I love Marvel Comics. Always have. Especially the cosmic stuff, Busiek’s Avengers run, and the Uncanny X-Men as written by the inimitable — a word I see everywhere but cannot define — Chris Claremont.
But things just aren’t as fun anymore. Look, I know what you’re thinking. And no. This has nothing to do with the recent changes to the Avengers line-up. Riri’s cool. Jane Foster as Thor kicks butt. I love Sam Wilson.
My favorite scenes in Captain America: Winter Soldier are when Cap and Falcon are out of costume, just being friends.
I would watch the hell out of a Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson buddy movie. Like, no superhero stuff. Just Steven and Sam renting a condo for the summer and getting into wacky shenanigans. Maybe Carol Danvers shows up, and the three of them crash a party at a swanky resort where they act all silly and there’s this old lady going “Well, I never.”
I would watch the shit out of that.
As for having Sam as Cap? It works. All-New Avengers volume 1, the one with Miles Morales, the new Nova, and the new Ms. Marvel is fantastic. Miles Morales is written hilariously, and Nova and Ms. Marvel’s interactions are some of the most amusing cringe-fests ever commited to paper. Falcon (he’s always Falcon to me. I just love me some Falcon) has to deal with haters who comment “Where’s the real one?” and “Not my Captain America,” echoing the sort of people who start their sentences with “I’m not a racist, but…”
(Kind of like I did at the start of this post. Isn’t it weird how white guys like me are more worried about being perceived as racist than trying to figure out how we can combat racism itself?)
But here’s the thing. These comics, for me, just aren’t as much fun as they used to be.
Maybe it’s because grad school combined with a full-time job has left little time to catch up on story lines (the Red Skull did WHAT?!). Maybe it IS the shifting demographics in Marvel. Am I that thin-skinned as to be put off by increased diversity?
I missed most of the comics dealing with the incursions and the Builders and all that world-ending stuff. It looked cool, yeah, but what the actual fuck, Marvel? It’s like they lost their damn minds. They realized nobody reads comics anymore* and just decided “Heck with hit. No one’s reading anyway. Let’s just go crazy!”
In the end, maybe the problem is just that the times are a-changing and comics are finally changing with them. The increased emphasis on diversity — gender and racial — is part of it (and long overdue, frankly). But you know what? It’s more than that. Marvel (and DC for that matter) have (for once) stopped giving us the same stories over and over. You know. The Busiek stories. The fun stories. The safe stories. The House of Ideas and the House of El are doing something fans have been demanding for decades now: Actually advancing and resolving character plot-lines. Actually changing. Having stories with — gasp! — consequences. Dealing with real-world issues. Basically, doing a lot of what makes comics good.
Don’t get me wrong. Ultron still wants to destroy all humans, and Lex Luthor is still (I assume?) a bad guy. But even though Cyclops got Phoenix powers, the resolution to Avengers vs. X-Men was NOT a redo of the Dark Phoenix Saga.
But you know…Sam Wilson is not my Captain America. And Miles Morales is not my Spider-Man. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t like those characters. I love both characters, and I’m ecstatic over the fact that Marvel is finally acknowledging the fact that they have millions of nonwhite fans.
I think I’m just not comfortable right now with the stories Marvel is telling. I’m having trouble finding an entry point into Avengers, specifically (X-Men has been consistently awesome, more or less, since the early 2010s. Mostly in X-Force.) This is a shame because I subscribed to Avengers at the very start of Busiek’s run back in the 90s (a happy coincidence). These all-new, all-different guys just…aren’t the ones I grew up with. That’s all. I dunno. I like to think that the changing demographics of the Avengers line-up is just the surface of what’s got me so hot and bothered. I hope it’s not residual racism rearing up from the reptilian section of my brain. But if it is, I hope I have the courage to change — to adapt — as Marvel has.
Without adaptation, a species cannot survive.
The superhero comic is dead. Long live the superhero comic.
Meanwhile, old geezers** like me who grew up on exaggerated tales of killer robots, alien invasions, and other Troperiffic fare will just feel like the folks in this Monty Python clip which my 12-year-old students would find exceedingly boring:
*Nobody reads comics = very few people go into comic stores and buy physical books. A few hundred thousand or so. Millions and millions read free comics on scans-daily, download comics through apps, and watch both live-action and animated adaptations. Hell, I used to think X-Men #1 was about Jubilee escaping the Sentinels.
**People who remember Geocities, Neopets, and Friendster. (Think your dad’s Facebook account, Pokemon GO, and MySpace, kids.)