The Abyss Gazes Back
My fans respond! And I love them for it.
First, though, let me say this: I am, by definition, a Modern Age fan. By this I mean, there are comics that were published after the Silver Age ended that I like and think highly of. There are writers who have worked in comics in the Modern Age whose Modern Age work I enjoy, admire, and respect. Therefore, again, by definition, I am a Modern Age fan.
When I write derisively of the Modern Age, I do not speak of every single panel, caption, and/or word balloon that has ever been published in a Marvel comic book since GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1, or a DC comic book since CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Hell, I can’t even honestly say I loathe every swoosh line, impact star, or heavily inked spot black in all the Image Comics ever printed, since Alan Moore actually wrote quite a few good comics under that imprint, near impossible though that is to believe from almost any remove.
Similarly, when I write in glowing, majestic terms of the Silver Age, I am not necessarily heaping unconditional praise and brilliant accolades on every single pencil stroke, ink line, and beautiful Artie Simek lettered sound effect ever to appear on a spinner rack in the 60s and 70s. Well, okay, yes, all the Artie Simek lettering was fabulous, that’s irrefutable. But still, nobody who has ever read an issue of MARVEL TEAM UP and who is remotely sane could possibly claim that every single comic published in the Silver Age was a tremendous achievement in the graphic storytelling form. For that matter, virtually every title DC published during the infamous DC Explosion experiment, from BLACK LIGHTNING through STALKER to KOBRA to SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPERVILLAINS was, frankly, appalling. And the less said about BROTHER POWER THE GEEK the better, of course, of course.
So I am, to a certain extent and within the legal definition, a Modern Age fan… but it must be admitted, my primary allegiance is to the Silver Age, I am a Silver Age zealot, a Silver Age fanatic, a resident and denizen and citizen of the Silver Age. What stories I like from the Modern Age often contain Silver Age sensibilities; the stories I loathe the most from the Modern Age are, in nearly every particular, the anathema of the Silver Age. And when I say that, I mean many things, but here are a few of them:
In the Silver Age, writing mattered. Some of the most intelligent, sophisticated, and brilliantly written stories ever done in comics were done in the Silver Age, because way back then, nobody assumed that simply because the average comics reader was in his or her teens, that meant they were chuckleheaded overstimulated emotionally retarded morons who would buy anything that had a foil cover, and avoid anything that required a fifth grade reading comprehension level. Back then, no one had yet declared that All Teen Age Comic Book Fans Are Dipshits, and tailored their material to suit that preconception. Difficult though that is to believe, yes, Virginia, once upon a time there was an age prior to Image Comics, and in that age, smart, sophisticated, complex superhero comics filled with exciting and interesting concepts were written and published, and teenagers actually bought, read, understood, and enjoyed them.
In the Silver Age, heroes were actually heroic. I know. I just lost every Modern Age reader I might have had; every single one of them just leapt for the gunwales, screaming and clawing to get off this boat before it steams steadily off the edge of the their belovedly amoral world. “Heroic heroes?” they sneer in contemptuous derision as they frantically clamber over the transom, “dude, that’s stupid! Heroic heroes don’t have claws, or samurai swords, or automatic weapons, or flechette grenades, or particle beams embedded in their lower colons! They don’t break people’s backs or rip people’s hearts out, fry people to a crisp or slice people open! Heroic heroes? That’s CRAZY TALK!!! If heroes were heroic, what would I have to beat off to? Where would I get my carnage? NOOOOOOO!!!”
It’s an old riff, I know. One well pummeled into oblivion by now. I bring it up, understanding it is pointless, knowing full well it will be ignored. But it lets me segue into another point that is, perhaps, not quite so cliché regarding the difference between heroes of the Silver Age, and their Modern Age counterparts:
Back in the Silver Age, heroes actually had jobs.
