Isn’t it amazing to see so many comic book movies available? Not too long ago, we had Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher or the bad taste of Schumacher Batman films making comics look bad. Now it seems like every year there’s a new flick taken from the pages of our favorite funny books. Some of them are gold, others totally miss the mark, but it still gets unknown characters out into the public consciousness.
That doesn’t mean people are reading the books.
Sure, the movies help, but there are still those who would rather read the movie adaptation of Batman Begins than an actual Batman comic. To the uninitiated, the wide world of comics can seem a rather daunting task. Long gone are the days of a higher issue number on a book giving the reader a sense of security; now it’s first issues or nothing, and when some are into the 600s, the average Joe might shy away, thinking he’s missed something in those last hundred stories. In fact, there are a dozen misconceptions the public has against comics, no matter how they flock to the new Spider-Flick. It just seems like a rather insular little world, so the comics must be for those Other People.
But if the topic is broad enough, familiar enough, you can rope a few folks in. I started in the wide world of Star Trek comics because I’m a huge Trekkie and in my youth, I was more familiar with Spock or Picard than I was with the X-Men. Eventually, I picked up an extra book with my usual Trek pick, and the rest is history. While some might scoff at the idea of a comic book for every cult TV show these days, it really does bring people in because of the familiarity. Hey, dedicating an hour of your life to a TV show each week is significantly easier that digging through back issues and testing yourself on a 30-year history of a guy in tights. Ultimate Spider-Man takes it a step further and gets new readers a little closer to the Top Two’s collections by reinventing that 30-year history altogether. By redressing the heart of the Spider-Man character in more modern trappings, it makes new readers feel like they’re getting in on the ground floor, retracing the steps of characters we know and love.
Books for people who don’t like comics keep things fresh and interesting, in my opinion, and keep us from looking too much like the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. There is literally a comic out there for everyone, all tastes and colors. This, I don’t have to tell you, is a good thing. But can it go too far? Can we cater too much to the anti-reader and leave the fan behind?
The more I read Civil War, the more I realize that this book is not for me. In fact, it’s not really about comics at all. It’s more about political strife and conflict than Iron Man and Captain America. It’s a story that is almost independent of the universe it’s set in. Millar even admitted that some of the ideas pulled for Civil War were for an independent book he wanted to do later on and he was just lucky enough to have Marvel let him borrow their sandbox. The story comes first, the setting and characters after.
Now, taken as a book for people who like real-life dramas such as the West Wing, this is great. At least for my store, it’s pulled in a lot of new readers and people who haven’t read comics since their youth. Characters are less icons and more people with familiar names who are so broadly acted and expressed that it doesn’t ask you to know that Spider-Man really didn’t need a new costume or that cloning a comrade without their consent is something out of character for the rather moral Reed Richards. All the average Joe needs to know is that Peter owes Tony for the special thing he gave him and that Reed is super smart to create something like a cloned God. It shows how far both sides will go in all of this and are rather important points for the drama of the story.
Mind you, for everyone else who’d been following the books faithfully all these years who notice the cracks in character and the rather railroading of plot going through all of the books… well, it feels like we’re being shoved out for the new guys. Attention to details has been ridiculed, notes to continuity have been ignored and sales are doing fine. If this was an outside event or a series of What If?s then everyone would go home happy; new readers get a taste of the Marvel Universe and fans can still pick up a copy of Amazing Spider-Man and expect good ol’ Peter Parker fighting for the common man.
Comics should have a broad appeal and for the most part, they do. Just don’t forget the loyal followers who have enjoyed everything that’s been done up to now. It’s important to forge ahead with change for the future, just don’t forget the past. Even when the past is just a few issues ago. Seriously, guys.