Why I Hate Comics

This is a thing I wanted to explain for awhile–since back when this blog was known as “jispylicious” in fact–but just, I could never find the words for it.

You see, I’ve touched on some of the more obvious issues comic books have–continuity problems, retcons, macho attitudes, pithy attempts at “maturity” that are little more than hormone fantasies, writers who don’t understand that its a visual medium and they don’t need long paragraphs explaining what we see in the panel or metric tons of dialogue balloons, the amount of times I’ve had to re-read panels and even entire pages just because they were arranged in a counter-intuitive order rather than according to the natural flow of one’s eye–but all of these are basically, chocolate chips. They’re not the cookie.

If my problem with comics was just a few clueless writers, I’d eventually find one I liked. I’ve come close a few times, but its never lasted. But I’ve never been able to find a way to explain why, never a word that would sum up what the problem is.

A conversation last night revealed to me what the full extent of the jam is, and helped me find that word.

The word is introverted.

I’m gonna have to use a few examples to illustrate, so bear with me, even if it seems like I’m off on a tangent at times.

During the development of Resident Evil 4, one of their early plot ideas involved an actually paranormal threat, and was more psychological horror akin to Silent Hill. Now, there are plenty of people who saw previews and actually liked this direction, but even so, series creator Shinji Mikami vetoed it because he realized it was so out-of-touch with the series identity. (And while I have criticized RE4 in the past, I can not ever deny that it is a legitimate continuation of the series).

In one episode of Sailor Moon, the story involves animators who are working on an upcoming “Sailor V” movie. One of the animators gets possessed by one of Nephrite’s youma, and on the spur of the moment decides to change the movie’s ending, so that Sailor V dies. Everyone else is horrified, and tells her, “would you really crush children’s dreams?”

Now, for contrast:

The first (or maybe second or third) issue of the MLP comic has Queen Chrysalis killing a kitten, specifically to traumatize the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Everyone I’ve talked to who ever defended this scene said “I liked this direction,” or else “It made sense from the story’s internal logic.”

That.

That right there.

American comics are written in a vacuum. They care only about themselves. They act like the world outside does not exist.

You.
Can’t.
Do.
That.

A person who does that is a sociopath. A story that does that is equally sociopathic.

STOP RIGHT THERE!!!

If you reply WITHOUT reading the part below, I will delete your comment without hesitation

I know what you’re gonna say. People on the internet always reduce a person’s meaning to the barest, most simplistic concept they understand. In doing so, they often miss the point entirely.

What you’re thinking right now, is “Oh, so Moe is totally against individual creativity and completely in favor of charts, trends and focus-tests.”

No. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is understanding how it will come off to the people you’re showing it to.

For example, Back to the Future part III had a deleted scene where Biff Tannen’s ancestor (I forget his name) shoots the sheriff dead in front of his son. Director Robert Zemeckis realized that upon seeing this scene, audiences would expect Tannen to die in the film’s climactic showdown, and would feel cheated if he didn’t. Since that wasn’t the movie Zemeckis wanted to make, he instead just excised the scene in question.

It’s the same principle, really, as any sort of social tact. Its all about listening to yourself, understanding what you’re saying, and understanding what the person you’re talking to is gonna hear.

And its something comic book writers just don’t get.

In fact, to a large degree most American media just doesn’t get it. Sadly, America has been too indoctrinated with Public Relations spindoctoring that tries to tell you that crap is actually quality, just misunderstood. We get “it’s originality” or “I’m doing my own thing” from people who are too lazy or egotistical to actually try to improve. We get “art is subjective” from terrible artists who want so much to believe the problem isn’t that their painting sucks, its that the rest of the world isn’t open-minded enough to appreciate them.

America does have artists who know what they’re doing, just not in the comics field. That field went to madness and insanity long ago, and there’s no hope in sight.

If I haven’t been clear enough on any point, feel free to ask.

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19 thoughts on “Why I Hate Comics

  1. What about Stan Lee? (Then again, I don’t like his work that much either)

    Oh, and you seem to be imply that introverted people are “sociopaths”. Well, I probably misunderstood, but when you put it that way…Yeah, I’m misunderstanding you, but still. I don’t see introverts stomping on kittens and raging on children.

    • Mixing up “introvert” and “sociopath”… yes, that’s totally a bonehead moment for me.

      Stan Lee is a completely different level of awful, because he’s a liar and a fraud. He claims to have pretty much invented the entire Marvel Universe, but documents, various period interviews, and (most damningly) Marvel’s court case against Jack Kirby in 1985 show that Stan Lee actually did nothing more than claim credit for other people’s ideas. He’s like the Thomas Edison of comics.