This is something I only recently came to realize, but it’s nonetheless very true. My Silver Age icons all worked for a living. Even the really really rich ones, like Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne, still had careers they put a lot of effort into when they weren’t inside the super suits. Silver Age heroes pulled their weight and did their share, even when they weren’t out saving the entire universe from Fin Fang Foom.
This is a pronounced contrast to the Modern Age, where all the most popular heroes are slackers. They sit around with no visible means of support, playing video games and eating Cheetohs in between world saving adventures, and often, when evil rears its ugly head, they have to be cajoled, conned, or even threatened into getting off their asses and doing something about it by Older, Wiser (and therefore More Boring) Heads.
This is in large part symptomatic of why I generally loathe the Modern Age. All comics fans, regardless of Age, favor heroes that represent what we aspire to be. In the Silver Age, this meant heroes who were admirable and likable, men and women of ideals and accomplishments, folks who did things, big things, great things, who had a positive impact and made a social contribution.
In the Modern Age, however, the most popular ‘heroes’ are, well, parasites and layabouts, whiney wanks with no manners and few morals, lewd, rude, crude dudes with ‘tude -- defiant, petulant, truculent, and emotionally (and often physically) adolescent. They goof off, they sleep in, they (mis)behave, in fact, like exactly what they are: perpetual brats without the slightest shred of scruples or sense of responsibility. They are Titans of Tantrum and Sultans of Sulk. They posture, they sneer, they snigger, they leer.
They are… and I cannot tell you how much this appalls me… exactly what their target demographic wishes most fervently to be.
Of course, when I say that such characters represent the entirety of the Modern Age, I exaggerate. Actually, the eternally adolescent slacker non-hero supplies only a portion of the Modern Age non-heroic gestalt. The remainder is made up of the ultraviolent super-psycho – that fine fellow (or, I suppose, femme) who rampages about in a fine frothing frenzy (or in a cold, clinical, calculating… something that starts with a hard ‘c’ sound, I don’t know, get a thesaurus, do I have to do all the work around here?), distributing deadly force by the dumptruckful to every mob boss, drug dealer, loan shark, child molester, and t-shirt or turban wearing terrorist that walks, crawls, limps, scuttles, or hijacks an airliner within a thousand mile radius of him/her.
Oddly, most of your nutjob homicidal lunatic uber-vigilante types don’t have jobs, either. They just rove the Earth in armored black vehicles festooned with great big fetishistic symbols of a violent nature, living on moonbeams and apparently manufacturing bullets, bombs, and shuriken out of the very ether itself.
Nonetheless, I will admit, only a vanishingly small fraction of Modern Age fandom actually wants to be one of these guys. However, it’s not really morality or a sense of social responsibility that keeps the rest of them from aspiring to be a psychotic serial killer with a costume and a machine gun… it’s just that that stuff looks way too much like work to really appeal to them. They’d much rather just sit around in the clubhouse with Bart and Conner, playing HALO and leering at whoever happens to be calling herself Wonder Girl that week.
All of this has enormously to do with my general distaste, contempt, scorn, hatred, and loathing of and for the vast majority of stories that have been published within the perimeters of that era I refer to, generally through clenched teeth and often while spitting, as the Modern Age.
But I have never, not once, not anywhere, not on any occasion or at any particular nexus of time and space, claimed comprehensively that every story, every writer, every artist, and every editor ever employed in superhero comics during the Modern Age entirely and absolutely sucked. Nor, for that matter, have I ever stated the adverse, which is to say, that every creator creating and each creation created within the glorious parameters of the astonishingly epochal Silver Age was, in fact, transcendentally godlike in its awesome artistic power. There are many Silver Age writers and artists who are just barely adequate, and a small but discernible number that actually stink out loud and on ice.
And, for that matter, there are a very very few Silver Age writers, artists, and editors who were so horrifyingly, dreadfully, appallingly bad at their jobs that if being bad at your job was an actual crime, they’d be doing triple life without parole…and trust me, if that were so, superhero comics would be much the better for it, too.
