pack of comic bagsIt took me a long time to crack it, but I feel I’ve finally got a handle on what’s wrong with the comics industry: The colon. And Mark Millar. But stepping back a bit, and pushing Millar aside till next week (inspite of the resonances – Millar’s obsession with anal rape, for instance), I can’t help coming to the conclusion that the preoccupation with storing, categorizing and consistency that typically characterizes the anal personality type serves as a fairly accurate general diagnosis for all that ails fandom and WHY SO MANY COMICS ARE SHIT ™.

It’s impossible to say what happened during the potty training phase of the X-Men readership – why that time became synonomous with a deep and altogether unhealthy focus on the comings and goings of, ahem, foreign elements within the body, and thence spun out into an obsession with the structural integrity of fictional universes – but nevertheless we are informed by Dr. Freud that this must be the case; and who am I to question 100 years of Viennese butt probing, sheathed, as I am, head to toe in a thin mylar casing, like a second skin, surrounded by similarly cocooned complete runs, special and variant editions and, err, funnies, in my perfectly sealed world…. So smooth… Ordered…

Fair enough, I know I’m generalizing from my own case here, but if even half the readership out there share even an inkling of my craving for alphabetizing and filing cabinets, then we’ve got a real problem. Alright, I don’t really give a shit about the aforementioned, but I can relate to an extent. As a young poodle, I internalized the rules of the big brands. There was no way Ram-Man shared the same space as Predaking – unless Simon Furman told me so. I even balked when I saw some fan art detailing Spidey’s rogues gallery featuring Doctor Doom. How could this be?!?

But I was 8.

I mean, to a certain extent this has continued. I still feel a bit weird about DC/Marvel team-ups and I enjoy the self-containedness of fictional environments – I even dig Who’s Who books – but part of the pleasure stems from watching writers transgress and toy with the conventions of the characters’ diagetic crawlspace. It’s the gaps, the bits inbetween, that’s where the magic happens. And the anus is, sadly, still unsure of this stuff. Plus, the anus is invariably older than 8. Its hang-ups regarding naughty universe touching and all the rest of it are the cause of so many sins… I’m not sure I can countenance its presence in Dave’s Comics any longer!


  1. Men in their 30s/40s/50s should not buy 20 different titles on comics’ Thursday. For a start, I’ve only got a couple of books in my hand and I’ve actually got to get back to work in the next 15 minutes. Guys, you are the reason people think comics’ readers are a bunch of anally retentive collectors! I mean how many times has a new chum given you that knowing look as it dawned on them, ‘Oh, so you like comics, then?’, making you want to rail, ‘No! I DO NOT like comics! I like some comics! I know there are freakish men who hoard every DC book going, every month, including swimsuit editions, but I’m not one of them!’ For fuck’s sake! Nobody asks, with arched brow, ‘So, you read books, do you?’ No indeed. And, yes, that’s in part because books aren’t a niche interest, but it’s also because that scary collector bloke’s doing the rounds of everyone’s collective unconscious. Perhaps he’s the reason funny-books are still such a niche interest, anyway.

Move over Fatbeard!

  1. The notion that everything that happens to a superhero, in every book, and on every T Shirt, has to be somehow shoe-horned into a rigid continuity. That way leads to the dark side and the faulty assumption that Grant Morrison was, for instance, foisted upon the Caped Crusader and that, when something like Damian happens, some sort of GROSS VIOLATION has taken place. No, Batman and Son isn’t simply a story that the fan might dislike and could potentially ignore, but a flagrant sullying of precious Bat-integrity! And, inspite of this terrible act of rape, because all of this is Batman’s life, he has to read all of Mozzer’s books anyway. And all the others. Everything. Every month. No wonder these guys are bitter.

