Many comics today are retreads of concepts and ideas developed years ago! Where did creativity in the comics industry go?
AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN
I was looking over the announcements for new comics coming out in the months ahead, and I came across this one: New Sentry series announced. One of Marvel’s versions of Superman has died, and there are multiple people manifesting his powers and receiving some of his memories. Except for the memories part, I found it completely appropriate that this is taking place during the anniversary of the “Death of Superman” storyline. I mean, people flying around with “S”s on their chests! Looks like what DC is doing with the Man of Steel!
Now, previously in this column, I’ve talked about Batman and what I call the “Bat-alikes,” characters who bear more than a passing resemblance to the Dark Knight.
I know that success breeds more success, and why change things if they work? I thought a lot about all the “Super-alikes” in the comics universes including the aforementioned Sentry, Samartian in the Astro City universe, Supreme from the mind of Alan Moore, Gladiator in The Imperial Guard in Marvel, Omni-Man and Invincible from Robert Kirkman, Homelander from The Boys, and Hyperion (all the various versions of him), again from Marvel.
And that’s probably only scratching the surface, I’m sure!
What I can’t help but think back to is that somebody had to create Superman, that there actually was a time when there was NO Superman. Siegel and Schuster came up with the archetype. Bob Kane and Bill Finger developed Batman. Stan Lee and the creators around him launched a whole line of characters that are still going today!
Where did that spark of originality go?
GRANTED, THERE ARE SOME NEW IDEAS
Anyone who thumbs through the Diamond PREVIEWS catalogue can’t help but notice that there are literally hundreds of comics coming out each month. How many of them actually sell a decent number of copies? Not many, sadly.
So, part of the blame for the lack of creativity in the comics industry has to lay at our feet, the fans. We tend to purchase the books we like, and we honestly tend to get what we are familiar with.
This all reminds me of my late twin brother. He loved Mannheim Steamroller, a group who has made several musical Christmas collections. One day, I came across a CD of that group performing their versions of Disney songs. I offered to play it for my brother, but he refused to listen to it. “I only want to hear their Christmas music,” he told me. “It will ruin what I think of them if I hear other music they have made.” He only wanted what he was familiar with, and nothing else would do.
I hate to say it, but many of us who purchase comics are like my brother (and he was a BIG comics buyer). We love superheroes, but we only like a certain kind of superhero story. Things must fall within a certain range of storytelling or we are not interested.
Recently, Captain America was supposed to be shown to be a Nazi after all these years, and wow—the fan reaction was volcanic! That storyline crashed and burned so fast that our heads all spun! The writer had taken Steve Rogers outside the accepted parameters of the character, and the fans wouldn’t stand for it!
Granted, the fans of The Boys comics were very devoted, but they were fewer in number than those who buy Spider-Man or Batman.
Let’s face it—being creative just does NOT sell! Or at least, not outside certain boundaries we have accepted for them.
WE NEED TO GET BACK TO CREATIVITY
I often worry out loud about the state of the comics industry. The economy is in a bad place, in my opinion, and when that takes place, the hobbies and other non-essential interests of ours take a back seat. We need to focus on paying for the must-have bills, and anything that is out of that range gets relegated to the dumpster. It’s just a fact of life.
I have been reading a lot of creators commiserating on the state of comics sales and other aspects of the comics industry. I’ve focused on some of their ideas in previous columns, but I really think we need to get the economy back on track before comics will start to sell better again. At least, in my opinion.
The bad news is that it looks like comics sales won’t be improving in the near future. I hope that is not true, but it sure seems that way currently. One of the things that needs to happen is to take comics back to the source of creativity they used to be! Instead of multiple versions of Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, we need NEW ideas and stories! Again, someone developed Superman—there was a time before Superman, before longjohns characters and the like.
Superheroes are here to stay, that’s certain. But we need to expand our horizons when it comes to storytelling. Let’s try something new when we can! We need to encourage creativity as much as possible! I wish I had the talent to do that, but I don’t! I can only say to creators—Go for it! We need your new ideas to move into the future! Will you make the next “Superman”?
What do you think? Are there new ideas we haven’t discovered yet when it comes to comics? Or has the superhero well run dry? What can we do to encourage the next generation of successful creators? Whatever your opinions, be sure to share them in the space below!