So, yeah, there are good Modern Age stories, and yeah, sure, there are bad Silver Age ones. But the proportions are, well… honestly, they’re just disproportional.
And, obviously, this is all just my opinion. And it is possible that I may have exaggerated my claims, a tiny little bit, to make my overall point. (Which would, you know, be an absolute first on the Internet. Try not to faint. Wait, let me stand back and give you air.)
Regardless, however, nonetheless, notwithstanding, and, probably, a few other phrases meaning, basically, ‘but’ -- in my entirely arrogant and absolutely unabashedly snotty opinion, for whatever it may be worth to whoever may be reading this, most of what has happened in the course of the Modern Age has been a degradation and a diminution of the superhero comics genre. You can argue with that if you like, you can dispute it if you choose, you can disregard it if you must, but I will continue to think and feel that this is the essential underlying truth of the Modern Age in every fiber of my being, regardless of your feeble and utterly self indulgent need to live on the shores of Denial River.
You can loudly claim that Batman’s transformation from World’s Greatest Detective to World’s Greatest Facebreaker represents a quantum leap forward in quality comics storytelling. You can shrilly insist, if such you wish, that Aquaman turning from noble altruistic battler of pirates and all sea faring criminals to a sneering, posturing prick who inundates populated areas with tidal waves in fits of pique is a tremendous leap for the superheroic art form. You can insist that Superman sniveling about everyone wanting a piece of him, Hawkman becoming a patricidal junkie, the Legion of Superheroes being rebooted every 6.7 picoseconds, the Ultimate Captain America impaling elderly men on the nose-spires of fighter jets, the Ultimate Wasp flashing her tits at the Ultimate Hulk, and the all wise, all enlightened Guardians of the Universe selecting a Green Lantern on the basis of how much hair gel he wears, all represent incredible and brilliant innovations in the comic book continuum.
You can scream it, shout it, tell the world about it… but I simply don’t believe it, and frankly, I don’t think you really believe it, and I don’t respect you for insisting on it in the face of all evidence to the contrary. To me, this steady darkening, this grim n’ grittification, this rising level of self indulgence in the most negative and pernicious of antisocial, unappetizing and egregiously immoral impulses on the part of superhero comics is destructive and abrasive to the human spirit. It is, to put it as bluntly and simply as possible, a wrong thing, and it strikes me as being an atrocity and an obscenity that very nearly rises to the level of blasphemy.
Superhero comics, for all their essential inherent childishness, were once a celebration of the heights to which the human spirit could aspire.
Now, they are, for the vast most part, a wallow in the worst extremes of degradation, decadence, and debauchery. They teach nothing, they inspire no one, they aspire to nothing. There is no art to this art form any longer. Thirty years ago, the entire industry decided to thrust its hand into its underarm and make fart noises, and that is, for the most part, all that it has done ever since.
There is greatness in the Modern Age, to be sure… it’s just that when you find it, it’s like coming across a thin current of gold streaming through an ocean of shit. Even the finest Modern Age writers wallow too much in darkness and degradation; for every “Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow” that a brilliant writer like Moore gives us, we have to suffer through two hundred issues of PUNISHER or WOLVERINE or, for the love of God, YOUNG JUSTICE. For every uplifting story of human achievement that Alan Brennert or Geoff Johns offers up, there are a thousand stories where some badly Xeroxed Wolverine or Hulk or Spider-Man or Punisher rip-off breaks the spine or tears the entrails out of some hapless rapist or schoolyard bully. For every Modern Age comic book that makes me want to smile, or laugh, or nod in appreciation, there are dozens or hundreds that simply make me want to gag, or puke, or shake my head in appalled disgust.
And all of this, every last bit of it, is the fault of the Modern Age fans who love that shit, who can’t get enough of that shit, who, as someone in my comment threads very recently put it, votes with their wallets for that shit.
