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Skid Marks: Confessions of an Aging Fanboy

Written by Zenguru on Sunday, August 23 2009 and posted in Columns
As you get older, your tastes change for many things.  Sadly, comics is one of them. Every other weekend or so, my buddy Steve and I drive down to Fairmont, WV to have lunch at a diner called The Poky Dot.  We talk about a lot of things.  Life, liver tea, and the fur suit of happiness.  But lately, we've been talking about what comics mean to us as aging comic book fans.

When we were kids, comics were still seen very much as a kids only hobby.  Even though a lot of dads and grandpas were the ones who hooked their kids on comics.  Superheroes ruled our preteen world.  There were no obstacles that couldn't be overcome.  No villains that wouldn't be sent home waddling with a monster wedgie.  The tension of a full day at school was eased by a shiny stack of comics plucked off the spinner rack at 7-Eleven.  And a suicide slushee.

Life was good.

Then came the '80's.  Comics started growing up.  Batman beat people up.  Everybody got meaner, crazier, and 12-year-olds everywhere discovered female superheroes had boobs.  Black and white indies popped up.  New companies came out with their own heroes.  The mini series was born.  As was the crossover.  Older readers started noticing comic books again.

Well, we all know what that turned into.  Many of these older readers became speculators.  Comic book makers put out special edition gimmick covers and one-shots to appease their insatiable appetites.  Appetites that bottomed out as soon as they realized that if everybody has it, it's not collectible.  And therefore, not worth anything on the back issue market.

Comics went boom.

But they bounced back.  Some good things came out of that time.  Creator owned books that could actually compete with the big boys.  A loosening of restrictions that led to more mature storytelling.  The best example of which, I think, is DC's Vertigo.  Spearheaded then by books like Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman's Sandman.  Now they have 100 Bullets, House of Mystery, Scalped, and Unknown Soldier in the forefront.

Finally older readers had a market for stories they could enjoy.  Even if they still had a bit of nostalgia for the superheroes they loved as kids.  But does this mean every reader leaves behind superheroes at some point?  It depends on the reader. 

Nowadays, comics is not so much of a kiddie thing anymore.  There are more adult readers than ever, it seems.  I'd like to think comics are drawing in more adults, but it's more likely many of them are the kids who were into comics 20 or 30 years ago.

Personally, I've probably been reading, or at least looking at, comics since I was old enough to hold one.  I never thought I would get to the point that I would be tired of them.  I came close a couple times, though.  Nowadays, I realize that I will never get tired of comics.  I'll get tired of kinds of comics.  As I get older, I want something more than just mega crossovers and knock down drag out battles.

As I look at comics from today's perspective, I recognize very little of what made them great for me at the other end of the spectrum.  My favorite characters don't meet any more because it's something that happens in their world every day.  They meet for the opening chapter in yet another universe-impacting saga that sucks in from a third to almost a half of the company's titles.  Whether it's a tie-in or a major part of the crossover doesn't matter.  The story I'd been enjoying gets swept under the rug until the changes take full effect.  Sometimes it stays under the rug.

But it's not necessarily a bad thing.  Just an inconvenient thing.  Some of these books I stick with because the creators on them are doing top notch stuff.  But for a book to exist merely for the purpose of an event is different.  Even if it's a good book, most of them don't survive very long after the event takes place.  And some of the books that stay around feel like they've not quite earned the opportunity.

In the light of all that, I related to Steve that there may be a time soon whereupon I give up superheroes for the most part.  But not comics.  Never comics.  I'm tired of feeling forced, or encouraged against my will, to take part in a story that just doesn't fit me well.  All so I can keep following the comics I thought I loved.  But if I feel like I have to buy them, how much do I really love them?

So I'm coming to this realization in my late 30's.  Maybe too late for my tastes.  I'd really rather have saved a lot of money by realizing this sooner.  But I would have missed a few good things in the meantime.  And I think now is a good time for me to make some changes.  Changes in reading.  Changes in buying.  Changes from one-ply to two-ply......

Funny how I thought of all this over dessert.  Which was a cheescake made with Bailey's Irish Creme.  Hmm......Naw!  That COULDN'T have anything to do with it.

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About the Author - Zenguru

Zenguru has been an Outhouser since the days it was blue. He's the Rick Jones of The Outhouse. Not always in the mansion, but always around in a pinch. Just don't pinch too hard, okay? He's written a few articles, notably $k!d M@rks, and has published several books of poetry. Lately, he's been writing poems and fiction about diners. He's been reading comics since the mid-70's. He dreams of one day traveling between dimensions to be Jonah Hex's sidekick.

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