Sunday, January 06, 2008

More Reasons Why Comics Make me Feel Like a Fool [Now With Manga!]

It's the weekend, I can go on about these sorts of things.

So perhaps you didn't hear about it, and why would you really, but Spider-Man recently had his marriage mystically annulled in the pages of his comic. Short and spoilerish, last year Aunt May got shot by a sniper, and after exhausting all options to save her, Peter literally makes a deal with the devil and accepts an offer made by Mephisto to save May's life at the cost of his marriage wiped from the collective memory. Oh, and and his 'never be the same!' unmasking from last year has also been undone, he's back to mechanical web-shooters and Harry Osborn is back from the dead for no discernible reason. Why does Mephisto decide to do this? Who knows. Why did no one consider that maybe Aunt May would say she's lived a full life and would want Peter to live his happily with Mary Jane? Because...well, because editorial needed people not to. I know bitching about editorial at superhero companies sacrificing logic so they can get the stories they need to sell more books is as useful as tits on a bull, but honestly. That's just ridiculous.

Now, I'm not going to argue whether or not ending the marriage was a good idea [I think it sucks donkey ass, but that's a matter of personal preference] but when even the writer of the story dislikes how it was done, I think I'm allowed to argue the same.

In case you don't want to read that post, and why would you really, the gist is as follows: editorial told the writer, "It's magic, we don't have to explain it." Wow, deus ex machina much?

I hear you out there, Windsor: "Why do you care, Paper Trail? You haven't bought a comic in over a year."

This is true Windsor, but I fell for it for a long time, and crap like this leave a hell of an aftertaste. They were shilling the same loads of crap in 2005, and I munched up every bit. And I can look back now and see what a fool I was, and I wonder why no one else does the same.

Now, as I've established in other posts on the matter, the argument from comics aficionados typically goes like this:

"You might not like superhero comics, but have you tried alternative comics?"

"Yes, I have. I disliked them, too."

"Well, we'll find you something you like."

"I don't want to like anything. I had my phase, but I really think I'm over it."

"Nonsense. Poppycock. Fiddlefaddle. You can't be over comics. Comics are a medium! You can't hate a whole medium."

"Some people go their whole lives without reading a novel, I'm pretty sure I can ignore comics."

"Have you tried manga?"

Ohhh, manga. Before I got back into comics, Windsor, it was anime all day everyday for me, and working at the bookstore has only confirmed to me that I was never meant to be the anime and manga fan I thought I was. Hell, I even went to a convention for a few years, and every year as I waited in line, I quickly grew convinced that my friends and I were the coolest people there. The scary part was, so did everyone else, I'm sure of it. And now that I'm at the bookstore, I deal with suburban manga fans regularly, and it's really kind of sad to watch. When a woman in her mid 20's almost cries tears of joy when I find her the second volume of St. Lunatic High School, a comic targeted to 13-year-olds, how am I supposed to feel?

Lest you think I haven't tried, know that I have, Windsor. I have tried. I got through three volumes of Death Note on my breaks before the stilted writing ultimately drove me away. And that's my biggest problem with these quickie black and white tankubons: in an attempt for authenticity, because fans want it as close to the original as possible, they change as little as possible. So since manga is typically collected from weekly 8-10 page installments, you get mini recaps every ten pages. So page 50 might inform you that Sasuke has come to avenge his father, and page 51 tells you that yes, Sasuke has come to avenge his father. Do you know how irritating that gets after 200 pages? I mean, I read the colour Akira reprints Marvel put out in the 80s, I don't recall them being like this.

But ultimately what kills manga dead for me is the subject matter. Good Lord I am horrified that I used to like this stuff. With the exception of Tezuka's body of work and Junji Ito's horror books [which are genuinely scary], it's just ridiculous. And I shelve a lot of this crap, so I'm not talking completely out of my ass, here. To wit, the cover to a charming volume we sell at our store, Battle Club number 4.

Now granted, I can't think of many other ways to eat a banana while tying your shoes, but this is kinda pathetic. Peruse the book and you have nothing but girls Greco Roman wrestling in unitards, with lots of closeups of their peckish vaginas nibbling their tights into their plump labia, until some happy accident exposes their pert yet ginormous breasts, each with perfectly shaded nipples. And this is exactly what this book sets out to do; this is its only function.

And while I do have a problem with such material being out in the open at our establishment [even though its initially wrapped in plastic and says 'mature readers' on the cover], mainly because the people who ask for it are f*cking creepy, the blatant pandering to creeps is a disturbing aspect that I don't know should be encouraged.

I know these are all specious arguments, and you can't expect Merchant Ivory to make excuses for Seymore Butts, but I'm wondering where the Merchant Ivorys in comics even are, because with the exception of maybe someone like Brian Wood, I don't know where to look anymore.

So how about this, comics: I'll try Exit Wounds at work this week, and I'll give the Toronto issue of Local a read, but that's your last chance. Honestly, you're becoming an embarrassment.


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