Which is why I have absolutely no respect whatsoever for the Modern Age fans who love that shit, and why I continually bait such fans on this blog page, and elsewhere.
And now, having concluded my preface, let’s bring on The Modern Age Fans their damn selves:
Someone named Rjwhite, posting at http://www.livejournal.com/community/seebelow/139314.html, cogently states the following:
“I know I've posted a few of these, but they still confuse me to a certain extent. This guy has his wrapup of Infinite Crisis and as opposed to that other silver-age obsessed guy who hates it, this one loves the heck out of it-“
Then he pulls a couple of paragraphs of mine from a much longer post, which, you know, I love, because there’s nothing anyone likes more than being taken out of context, especially for purposes of being denigrated behind one’s back. Here’s what he posted of mine:
In fact, Johns is a lot like Moore, he just doesn't seem to feel the need to paint Silver Age icons with three coats of shit in order to generate drama....
I should note that I don't expect anyone to answer all these questions, or even any of them, since my constant, well deserved abuse of Modern Age fans has no doubt driven any and all of them who used to drive by this blog shrieking away into the nether void. But that's okay. The nether void is where they all belong... and anyway, from what I can see, they may as well get comfortable there, because the Silver Age is making a big comeback at DC.
And I couldn't be happier about it.
And then, with admirable articulation for a Modern Age fan, he wonders, wistfully:
“Okay. I like some of the silver age stuff. I like some of the modern age stuff. Why is it an angry, either/or proposition for these guys? Why does it all have to be giant typewriters and magic rings, or else the comics should be burned? There was crap then, there's crap now. There were great things written/drawn then, there are great things written/drawn now. What is the deal with this mindset? It kind of reminds me of an uncle who told me once when I was a kid, that he refused to watch any film more tha five years old. It just seems so limiting.”
Fair questions, deftly delivered. Why, indeed, does it have to be giant typewriters and magic rings, or else the comics should be burned? Beats me. Speaking only for myself, I don’t know a single Silver Age fan, much less me, who thinks it all has to be giant typewriters and magic rings (and, in a slight digression, I’m thinking Giant Typewriters and Magic Rings sound more Golden Age-esque than Silver Agey, but, what the hell, you can’t expect a Modern Age fan to keep all that crap straight, after all, it all happened before BEVERLY HILLS 90210 was on, so who cares anyway?)
So I would say it doesn’t have to be all Giant Typewriters and Magic Rings Or Else The Comics Should Be Burned. What it has to be (Or Else The Comics Should Be Burned) is Well Written, With Heroic Heroes.
Got that? Or should I find smaller words?
Now, further down RJ’s comment threads, CalamityJon does some of my work for me, pointing out rather neatly that –
“Naturally, it works in reverse as well. I've participated in discussions (which have taken place on the internet, and therefore are 'arguments') where someone might say, for instance, "I'd prefer to read a Batman comic where he doesn't feel it's necessary to shoot the Joker in the crotch and then jam the tip of his sharpened steel-toed Batboot into his ballsac and grind it until the Joker dies of heart failure," and someone will respond "It's not the silver age any more, grow up!!!"
This is, I believe, an excellent point (and wittily written, too; bravo, CalamityJon, you are that rarest of all beings, A Modern Age Fan Who Can Actually Write). In fact, it seems to me that when Silver Age fans butt heads with Modern Age fans, it is generally the Modern Age fans who reach for their pistols first. They start shrieking and screaming badly spelled, exclamation mark laden death threats firstest and loudest, generally after no greater provocation than a mildly typed comment like “Well, sure, but I like my Green Lanterns with a little more intelligence and a little less styling mousse, thanks”.
Still, every once in a while you get what passes for an intelligent, reasonable Modern Age fan swimming amongst that previously mentioned ocean of shit that is the Modern Age itself. For example, here’s Kalinara, from my previous post’s comment threads, who takes some time away from plotting pornographic fan fic involving a threesome of sentient planets to opine:
My response was actually to Scipio not you, as it was his blog and I thought it would be rude to focus solely on your points.
