By Gordon Harries [I respond below]
The following is a response/extension to a recent conversation I had with Geoff Klock:
We were talking about the innate conservatism of the comics reader, in respect to the range of genres now on offer in comic books. To take Geoff as an example, in TV he appreciates both Pushing Daises and The Wire, which certainly have differing world views. He's a pop culture scholar, likes differing styles of movies and types of prose and yet when it comes to his appreciation of comic books he always --by his own admission-- leans towards superhero/fantastical comics.
Not that I wish anyone to imagine this is a slight against Geoff or to suggest that I'm an exception to this, my reading generally gravitates towards crime fiction and my favorite comic is 100 Bullets. And yet: it's not like 100 Bullets --or much of the type of crime fiction routinely published in comics-- is a million miles away from the tropes of the superhero comic. Consider the evidence; Bullets concerns a labyrinthine plot about which some things remain unclear, shifting alliances and affections (if not sexual relationships/encounters, something Bullets has been light on, overall.) between the principal characters and, some eight years since commencing publication, is beginning to feel a lot like a soap opera. Sounds somewhat like Claremont-era X-MEN, doesn't it? And that's before one observes the sporadic outbursts of violence which marries the two genres.
And yet, despite having long observed this commonality between the two …I still don't read superhero comics. In fact, after coming across this post by Neil Shyminsky I was tempted to pick up the relevant comic. Shortly after discovering that the X-Men all had long hair now, presumably because they live in liberal safe haven San Francisco, I decided put it down.
So, open question: why does the comic reader, with an otherwise wide range of tastes, tend to bank towards on one genre within comics? Five or six years ago I would have imagined that a case could be made for a stratification of readers. For example, you would read Warren Ellis' creator owned stuff for his 'real' work. After all the work for hire material was just to pay the bills. Now though we've had Bendis' Daredevil and currently Brubaker's Captain America runs, which are amongst the most well regarded comics of their day with any question about the authenticity of WFH almost completely disregarded.
[I asked Gordon to make his email into a post for the blog because I DON'T have any thoughts. I remember enjoying Bendis' early crime stuff, Torso and whatnot. And I love Sin City especially the first few volumes (I agree with Gordon that it fell apart in the end: his sticking point was its degeneration into superhero stuff with the origin of Dwight; mine was a preposterously stupid scene in the final volume in which the protagonist, his drawing of a naked woman in half in front of someone as a big defiant gesture of his refusal to sell out his artistic gifts for pornography or something -- I don't remember it exactly, but I recall thinking it was the worst kind of sitcom cliche about "artists" made much worse by its inclusion in the world of Sin City, and by the fact that the artist is also some kind of uber-military assassin. I read the first two or three volumes of 100 Bullets but never really got into it, although part of the reason may have been the time I took between volumes: I lost the thread of the big plot somewhere in there. Scalped, which everyone raves about, I thought was alright but I never went past volume 1: I have heard more recently that it gets better after that, so maybe I will give it another shot. Ruka and Brubaker have not impressed me with what I have read of theirs, which is not very much: Sleeper was the book that really turned me off of Brubaker, but his Cap run may be something I should just read all of, all at once, even though Captain America 25, which I read, did not grab me either. Bendis's Daredevil is a book I got for a long time but ultimately it just bored me and I dropped it. Ellis's sense of humor and preoccupations got on my nerves after a while altogether.
I am totally at a loss to explain why it is that I like both Pushing Daises and the Wire but only the superhero end of comic books. So I ask with Gordon: any thoughts?]