrote me off as an old-school Silver Age shill who was trapped in the past.

* Brian Michael Bendis fans complaining about some of the House of M titles not working with his “grand vision”. Blame Marvel’s editors for screwing the pooch; not me for being the one to point out that the story timelines don’t match up.

* Everyone who is going to purchase the reported deluxe HC of Frank Cho’s Shanna The She Devil with the original nude artwork restored. You can find pictures of real bare-naked women for free with a simple Google search; be thrifty AND less creepy!

* People who complain about how Writer A can’t make a deadline but then excuse away Writer B, who also can’t make a deadline, but is a much bigger jerk about it. (I don’t need to name names. You’ll all just fill in the blanks anyway. ;))

And finally everyone who has a negative opinion but doesn’t bother to listen to the other guy’s point of view? Forget them.

Speaking of which, if anyone out there has any comments or has issue with something I said, my e-mail is always open.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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