Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: What Gives You Comic Book Fatigue?

November 20, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Marvel Avengers vs X-Men

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. If you enjoy reading or discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. I throw out a subject, you comment below. Easy. Let’s get started. 

Previously on…

Last time we asked, Is Superman Tough to Write?. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Tayo Jones: “Superman is not tough to write. The problem is that most modern writing just don’t understand Superman. He is a beacon of hope and optimism. He cares for everyone, even his worse enemies. He is not a killer or an overpowered dumb strong man. He is a compassionate hero who always fights for what is right. Why is that so hard to grasp?”

Jeremiah Ashcroft: “I may be wrong, but I thought Superman was weak to magic. I feel like there’s not enough utilization of that.”

Steed: “John Byrne wrote him quite compellingly I felt.”

Lariat Tubman: “He’s tough to write if you’re uninventive. A Superman story has limitless potential. You can literally take that character through space and time.”

Ken Wood: “All characters are tough to write. Writing in general is difficult. Making layered, multidimensional characters is probably the most important part of any story. The story itself isn’t actually as important as the characters in the story.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Superman. I really did enjoy the death and reign of Superman stories, but that’s about it, from what I’ve read. The movies have been a mixed bag, I loved the old ones when I was a kid. I also enjoyed Superman Returns. It wasn’t amazing but I felt it was better than a lot of people gave it credit for.

For me, too many people seem to worry about making Superman vulnerable and forget about just giving us a cast full of enjoyable characters. Make us care about all the characters in the comics and movies and we’ll sign up for the ride, regardless of how vulnerable he is. He doesn’t need to be dark, or edgy, or whatever they’ve been trying to do with him over the past decade.

Superman in the old movies reminds me of Cyclops, my favorite X-Men. He’s just a guy with a good heart trying his best in a complicated world. I still think of Superman flying to those trumpets in the movies with such nostalgia, knowing that he’d never give up no matter how desperate things got. The new Superman movies just don’t make me feel anything.”

OldManBrown: “No Superman is not hard to write for if you are a good writer. The mythos for him has been explored over and over again successfully for the better part of this century. That success comes not just the character but the writers that delivered it.

The challenge is NEW stories to tell and the better the writer the better the story.”

Krunchy: “Superman is hard to write in today’s world, where they are trying to have continuity and realism, two things that weren’t an issue for the first 40-50 years of his existence.

For instance, Superman battles a big huge space bug from another galaxy. It causes damage to many buildings, wrecks the commuter rail, and finally Superman takes a silo filled with DDT and dumps it on the critter in a lake just outside Metropolis. Then next week you buy a comic where he battles a evil, intelligent monkey and the city is back to the way it was.

I think the current movies did a good job of analyzing that part of it where now, you would have the politicians complaining of how much damage Supes caused, and people protest the dumping of chemicals into the water supply. There are others that would question his motives, and if something happened; say the school shooting that happened today .. “Where was Superman to stop this from happening?” It’s probably more existential and moral issues that can weaken Supes now than kryptonite.

And don’t fool yourself in thinking the writing has always been good. Seeing a ton of bad comic covers from the 50’s and 60’s of Batman and Superman, it was very hack writing and a precursor to click bait. “Oh no, Lois Lane is now a centaur and can NEVER be a complete woman again!” And in the 2000’s Superboy, how many times did they write a “mutants of the week” episode?”

Robert Stewart: “People say Superman is too hard to write because he’s too powerful. That’s assuming the entire point of comics books is punch-ups. To be fair, that DOES make Superman hard to write if that is your mindset. But, to be fair, Superman is SUPPOSED to be the most powerful character ever. That’s how you tell GOOD stories with him.

The point of Superman isn’t “How will he defeat (X)?”. Who cares? The point of Superman is that when you are powerful enough to save anyone or stop anything, how do you emotionally deal with the fact that it’s impossible to save EVERYONE? For all his power, he’s still one man, and he isn’t omnipresent.

Additionally there is the “Benevolent Protector vs Oppressive Dictator” angle. Superman is all about walking that line and the decisions he must face EVERY DAY to decide on what side to err.

And finally, there’s the immigrant aspect. He is a hero, but humanity has turned on him multiple times because they are easily led to believe he is scary because he is different. That’s amazingly relevant to the modern day.

So he’s only hard to write if all you care about is fisticuffs. Aside from that, he has the best potential in comics.”

El Atomico: “I mean, I’ve never tried to write a Superman story, but I’ve never been a fan partially because he was just too invincible. Same reason I lost interest in Hulk Hogan after a few years in the eighties.
Having said that, I haven’t read any Superman comics since the 80’s, and it sounds like there have been a lot of stories that his fans have really liked.”