Rude, and, well, futile, since my points are irrefutable, or, at the very least, beyond the abilities of any Modern Age fan to successfully refute, anyway. But, wait, she’s not done:
And sorry, I just didn't see the point of arguing Silver Age (or Golden Age) versus Modern Age with you. It's a matter of taste, that's all.
Yes, well, that’s very true, and her taste is for mindless carnage, contemptible non-heroes, and, it seems, amateur slash-fic involving the carnal interactions of intelligent celestial bodies. My taste, on the other hand, is for smart, complex, character driven plots, excellent dialogue, and heroes who behave heroically. (Okay, sure, I'll read any amateur slash-fic featuring Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl you may happen to have lying around, but planetary humping is just not my cup of tea, sorry.) By the very Jesus, let us not be judgmental. There eez, as they say in the old margarine commercials, no deeferance.
But… Holy Yammering Y’ung’uns, Batman! Is she STILL going on? It seems she is:
Personally I think Silver Age is vastly overrated. Golden Age characters appeal to me a lot more if you're going the nostalgia route.
And if she can tell the difference between the two, she’s at least one up on RJ. Give the woman her props.
And times and audiences change.
We love Modern Age fans here on the Satellite of Love, we do, we do. One of the reasons we love them so, is that they state the obvious with such style and panache. They do, they do.
Having said that in the snarkiest fashion available to me at the moment, let me add this: it’s all very well to say, with enormous if unconscious smugness, while still in one’s teen or early 20s, sitting in one’s happy comfortable little bed or dorm room safe within the sheltering wings of daddy’s paycheck, with all the heroes one has treasured since childhood still being happily and cheerfully published pretty much exactly as they have always been, that ‘times and audiences change’.
However, when you’re a few decades older and you’ve sat there and watched in hapless horror as all your beloved childhood companions are ruthlessly killed off, replaced by idiots, or rebooted in the most dreadful and appalling manners imaginable to the mind of men or monkeys, well, you’ll find yourself a great deal less complacent when mouthing bullshit, stupid ass, smirking platitudes like ‘And times and audiences change’.
Ah, but, give the lass credit: where most Modern Age fans have the attention span of a sand flea, our very own representative of the Kali-Yuga is yet to run out of steam. Harken:
As for say, Kyle Rayner, he *saved* the Green Lantern franchise. For whatever reason, DC did not believe Green Lantern was selling enough. This meant a change in front-person or cancellation. Whether you like the guy or not, he's the one who kept the line going so that in 2005, Johns could resurrect Hal in Rebirth.
A salient point. My response is three fold:
(a) Anything it takes Kyle Rayner to save isn’t worth saving.
(b) It didn’t take Kyle Rayner to save GREEN LANTERN, it took good writing, and maybe a fan favorite artist, rather than, you know, goddam Gerard Jones and Pat Broderick. I grant you, giving the power ring to an inept if beautiful dolt whose very incompetence would vastly appeal to a target demographic comprised almost entirely of inept incompetent dolts who all yearned for beauty was much, much easier than going out and getting a good writer and an interesting artist, but, well, the results have spoken for themselves… and, by the way, although it took more than a decade, we can now see that I am entirely correct: given a good writer and a good artist, Hal Jordan is perfectly capable of selling an acceptable number of comics.
(c) Anything it takes Kyle Rayner to save REALLY isn’t worth saving.
Some of us think there's more to "modern age" heroes than you seem to think.
Some of you think Vibe is a wonderful character, the word ‘constitutes’ has no ‘n’ in it, and my real name is Daniel Madigan. (Go back to RJ’s comment threads and scroll down for that particular example of idiocy.) Actually, I’m not sure I’d agree that ‘some of you think’ at all. Mostly, what Modern Age fans seem to do is emote melodramatically. And, you know, write slash fic about planets going down on each other. (Volcanic eruptions as the money shot? I'm just sayin.)