Anyway, this leads swiftly on to…

  1. The travesty that took place on the DC message boards (at least I think was the DC boards – I trawled a lot of them before posting this) the other week. A thread should not exist on the interweb where tens of fans attempt to cobble together their own ‘personal bat-history’ out of over 50 years of continuity. No-one should be able to list the titles of more than a few of a character’s story arcs. 20 or more is just unacceptable. I know it’s important for the fictional worlds we inhabit to have depth and solidity, but the kind of fetishizing of detail that I suspect is going on in some of these (not so) young minds is really worrying. I used to get pissed off playing Warhammer* when I was younger because the GM was more obsessed with the Nipponese [racist, then! – ed]/Imperial exchange rate than he was with creating any kind of atmosphere. I’m sure, to him, that stuff was atmosphere, just as the specifics of how Batman actually gets around town are to the fanboys. Only they’re not to me.

To me it’s all fucking boring shit.

  1. Bloody rule-making generally. Superheroes do not respond well to the kind of measuring and boundary-setting inflicted by the aforementioned Who’s Who books. Only the anus does. Actually maybe the Marvel lot do – they’re less about the magic, myth and wonder, and more about the ACTUAL FACTS OF REALITY (oh, God, can Mark Millar wait till next week?!? It’s too much…) – but the DC guys? Well, how shit would it be if someone actually provided you with a proper breakdown of exactly how Bats pulls one of his vanishing acts on the roof of the GCPD? A real anal fanboy’s got it all worked out, don’t you worry! If he could give Bruce Wayne’s martial arts prowess a numeric value he would. Talking about RPGs; what about the DCU game? Batman’s strength isn’t 10, for the love of God! And I don’t give a shit if, in the real world (the anus loves talking incredulously about how things happen in comics, contrasted with how things happen ‘Iiiiin the reeeeal woooorld’) Supes would kick Batbastard’s arse! Bruce beating down the next unstoppable threat should be a feat of fucking magic, not probability, you dry, limits-imposing motherfucker! I always remember a few people bitching on Newsarama about how we weren’t given a complete rundown of the Seven Soldiers’ powers and how annoying this self-evidently was. I know! God forbid a comic should ever surprise us! Actually, I get pretty miffed when I meet someone and don’t know immediately how much they can bench-press. Frankenstein is no exception. Jeez! Super-powers aren’t boring, flat things that we should have the instant measure of – they’re supposed to astound us. Baffle us. This desire to make everything knowable comes from an unhealthy place, pre-occupied with gate-keeping. What’s allowed in and out. Pooing.

And it makes everything else poo.

I could go on and on, but I think you’ll have got the general point by now. This isn’t rocket science. In fact, it’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche I needed to rant on. I just hate that weird, conservative bent in fandom that insists on putting the breaks on the narrative, thematic, visual, ideological and, ultimately, mythic scope of our super-books. Sure, they’re silly and trashy and all the rest of it and we should all be buying Fantagraphics books instead, etc., but Wonderwoman et al are still the popular face of this industry and there’s no reason why the entry level stuff can’t be just as out-there and forward looking as a Chris Ware book. The silliness and the trashiness are the crux of it, really, because they represent brilliant jumping off points for genuine transgression. In the end, I guess this is why I prefer the DCU to the Marvelverse – it incorporates everything from super-cats to the Dark Knight Returns. This internal reality-hopping makes for a much more interesting, fluid imaginal space than the consistently straight-down-the-line-ness of Spidey’s New York. It opens up the space, emphasising the soft zones, the liminal. Everything is possible, because everything is permitted. When the DCU is comfortable with it’s glorious internal inconsistencies, as it is in works like the aforementioned Seven Soldiers or Mark Waid’s Brave & the Bold, it’s at its best. The anally retentive fanboy, however, doesn’t know this. He’s too busy apologising for all the wonderful shit he should be celebrating, logging onto weird, ummm, *bagging* websites in order to seal off the wonders of Metropolis from the harsh reality of downtown Tunbridge Wells, and trying to iron out all the conceptual wrinkliness that puts the fun in the funny-books.

*Inbetween dating hot chicks, raving on 9 pills a night and actually being a superhero called Night-man: Fluxor.

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