Thursday, January 3, 2013

On the Nature of the Industry: Free Association.

Where Mutantkind's Utopia has produced a GMO seed to wipe out world hunger, you can bet Monsanto's watching.

Remember, Comic Books are Big Money now. 

It's gotten to the point that it's lazy to even allude to the tag line ("Comics are not for kids anymore") so frequently and freely repeated as an introduction by lazy journalists over the years for their hum-drum research of the new mature themes expressed by the once-chemically-castrated medium. It's an industry joke to just say comics aren't for kids.  When were they last for kids? Unless you're talking baby goats, there are no more kids. The Internet is raising this new batch as the Television raised those of us born into the ad-blasted 80's, and none of them are children. Even the simple reference parenthetical presented here is simply to conjure the final nail in its coffin, on a tapestry of blog blubber. 

Nobody gets to use that term which shall not be repeated.  Anymore. Ever.

Your average mainstream comic book is for two kinds of people. Teenagers and people with the same interests as teenagers (though, in Reality a divergence of sex and age and status ever-expanding, providing a common watering hole of nerd culture expressed in 10,000 neon Pokemon balls of media, much of it becoming interactive in a new and initially awkward way, most meeting the aesthetics ranges expected from medium to major overweight/out-of-shape/ malformed/ mutated service industry hopefuls). Intangibles emerge immediately. The service of these forms is exemplified in the minute variance of theme available  (many notable exceptions notwithstanding) in mainstream comic book media. The Gangster Ethics that Alan Moore describes prescribes a thuggish glare to the industry that often accompanies fame for these age-old standing standards of character, or lack thereof. These are stories that most often struggle with the idea of the Hero's Journey, attempting to subvert or integrate it through the use of panels and script.  

Heroes are heroes, but the Big Two share a copyright on "superhero" so that is, for the most part, what they have made a point of presenting over the century or so since the medium was first developed in a Yiddish fever dream, and these garish supergods spilled from our third eyes and onto our experiments in the second dimension, where the ink still boils... but the concept of superheroes is off-limits, technically. If labeling a superhuman creatively,you generally have free reign to call them metas. Or mutates. Mutants has the X connotations, another trademark alley exchange. Superhuman is itself an adjective, it is the act of being super in your heroics that everything breaks down. Superheroes, Heaven forbid anyone get hold of that outside of the rigid patriarchal monotone conditioning of a company in the tender clutches of a media conglomorate

You'd think it'd get tiring after a while, but comic books  draw from and speak to something primal in our psyche and by extension culture and society that no other medium does with quite the same smirk in your mind's eye. As Grant Morrison noted in an interview with the Onion A.V. Club, the combination of text and image on a page presented in a sequential format creates a hologram in the mind of the reader. 

When one reads a comic book, as much as if not more than in the instance of a standard novel, there is a creation of voice and noise where there seems to be only silence, but moreover there is a sense of image and movement that cannot be replicated in any medium, something to do with a thing McCloud called "the gutter". Moore has a great deal to say on the topic as well, in The Mindscape of Alan Moore, but we don't have five hours here to get into the intricacies of that (for now). Let's look at the history first, being mindful that comic books are a wholly unique medium that stand apart and in several cases above all other media, in terms of human collaboration, internal exploration, and general aesthetics.

It's due to the auspices of panicky McCarthyism that the mainstream superheroes we're just now coming to terms with in Megaplex Excursions were born. Developed in this Era of Cold Warriors, the Comics Code Authority was like a vice-grip on the balls of creativity, for the "sake of the children", which immediately infantilized the medium as a whole. A sense of surreality in culture was expressed in the acid-washed sixties of loose hook-ups and rainbows of irony and nostalgic sadness. Nobody even considered what it meant to be Captain America, goodhearted weakling turned Imperialist Liberator, or Superman, the Overman come to life in bold primary colors.  

Here we have an industry with its roots tangled tightly around brightly-lit lurid spandex creatures bred by men of subnormal intelligence, who were underpaid for their futile efforts, vilified at dinner parties, ripped off and bound in a rinky-dink contract that hardly provided for enduring legacy... These are the roots of the current standard of mainstream comics, and though considerable strides have been made this has marked the industry in toto. The current standard? You better be able to write for mainstream television if you write for comics. You don't need to even graduate from high school, though. You better be able to get along with other writers. As an artist, it is really spectacular if you are from another country. Overseas. South America if at all possible. It's also an industry to be flexible in. And careful. The Internet will immortalize your failures and your accomplishments side by side, with robots in the comment section arguing about something irrelevant.

We're past all that now, or so we'd like to think. We have stronger female role models within the story. Women do read comics. A great number of adults read comics and enjoy them on a regular enough basis. THEY TAKE TIME OUT OF THEIR DAY TO SIT AND ENJOY THE MAGIC OF WORDS AND IMAGES COMBINING. Mainstream Comics today are infinitely adaptable while remaining rigid within the Status Quo, insofar as they can resurrect their own characters to fit any storyline (or clone them, or rewrite history itself to nullify marriage contracts, in order to avoid the messy and potentially controversial issues that on occasion come up in the editorial bullpens). In this manner comics become an infinite game, and suffer from the drawbacks as such. So long as collaborators exist to produce them, they will be created regardless of their content, so a fair portion can be considered deadline pap, at best. This is all tangential to the real point. Comics are Big Money, now. 

Since Disney bought Marvel, you'd better believe that making that business investment palatable is a number one priority, but there is also likely a sense of freedom in some manners that have allowed for an interesting progression for different camps, those writers with enough clout in the Marvel pits to have played musical chairs, to some success and some "we'll see". Bendis can still draw everyone into an Ultron Soup.  

And in the meantime, the rise and fall of DC Comics has come and gone. A new Universe with a new set of rules, for the fifth time or more, COIE the only standard for the limitless reboot, conceived by the continuity conscious Alan Moore then retooled as the means to explain how octogenarian superheroes can be translated into the rough trade of the Megamillions post-Star Wars Money Cage. 

In the end, we'll see the law of diminishing returns at times, but the pendulum always swings the other way in the end. Comics will mature as a medium while somehow maintaining a bond with the vox populi by virtue of its aforementioned ingratiating nature. Comics cure an itch in the mind of many, and all the results, fair or foul, are reflected back into the medium immediately. Reflexive containment of a conceptual structure. Word bubbles and snapshots of moments in memory. Let's take it as seriously as we are able, and laugh where it is appropriate.

Even money says this goes down in history as the single grossest Joker scene of all time. Thanks.

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