Thursday, June 30, 2016

Classic comic books trump new ones

I know I’m getting older when I regularly complain about how good things used to be.

Let’s take pop music, first off.

Because of a largely inferior and forgettable popular music that’s come out in the last 25 years, I’d much rather listen to classic rock or “golden oldies” radio stations or CDs.

In fact, that's pretty much all I listen to! You simply get to an age when you know what you like -- and that's it!

The tragically short-lived  "No Ordinary Family" is
a TV series well worth pursuing. Just expect no resolutiom
whatsover to the cliffhanger ending! 
The more I hear the current songs, the more I realize just how good the older stuff is.

The same goes for TV: I’d much rather watch repeat episodes of “Frazier,” “CSI,” “Home Improvement,” “Cheers,” “Law & Order” and “The Cosby Show” (to name a few), rather than invest time in new TV shows.

And besides, years ago I had the rotten luck of getting into two great superhero TV series that got axed rather abruptly, especially when they were rolling with great storytelling possibilities — namely “No Ordinary Family” and “Human Target.” (Go here for my review of the premiere of "No Ordinary Family," which was sadly on the air for one season on ABC.)

The same personal philosophy goes for reading comic books.

I'm confident I will read a great story when I pick up an issue published through about the late 1980s. The new stuff? Not so much.

I get much more enjoyment on a regular basis reading back issues rather than new material. (The big exception would be BATGIRL, in which writer Gail Simone just killed it with one enjoyable issue after another.)

For one, the writing in older issues is much tighter.

Also, the stories include more fight scenes per issue (which, let’s face it, is one of the reasons I started reading comics in the first place!), the writers have a better handle on their characters and the art is significantly far superior.

When I pick up present issues to puruse through them, the art is just flat. There might be a great story in there, but it’s hard to tell from bland artwork that doesn’t jump off the page — or cover — and grab my attention by the throat.

And realistically, it’s the art that sells comics.

Thus, the stories and comics of yesteryear are more enjoyable.

After writer Scott Snyder concluded his 11-issue “Court of Owls” storyline in BATMAN (which doesn’t include the unnecessary crossover for one month in the rest of the Batman family of titles), I was done.

There wasn't enough good stuff to keep me interested. And I wasn't about to pay for comics I wasn't enjoying. I've read a BATMAN issue here and there after "Court of Owls" and to say I wasn't impressed would be a massive understatement.

Overall, the "Court of Owls" was relatively enjoyable and kept me interested (mostly) — but it could have been told in five or six issues at the most. (Grade: B-)

That brings me to another "issue" I have current storytelling: Modern writers simply don't know how to write a one-issue story.

In a soon-to-go-to-trade industry, all the writers spread their stories over multiple issues. Most often, it seems like six is the magic number.

That being the case, modern scribes don't know how to write "tight," so their stories meander and don't capture the excitement of a tale told in fewer panels and certainly, many fewer issues.

Much more happens in two issues from comics in the mid- to late 1960s through late 1980s than ever happens in four or five current issues. That's something my Cary's Comics Craze readers have heard me say time and time again ...!

And likely, those older issues are much more enjoyable and will hold the attention and imagination of countless fans for years more than any current or recent storyline do or will.

Over the course of a couple years, I caught up on Batman-related issues, John Byrne’s lengthy FANTASTIC FOUR run, the 1978-1982 IRON MAN issues and Jim Shooter’s and Steve Englehart’s fantastic AVENGERS adventures — just to name a just few.

It’s been pure joy to read them. I’m so grateful those issues are a part of my collection (especially at the rock-bottom prices I snagged them for!).

What a thrill it is to know I own them!

Sadly, I can't say the same thing on a regular basis with newer comics.

Most recently, I was really digging what writer Mark Waid -- one of the best in the industry, no matter the time frame -- was doing with ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS. As quirky as it was, I enjoyed it and looked forward to each issue. I even told Waid that at the Gem City comic book convention in Dayton, Ohio!

Then for some reason in the last couple issues, the series went from "all-new and all-different" to just "blah." A lot of my sudden lack of interest might have had to do with artist Adam Kubert leaving the series; after all, comic books are a visual artform!

So I did nothing more than tell my local comic book shop owner to stop pulling that title.

Many times with modern comics I start out collecting a series only to realize I should have had the patience -- not to mention the foresight -- to wait until that series came out in trade paperback. (Everything these days goes to trade, usually about six months after the first issue.)

That's what I should have done with the six-issue BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINA TURTLES limited series. I graded the first issue a solid "B." About halfway into it, I realized I would have saved money by being patient and checking it out in trade.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the DC Comics/IDW Publishing crossover series. I'm just not sure I enjoyed it enough to have paid for each issue as it was released. Who knows -- I might read all the issues again much later and be glad I have them. Live and learn!

When it comes to current issues, I often wonder why I bother. The new stuff is just bound to let me down.

New stories just don’t resonate with me like the Silver Age and Bronze Age issues do.

Usually, the current material is solid at best — but not altogether memorable, much less unforgettable.

Every once in a while, a series really captures the fun of bygone eras and nails each and every character; that's the case with Waid's DAREDEVIL run. Great, memorable stuff there! It's worth getting every issue.

Again, another exception would be BATGIRL, which under Simone, was a classic run in the making.

Also, Barbara Gordon -- despite just getting back in the crimefighting game -- is dishing out some serious hurtin’ on each and every bad guy or girl she encounters — thugs or the big meanies. And artist Ardian Syaf knows how to draw an age-appropriate Gordon/Batgirl, yet still have her look smokin' hot. (Is it any wonder I include Babs in my "Hottest of the Hotties" series?!)

There’s little doubt I’ll eventually go back and re-read my issues published in the last 15 or so years — but likely only after I’ve devoured the older material for the umpteenth time.

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