I've had a shocking realization creep up on me over the last year or so. It really began to hit me during CONvergence, the sci-fi con I attended in July, but it's been slowly building ever since about 2007. I've been trying to deny it for a long time, but I think it's about time I admitted it.
I don't think I'm a comic book fan anymore.
It's weird to say that, given that I'm currently reading 'The Essential Hulk, Volume 6', having just polished off 'The Essential Captain America, Volume 5', and looking forward to the next Marvel movie...but I mean it in the sense of "following the events of the Marvel and DC Universe on a regular or even semi-regular basis." I'm sure I'll still read individual comic books--the medium isn't dead to me--but I can't imagine going back to Marvel or DC anymore. Even if I had the kind of unlimited finances that you'd need to buy the endless cat's cradle of crossovers and tie-ins and "summer events", I don't care anymore. I don't even want to know anymore, because hearing about DC's new zero issues or Earth-Two or AvX just makes me kind of sad and achy, like hearing about a friend you used to know who's in jail for dealing heroin and is HIV-positive. When I talk to comics fans about comics, I find that I just don't have a common interest with them anymore. And I'll admit, I never thought that would happen.
I think it started, as I said, back in 2007. I'd been in and out of the hobby for a while, starting back in 2002; I'd made the jump from floppies to trades, and it's only when you're not hitting the store every week to get the new fix that you step back and realize how much you're buying out of habit. When you evaluate each series in terms of, "Do I want a whole other book of this?", you find that the answer is "no" a whole lot more often than it was when you were just buying 32 more pages. I bought less and less until I was buying pretty much nothing for a year or two. And once you're not visiting the store every week, it's like comics become invisible to you. When I did go into a comics store, I didn't even know what was popular. The sad truth of comics marketing is that it's far easier to leave the hobby right now than it is to rejoin it.
...and then, in 2005, I found myself drawn back into the weekly grind. It started with morbid curiosity--I went for a visit to my local comics store, just to see what was happening, and wound up buying an issue of 'Infinite Crisis' just to convince myself that they were really doing it. That turned into the seeds of an idea for a book on the crossover phenomenon, from 'Crisis' to 'Crisis' in DC and 'Secret War' to 'Civil War' at Marvel...and while I was researching the book, I got back into the habit of buying. And following. I picked up all the 'Civil War' tie-ins, followed the follow-ups, read '52', and started in on 'Countdown' and 'World War Hulk'...
And then one day it hit me. This was all really terrible, and I was spending all my money on it. Marvel had gone from a crossover where the Scarlet Witch was the villain to one where the Scarlet Witch was the villain again to one where Iron Man was the villain (or Captain America, as Mark Millar unconvincingly insisted) to one where the Hulk was the villain. The heroes were all acting like villains and the villains were all acting like villains, to the point where I didn't actually like anyone I was reading about. Meanwhile, 'Countdown' was infamously terrible, and 'Amazons Attack' was notoriously inept as well. I could not imagine enjoying any of this stuff anymore.
And so I stopped buying it. But I still followed it all. Wikipedia, Newsarama, CBR...I still paid attention, even as I wrote endlessly about classic comics on this blog and realized I derived more enjoyment from comics written decades before my birth than I could ever get from the current crop of stories. Every time I read about a new crossover, a new event, a new reboot or preboot or softboot or retcon or prestconbootventover, it just made me irritated.
And then, at CONvergence, at a panel on the DC reboot, it finally hit me. I didn't care anymore. I didn't even care about it enough for it to anger me, unless it was right there in front of me. I was in the room, but all I could think about was how I had nothing to say to these people. We weren't speaking a common language, because I wasn't buying or reading or interested in any of the stuff they were talking about. Even the good books by creators I liked (like Paul Cornell) didn't interest me. The friend had died in prison, I'd sent a condolence card to the family, and I had moved on. 'Avengers vs. X-Men'? 'Marvel Now'? Just the corpse twitching in a lifelike manner.
And on the flip side...there were the movies. I have found myself eagerly devouring casting news, announcements of new projects, trailers and set photos and rumors. The apathy and vague depression that I feel when I hear about Marvel's comics stands in even starker contrast compared to my excitement and sheer joy over the films. I'm still a super-hero fan, just as much as ever. Maybe even more so. But there are other places for me to get that fix, ones that don't involve pointless misogyny and flailing desperation and endless, pathetic attempts to seem "mature" by rehashing themes that felt warmed over 25 years ago. (And in some cases not just themes, DC, I'm looking right at you and your 'Before Watchmen'...)
I'm now a refugee from the world of comics, taking up a new home in the world of movies and TV shows and reprints about the characters I love. It's kind of a relief to get that off my chest. I hope that those of you who are still comics fans won't think less of me for not being able to get excited about your hobby anymore. And I hope those of you who share this feeling will join me over here, where we're all eagerly awaiting 'Cap 2' and 'Iron Man 3' and 'Ant-Man' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy'...and where we're all hoping that someday, DC will get its act together and give us something to love the same way.
I used to be a comics fan. And while I still love a lot of individual comics...I don't think I am anymore.