Comics Should Be Fun

Comics Should Be Fun

It seems a very simple premise, but for some reason an entire industry forgot the four words of the title of this post for the last 30 years.

I just watched an interview with X-Men creator, Chris Claremont, in which he laments the direction the comic industry’s gone. He regrets being a part of “the epic crossover” which turned books into marketing gimmicks for other books and away from their own individuality, their own storytelling.

This is something we’ve talked about a lot at Arkhaven, and also have endeavored to change in our own creations. Much like Claremont says, characters matter, caring about them is what hooks a reader on a book. They have to have some reason to relate or there’s nothing there but pretty pictures.

While pretty pictures are nice, they aren’t what make great comics. All of the older generation of great comic creators seems to know this, and sales are not anywhere now where they were when these legends like Claremont or Dixon wrote for these companies, so why are they continuing down the same path where they can’t create compelling stories?

The interview is worth watching:

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Comments (6)

  • Ben Reply

    I still think back to those old Claremont X-Men issues for good storytelling for both my novels and my advertisements… nobody did subplots like he did. Thank you for the interview, was great to hear.

    December 21, 2020 at 3:24 am
  • Patrick McNally Reply

    The idea of “the epic crossover” was an excellent one which like much else in the modern comics industry has simply been abused beyond all measure. From the earliest days of the 1960s Stan Lee began pioneering the idea of interlacing the stories among various comics so that in order to understand what was happening with Daredevil and Doctor Doom you needed to know something about the Fantastic Four.

    The pattern was expanded greatly in the 1980s and led to some wonderful drama. But as things began to decline in the 1990s this started to become a way of covering up other deficiencies. The real solution should have been to just retire virtually all of the old superheroes in the 1990s. With the exception of Thor and Hercules every hero that was not a godling of some type should have been into retirement between 1986-1995 and a new generation created from scratch. That would have cleansed things in an appropriate way. But infinite crossovers became a stalling tactic to avoid this as a logical move.

    December 21, 2020 at 8:30 am
  • Patrick McNally Reply

    Probably the most decisive step in Marvel’s decline was the retconning of the marriage between Johnny Storm and Alicia Masters out of existence. This destroyed all story-telling credibility and made One More Day a simple corollary. If it was possible for the Storm-Masters marriage to be so easily obliterated then no mode of character development could ever be safe.

    December 22, 2020 at 3:13 pm
    • Corey Ashcraft Reply

      For me, the Fantastic Fours decline began when they no longer had Johnny married to a Skrull, Lyja. What an interesting development that could have been had they explored it in a traditional Dynamic. I was hoping that Secret Invasion would bring back that story arc and they didn’t even touch it. After that, The Fantastic Four only seems to have gimmicks in order to generate interest in the extreme short term.

      For Marvel as a whole, there path to oblivion can be lain at the feet of One More Day. No one read or followed Spiderman in quite the same way after that. In fact, in many ways they do not seem to know what to do with the character. For the one character that is the heart and soul of your brand to be treated in that manner, well, it really does mark the death of Marvel.

      December 26, 2020 at 4:11 am
      • Patrick McNally Reply

        The original story was that Johnny married Alicia. Declaring that Alicia had really been a Skrull in disguise for some 7 years was simply the means of erasing the original marriage.

        What should have been done was that the whole FF should have been retired in the late 1980s. Reed and Sue go off to raise their children. Johnny and Alicia do the same. Ben and Sharon follow. Give it a break of a 20 years and then in 2010 start up a fresh series with the kids that are now young adults.

        But the whole point of declaring that Johnny had never married Alicia because of a Skrull was to just say “We can erase any marriage anytime and get away with it!”

        December 26, 2020 at 10:45 am
  • Patrick McNally Reply

    The decline of Spider-Man can properly said to have begun around 1988 with I think of as The Night Gerry Conway Defecated all over his early work. This was an episode in what was called the Evolutionary War where out of nowhere we were told that there had never really been a clone of Gwen Stacy. This was a very strange retcon to insert out of the blue and could have seemed bewildering, if somewhat benign, at the time.

    The motive seems to have been arguments that started happening almost right from the beginning about whether or not the Parker-Watson marriage should even be maintained. Gerry Conway seems to have gutted his own earlier clone story with the intent of depriving other authors of the option to use the Gwen-clone as a way of splitting the Parker-Watson marriage. Conway preempted this by saying that there never really was a Gwen-clone at all.

    While I can sympathize with the motive of preserving the Parker-Watson marriage, this was a very damaging precedent which paved the way for first the wiping out of the Storm-Masters marriage and eventually for One More Day. Any sense of “tradition” in comics has to be prepared to respect old storylines. When that stops seeming natural, then the time has come to retire old characters and simply move on with new ones.

    If Jim Shooter had not been fired in 1987 then it’s more plausible that he might have simply given Spider-Man a tasteful retirement in the late 1980s to early 1990s. That would have been the perfect solution that would have avoided all of the clone-retcons and made One More day superfluous. The biggest criticism I can make of Stan Lee is that he opposed retiring his own characters when there was still time to do it right.

    December 26, 2020 at 3:01 pm

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