      • Glad to find someone else who knows how bad Thomas Edison was.

        I used to look up to Stan Lee. Then I remembered all he really created was Spiderman, and even then he didn’t do too much with it.

        Yet he goes on shows like “Comic Book Men” and is treated like the greatest thing ever.

        I like that show, too.

      • Actually, Spider-Man was largely Steve Ditko.

        About the only superheroes that were truly almost entirely Stan’s babies were Iron Man and Daredevil, and even they are hotly debated.

        I got to be honest… when I learned the truth about Stan Lee is when I started to get disillusioned with comics and realize how rotten they were. It would be as if you one day learned that Tolkien payed someone else to write Lord of the Rings.

      • Oh. Then why the heck does he keep talking about Peter Parker and claiming ownership?

        Fraud of sorts.

        Only comics I still follow in America are Fantastic Four, anything with Deadpool, and occasionally Justice League/Avengers.

  2. “America does have artists who know what they’re doing, just not in the comics field. That field went to madness and insanity long ago, and there’s no hope in sight.”

    Hmm, I assume around the late 70’s?

    I’m sure the industry can be rescued. It just requires other American Media to improve first, which is bound to happen.

    • The last chance American comics had of being rescued was the rise of manga. It was a chance for American comics to see how stories SHOULD be told.

      Instead they went all xenophobic “what is this bug-eyed jap shit?” and proceeded to indoctrinate a Master Race mentality among their readership.

      There’s no hope.

      • Its rather similar to Italian Facists of the 20th century.

        American Facism.

        I think we’ll get better. Maybe other, less self absorbed, western countries did it right it be better (England, Canada, Mexico, France, Australia) for U.S to see.

    • That part about “accurate message about the human condition” is off-putting, especially since it sounds like he falls into the cynicism = accurate trap.

      Agreed with the rest tho.

  3. To be perfectly honest; I could not disagree with this opinion more if I tried. I think your badly overgeneralizing comics, which is a medium no different then books or movies. There are thousands of writers and artists working in comics right now, and saying that none of them “get” it is both absurd and ignorant.

    Oh, and the Sailor Moon example you used to contrast with that “awful” MLP scene? Yeah, nearly all the main characters die in the season finale. In fact, the heroes are quite graphically killed onscreen several times through the course of the series, thanks to resurrection.. So obviously the actual writers of Sailor Moon clearly didn’t give a shit about “crushing children’s dreams.” And the manga’s no better, by the way – the main character attempts suicide at one point.

    Comics do NOT “exist in a vacuum,” any more than any other form of entertainment does. And most, if not all, writers and artists, DO keep their audience in mind, and just because you don’t like how some of them write doesn’t mean they didn’t.

    • Hey…. a new face… awesome!

      My mind is weary from other responses I’ve been typing out since I signed on, but I am gonna point out real quick that your Sailor Moon example is leaving out vital details and misrepresenting facts to make it seem far worse than it actually is. Her suffering and even dying is only “children’s dreams being crushed” if you don’t know what happens next.

      • Thanks, good to be here.

        And no, I’d say I’m not misrepresenting anything. Sure, they get better later, but that doesn’t change the fact that they die on screen. Spock coming back doesn’t change the impact of his death in Wrath of Khan.

        And if you want something more permanent, in Sailor Moon the main characters routinely killed off main villains with no remorse whatsoever, especially in the manga when some villains were burned alive.

    • Gonna start by saying, I don’t see what’s wrong with killing paranormal terrorists who care nothing for ruining (or ending) people’s lives in pursuit of personal power.

      You might think this contradicts my point about Back to the Future III earlier. It doesn’t. Zemeckis didn’t want Tannen to die and he justified that choice within the course of his story. Takeuchi on the other hand clearly didn’ care if her heroines got their hands dirty and again, the choice was fully justified.

      See, that’s one of the things about comics (or at least, the superhero ones). They try to be like Zemeckis and go Thou Shalt Not Kill, but then they’re like Takeuchi and have villains who are just totally reprehensible. It doesn’t gel, and when you get the resulting “hero won’t kill because he’s all moral and righteous,” the only kind of awe it inspires is at how fucking retarded the hero is.

      Just sayin’, nobody would feel bad about shooting Hitler.

    • Hit “post comment” a little too early last time…

      Now, as for “Comics are no different from books or movies,” well…

      They COULD have been no different. On a pure concept basis, there’s no reason we couldn’t have a comic like Die Hard, or a comic like Lord of the Rings, or an American comic that hits all the same notes as Hikaru no Go.

