It's that time of year when superhero movies begin to assail the cineplexes. Which could also be known as A Good Time to Be Reminded That Superhero Comics Are Now Way Too Much Like Movies.
I am not going to complain about superhero movies as movies. I don't care that once colorful costumes are forced to be muted and dark and tough-looking on human actors ("Batman v Superman," the black leather X-Men). I don't care that too many superhero movies rely on disaster-porn cliches ("Man of Steel," "Avengers") or that the Marvel Cinematic Universe/shared universe theory of storytelling turns movies into episodic entertainment rather than something that can stand on its own (even "Age of Ultron" director Joss Whedon has complained about this).
OK, maybe I care a little. I'm here to complain about how superhero movies have not made superhero comics better. What was once a form that prided itself on being fast, cheap and out of control is now intellectual property worth millions, subject to the sort of five- and 10-year planning that would impress an aging Soviet. Title after title that Marvel (Avengers, Spider-Man, X-Men) and DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) release read as if they were preapproved from the TV and movie side of things.
Superhero comics are not the kid-aimed, dream-logic wish fulfillment of the 1940s and '50s. They're not the attempts to appeal to teens of the '60s and '70s, full of angsty heroes and dense plots rocketing ever forward.
They're not the grimmer and grittier comics of the 1980s, such as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' "Watchmen" or Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns." They're not the urban fantasies of the 1990s such as Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" or Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's "Preacher."
What once was a form that was gleefully lowbrow and willfully weird is now, as a friend elegantly put it, "just more middlebrow crap."
As story lines have gotten longer or become, in comics parlance, "decompressed," the vast majority of titles have begun to feel more and more like work that is easily adaptable to the big screen. Everything reads the same.
I can't blame comic book creators for using their comics to show that they can break down a movie or TV script — that's where the money is.
And I'm not going to say that when a comic is optioned for big or small screen adaptation, it is an inherent failure as a comic.
What do I miss the most about superhero comics, what do I want for all genre comics, really? I want what has become middlebrow to become bonkers lowbrow again.
I want more insanity. I want genre comics to be filled with the unfilmable. I want scenarios that could not possibly work on the big screen. I want dense, lunatic stories that span centuries. I want stuff that works on the page better than it works on the screen, all the time.