Comics Portal: The Story’s the Thing
As a “seasoned” comics reader (meaning I’ve been buying comics for years numbering in the decades), I’ve noticed that the way I choose my books has changed over time.
When I first began, all I cared about was the character or characters in the book. One perfect example of this was Batman, who I remain a big fan of to this day. If Batman was in a comic, I bought it and read it voraciously! That included Batman, Detective Comics, Justice League of America, Brave and the Bold, Worlds Finest, etc. I just wanted to know what he was up to! At that point, I didn’t pay much attention to artists or writers – I supported the hero! Of course, Batman wasn’t the only crusader I followed. I also was fascinated by Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Captain America and Iron Man, among others.
After some time, I began to notice that some books gripped me while others didn’t maintain my interest. That’s when I discovered artists. I loved the way some people could “draw” me into the book, pun intended. At the time, I liked Jack “The King” Kirby, Carmine Infantino, George Tuska, and John Romita, among others. I would see this incredible device that Reed Richards had built to sort things out from different dimensions, and Mr. Kirby sure made me believe that that machine could do it, it looked so good!
The next thing I recognized was that certain writers actually made those artists look better by giving them wonderful stories to tell. I began to follow Marv Wolfman (who worked well with George Perez), for instance. Now I buy anything written by Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Chuck Dixon, Paul Dini and several others.
These days, I honestly don’t recognize the names of most of the artists producing comics. Not that Todd McFarlane and John Byrne didn’t have their moments – they did – but I don’t see artists’ names repeated very often in the books I buy. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, though.
However, recently I picked up on another transition in my comics buying. I can best put this by saying that I don’t always buy established characters or from the top two companies. More and more, I’m seeking out what’s being called “creator-owned” properties and giving them a chance.
Why is this? Well, as much as I enjoy a great Batman story, usually things have to return to the same place so that the next issue can be created, possibly by someone else. I call this the “Galactic Reset Button” after Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is when I noticed this pattern most clearly. Every episode had to end up back where they started so the process could begin again the following week. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine broke that pattern superbly, by the way.)
Tales with new characters/situations can go places others cannot. One prime example of this is the Kickstart Comics company, which has made only one continued story out of 16 (or more) releases to date. Every other book has drawn to a close, and that means something has to seriously happen by the last page! I have to say that the first Kickstart book I bought surprised me when I realized how much I loved a story that actually meant literally anything could happen by the end of the issue! Wow!
What this means for me is that the story’s the thing these days! While I do buy Batman comics and many more with long-lived heroes, I’m much more willing to give books I’ve never cracked open or even heard of a chance if I’m intrigued by the premise. And if it’s a great job of storytelling, I’ll encourage everyone I can to give it a read!