Form and Function

In 2006 Marvel comics introduced a storyline that would change the universe and its characters roles in it forever. This event was called Civil war and around the same time DC had introduced a cross over of its own Infinite Crisis, a name that for fans harkens back to their first ever company wide crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths. I’ve read and enjoyed both pieces and the themes they introduced, IC removing the invincibility of the heroes by attacking them where they lived and turning their ideologies on them. CW spawning the era of heroes verses heroes on a constant basis. I began to realize that once both companies realized how well these ideas worked they used them again , over and over.

Now If we look at Marvel who’s just come out of its ‘I’m a good guy and so are you let’s wail on each other’ phase you can see some signs of hope in possibly new stories and ideas with their creative shake up in place. DC on the other hand is still giving its heroes hell and even after a nearly total reboot of the universe, they still manage to torment their heroes (Scott Snyder’s Death of the Family is one example of this).

infinite-crisis

DC Comic’s Infinite Crisis

Now I see what’s going on here, the parent companies of both comic book giants like numbers preferably with lots of zeros on the end and it appears both are now (especially marvel) using their comics as marketing tools for movie properties. Money being the objective, they’re sticking with what works but it begs the question what happens to the industry of comics? While Independent publishers such as Image, Dark Horse and Boom! are options, they aren’t as likely to make as big a splash in the pond due to the C.R.E.A.M (Capes Rule Everything Around Me) factor as I have observed from years of selling comics to people. This is because comics have been a genre (superheroes) in the main stream for so long that most of the fans are those who prefer people in capes flying around saving some people and punching others in the face.

While this appeals to many with a power fantasy (myself included) it alienates other people and narrows the chance for writers and artists to make a living off of their work. Now we can throw out names like Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar who are great creators who have enjoyed success but they’re exceptions and nowhere near the rule even with the emerging indie comics scenes in Seattle, LA and Brooklyn. As an indie creator, I sometimes worry about how my contemporaries and myself will fair in the industry we love, especially after reading Brian K. Vaughn’s reason for creating Saga.  The truth that comics aren’t selling as well as they once did is apparent and I think that’s directly linked to the prevalence of the capes and tights crowd, however, I have a proposed solution, which you can take as you will. The first part is creators explore the capacity for comics to become more than just entertainment.

Warren Ellis’ Iron Man: Extremis is in my opinion one of the best comics ever written. Firstly, because he didn’t bog himself down with comic book dogma and secondly, because he approached it differently.  Extremis could have had the effect of the old stories of William Gibson or Isaac Asimov which caused scientists and futurists to ask, ‘Can we make this real?’ Now I’m not saying people should read Batman and say, hey let me try to police the whole world with vigilante operatives but there could be some substance to the pieces allowing them to appeal to a wider audience. This brings me to my next proposition and that’s diversity.

civil war

Marvel Comic’s Civil War

Now I know the word has been flung around in the comic book landscape but not really practiced. I know a number of African American, Latino and Asian creators as well as female creators who aren’t working for mainstream companies and a whole host of characters that were created not being used (like Patriot from Young Avengers.)  Some people may say, well maybe none of those creators are any good and that’s why their work isn’t in the public eye besides being statistically impossible for each and every one of them to be bad but it is also an unknown because most people who say this haven’t read anything outside of their own niches.

Diversity can’t be forced but it also shouldn’t be ignored.  Just because a character doesn’t look like you or share the same values doesn’t make them any less compelling.  As a matter of fact, it should make them more so and serve as a lesson in competency of gender, culture, race and orientation. I’ll end this by saying that I hope that the industry decides to open itself up to new creators and better ideas because I love comics and I’d rather they lived up to the potential of the medium instead of being a stepping stone in selling hats that match with sneakers.

This article was written and submitted to Wordofblackheroes.com By guest writer Rachaun Rogers.

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About Ryn Fraser

Caribbean born college teacher with a degree in Philosophy, founder/CEO of World of Black Heroes, freelance writer and all around comic book geek. I enjoy a good book, video games, movies and most of all fatherhood. Written credits include work for Wikipedia, Comicvine, Independent comics, IGN, Gamespot, and Islandstage.net. View all posts by Ryn Fraser

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