      But see, there’s a difference between COULD exist, and ACTUALLY DOES. That’s my problem. Whenever I go to a store that sells comics and graphic novels, I see tons of the same recurring themes–not just major ones like superheroes, but also conventions like the Code Against Killing or the tone being cynical or the art style being jagged and dirty-looking or everyone’s life sucks.

      And they all make the SAME basic, fundamental storytelling mistakes, again and again. Not different mistakes each time, like in movies, but the SAME mistakes. That indicates that they simply don’t realize those are mistakes.

      Hell, whenever I point these out, and provide examples of a movie or a manga that handled it better, fans always pull some bullshit about how those are different and work differently, as if the fundamentals of storytelling change when you cross into comics. So they actually have a culture that isolates them from outside influences.

      That is the textbook definition of “existing in a vacuum.”

      • You used the page from the My Little Pony comic as an example of how the writers don’t consider their audience, using Sailor Moon as a contrast. I countered by saying that Sailor Moon, which is very popular and targeted to the same audience as MLP, has scenes of death and violence that are far worse then anything found in MLP. And no, I don’t care if “they get better later” or “it happens to the bad guys, so it doesn’t count” – as far as I am concerned, those are excuses no different then saying it makes since in context, or they personally like the direction.

        And honestly, I didn’t think of Back to the Future at all – the director thought that keeping the scene where the sheriff dies would make the movie too dark. Good for him. Takeuchi and Katie Cook both clearly thought that kids weren’t so fragile that they couldn’t handle a little darkness in their own respective stories, and I’d say they were perfectly right to do so.

        And when I read about how you feel when you walk into a comic store, my first thought was – actually, my first thought was “You still go to the STORE to pick up comics?! All my comics purchases are online now, I can’t even remember when I was last in a store!” Yes, my SECOND thought was; “I don’t think you’re looking hard enough.”

        You want comics where the heroes have no qualm against killing? Then read any one of the Wolverine ongoings. Or Deadpool, or Punisher, or anything released by Valiant in it’s relaunch. You don’t like cynical books, go read Archie’s Mega Man, or Stan Saki’s long-running Usagi Yojimbo, or the Avatar the Last Airbender comics that have been coming out, or yes, My Little Pony, which successfully keeps the tone of being family friendly while still being good for all ages – the latest issue of the spin-off to the main series was especially good. You want stories about characters whose lives don’t suck, then read Atomic Robo, or Mark Waid’s Daredevil, which is notable for getting the main character AWAY from the crap-sack world that it used to be. You want art that’s not jagged or dirty-looking, well, I can’t help you there, because I really don’t know what your talking about. I’ve always had the opinion that comics today have more diverse art then they’ve ever had previously.

        And of course, that’s only the published comics, which really are only a small part of the whole now. If you’re going to judge comics – and if you’re talking about ALL American comics, then you kinda have to – then you have to consider web-comics too. And in that case, the amount of people working explodes into HUNDREDS of thousands, writing in every genre imaginable. With a little bit of looking, I’m sure you can find soothing that you like, if only because of the sheer volume that’s out there.

        Now, if you’re saying that there’s too many Super-Hero comics that follow the same tropes, well I have to agree with you there. While the Super-Hero has proven to be an adaptive genre, the fact remains that there is a glut of samey comics that are overtly shallow or cynical, and events that only serve to boost sales – you are far from the only one to point this out. But saying there’s TOO MUCH of this sort of thing is very different from saying there’s NOTHING BUT, which I think is like seeing the glut of brainless action movies that are released every year, and then assuming that it’s the ONLY kind of movie being released right now.

        Comic books are a diverse medium – not “could be”, ARE – and you can find something to like, even if you might have to look a little harder then you should.

  4. A NOTE TO ALL FOLLOWERS OF THIS TOPIC

    I decided to cull all comments posted by Mudassir, who I strongly suspect is Malkavian from TV Tropes and IJBM.

    Apologies to Cureasura and Richard Carboxsin, because unfortunately this meant I had to cull any comment they made that was in the same thread as Mudassir, even the ones that weren’t responses to him, because there was a technical fuckup and they got threaded in a weird way. I’m sorry, guys.

    I have NOT banned him. However, I got tired of his “oh, you actually said X, I’m gonna dissect lines out of context to prove it!” games, and a lot of his comments–particularly when he started bringing up September 11 and trying to turn this into a politics discussion–struck me as straight-up trolling.

    He can post here, but he needs to have more intelligent points (which he clearly IS capable of) and less cherry-picking and shock-value baiting.

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