Too many great comments to share. Go back and see for yourself. Also, as always, thanks for the input!

This week we ask…

What Gives You Comic Book Fatigue?

I originally was going to do a Best Superman Stories column but it became so long that I’ll need to edit it down. Instead, I’ll change the focus to what we’re tired of in comics. Don’t worry, next week is things we’re thankful for so get out the negative stuff here.

For now, what I’m looking at are some comic book standards that need to take a break. First up is everyone’s favorite…Events.

How many times have we mentioned event fatigue is grinding down fans? Crisis on Infinite Earths, Legends, Millennium, Cosmic Odyssey, Invasion!, Armageddon 2001, War of the Gods, Eclipso: The Darkness Within, The Death and Return of Superman, Knightfall, Bloodlines, Trinity, Worlds Collide, Zero Hour, The Final Night, Genesis, DC One Million, Our Worlds at War, Silver Age, Identity Crisis, DC Comics Presents, Infinite Crisis, 52, World War III, Countdown to Final Crisis, Final Crisis, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, Flashpoint, Trinity War, Forever Evil, Contest of Champions, Secret Wars, Secret Wars II, Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, Evolutionary War, Inferno, Atlantis Attacks, Acts of Vengeance, X-Tinction Agenda, Muir Island Saga, The Infinity Gauntlet, Operation: Galactic Storm, Infinity War, X-Cutioner’s Song, Rise of the Midnight Sons, Infinity Crusade, Maximum Carnage, Fatal Attractions, Bloodties, Child’s Play, Phalanx Covenant, Starblast, Fall of the Hammer, Clone Saga, Legion Quest, Age of Apocalypse, Onslaught Saga, Heroes Reborn, Flashback, Operation: Zero Tolerance, The Hunt for Xavier, The Magneto War, Maximum Security, Apocalypse: The Twelve, X-Men: Eve of Destruction, Infinity Abyss, Avengers Disassembled, House of M, Civil War, Annihilation, World War Hulk, Annihilation Conquest, Messiah CompleX, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, War of Kings, Siege, The Thanos Imperative, Fear Itself, Avengers vs. X-Men, Age of Ultron, Infinity, House of X / Powers of X

And that’s not even all of them. True, some are better than others but just looking at the above, that’s a lot of events over the years. How much impact did these events have short-term and long-term? Each event seems to be a set-up for the next one and too often you have a couple issues that nothing seems to happen. Not only that, you often have to pick up individual issues of a particular book just to get an idea of what’s happening. Events are quickly losing their power and while they still give a quick boost to sales, diehard fans usually avoid the hype. That’s only going to grow more as both Marvel and DC will tie there cinematic universes and comic universes together and start mega-crossover events that retcon all we know and love. The day is coming.

Speaking of retcons, just because we’re used to them doesn’t make them any more likable. Hal Jordan’s Emerald Twilight, Teenage Iron Man, Spider-Man’s One More Day/Brand New Day, Identity Crisis..I could go on listing but we all have that retcon that’s like a thorn in our side. Can anyone tell me how many times Hawkman has been retconned? How about the X-Men? I get it though. Sometimes you have to fix bad writing. Too often they fix it with poor planning and even poorer writing. All one needs to do is to pick up the latest issue of Green Lantern to start the process of figuring out what DC is doing with Jordan.

What happens when a retcon doesn’t work? RELAUNCH! Why? Because everyone knows that when you relaunch, you’re able to slap a #1 on the cover and those sell! Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Thor, name just about any big name title and chances are they have a number of relaunches under their belt. New creative team? RELAUNCH! New direction? RELAUNCH! New costume? RELAUNCH!

If it’s not a relaunch then it’s an unnecessary spin-off or multiple books. Wolverine was the poster child of this trend back in the day. But we don’t have to look far (Deadpool, X-Men, Green Lantern) to see this practice is alive and well today.

Which leads into death in comics. The majority of readers know that when they announce a character is dying that really means that they are going away for a while but will be back. Eventually. Wolverine is a perfect example of this. With all mutants new status quo in the Marvel universe, expect this one to get plenty of action in the near future.

Let me cut in and say that I don’t denounce all of these items across the board. We do get some cool relaunches and spin-offs from time to time. Rare. But it happens.

At the end of the day, I’m a comic book fan. From helping me learn to read (seriously!) to giving me a respite and allowing me to meet some really cool people, comic books are awesome.

What’s giving you fatigue in today’s comic book world?

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!