Wait. She’s admitting that she thinks a statement she has made disagreeing with me and supporting Modern Age fans is fine? Gosh. That’s very generous of her.
I've always liked Kyle, since Marz wrote him.
And this has nothing to do with Kyle’s fine, fine ass.
Johns never wrote him *in* Green Lantern after all.
There’s a point here somewhere, but honestly, I’m too tired to strain after it. And anyway, it’s not true; Geoff Johns HAS written Kyle in GREEN LANTERN, he’s done it recently, in the rebooted strip of that name.
I like Conner and Connor and even Bart.
I’m baffled. How did Angel’s son get into this discussion? Not that I mind, but man, he is DEFINITELY a Modern Age character… psycho, slacker, and perpetual adolescent, all rolled into one.
Oh, wait. She’s talking about Green Arrow Jr. Okay. Never mind; he’s an appalling snot.
Tim Drake is my favorite Robin, and Cassandra Cain and the modern age Huntress are great females in my opinion.
I like Tim Drake. I like him more now that Johns has written him, but I actually enjoyed his first couple of miniseries under Chuck Dixon (I think). I could do a whole article about how I’m greatly in FAVOR of seeing heroes age normally and grow into new roles, and have been for decades, and it’s the Modern Age fan who throws monster fits whenever anyone tries to inflict any maturity on their favorite brat-icons. But I won’t, I’ll just say, I like Tim, know little of Cassandra Cain, and nothing about the Modern Age Huntress…. But whoever she is, she can’t be as cool as the Silver Age Huntress, who was, after all, the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. I mean, how do you GET cooler than that?
But the way you worded your argument gave the impression that you would probably not be interested in our opinions. I apologize if that's not the case.
No apology necessary. I’m not interested in most Modern Age fan opinions, because most Modern Age fan opinions aren’t particularly well reasoned, and are generally abominably expressed. In Kalinara’s case, however, I’ll state that she’s only one for two. She certainly shows no capacity for lucid, rational analysis. But, on the other hand, she can construct a proper sentence and apparently knows how to use spell check, and that makes her very nearly a god(dess) among Modern Age fans.
But please don't act persecuted because we didn't see the point of arguing with you on Absorbascon. If you attack what we like blindly, why *should* we respond.
Well, I don’t feel persecuted, just smugly superior. And I have never attacked anything blindly; I support my opinions at length and with multiple examples (and no little modicum of stylish wit, as well). Which hardly matters, because few Modern Age fans have the attention span to read anything I write all the way through, and none I’ve encountered have the capacity to actually be persuaded by a rational point of view.
We'll respond with our wallets and buy the comics we like. Silver Age-rooted characters, Modern Age, or Golden Age-characters.
Yes. The Modern Age fan: They like crap, they want crap, they buy crap, and in direct response to this, the world fills up with crap crap crap. And, apparently, they are proud of it… or at least, this one is. Yay.
As for apathy, I think clearly that we've all got blogs to talk about what we like says otherwise.
I never said the Modern Age fan was apathetic about their favorite comics; just the opposite, in fact. What they are apathetic about is the notion of actually thinking about whether or not it’s healthy for them to avidly support such degenerate and despicable concepts and characters.
And, again… that’s why I have so much difficulty liking Modern Age fans, and why I really can’t respect any of them.
Still, some of their blogs are a great deal of fun to read.
And, all kidding aside, I do have to respect Kalinara for one more thing, other than her literacy: She's no coward. She talks to me to my face, instead of excerpting my stuff without notice and then pissing all over it behind my back.
Special True Believer Exclusive Bonus, in this issue only:
See me brilliantly analyze and define the perimeters of and essential underlying dichotomy betweenthe Silver Age and the Modern Age!
Stare in awestruck wonder and convulse in near constant gales of laughter as I bitch slap the living jesus out of a buncha dipshit Modern Age fan-turds!