GUEST POST: How Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller Ruined Comics by Jon Del Arroz

Tuesday , 4, April 2017 65 Comments

Just as Science Fiction and Fantasy underwent fundamental transformations in the 1980s and beyond, the comic industry also pushed itself further and further into niche territory. It’s gone from books selling in the millions of copies to a new normal where now a few thousand people read a book. The gatekeepers of comicdom blame the same factors as mainstream publishers do: readers just don’t want to read anymore, there’s too much competition for media space, or most recently, readers don’t want diversity.  All of those things are true, but there is a greater element which brought comics from a staple in American society to relative obscurity, and that is a fundamental change in the way stories were told in comics.

You’ll see the same themes here as what Daddy Warpig discusses in his articles about how Science Fiction being replaced by boring, stodgy, impossible to read literary works. Whereas Campbell and Asimov laid the foundation (pun intended) for Science Fiction to become boring, comics had their destructive revolution much more recently with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller, products of the 1980s, ripping the heart and soul out of heroes.

Already, I’m sure people are typing up angry comments about how great Watchmen or Sandman are Dark Knight Returns are. While I’ve enjoyed reading all three of those, their existence has created a comic industry of followers who are attempting to recreate those stories ad nauseam. Every comic book now has turned from something that’s fun to enjoy with the whole family, to PG-13 to R rated dark material, just as much prime time TV has done over the last couple decades. Each of the three works I listed existed for good reason outside of regular continuity or the regular storylines. What’s been done in their wake is repeating those concepts and rewriting Stan Lee’s or D.C.’s creations which didn’t need fixing. As a result, this has torpedoed anyone’s interest in reading.  The industry has three major problems in its storytelling, which each one of these works exemplifies in three ways:

  1. A focus on realism in a medium that by definition is absurd. Alan Moore’s Watchmen is what brought this on. The whole point of the book was to show real heroes growing old, having problems, being corrupt and dealing with real world issues and relationships – and by “real world” of course we mean a debaucherous romp of sex, drugs and violence, which no one relates to. Modern writers want to switch all their characters to this realism feel, which makes no sense when you have Asgardian gods who magically transform at the picking up of a hammer, or a nerd clinging to walls and swinging from rooftops. Realism has no place in such stories, and it’s painful to read boring stories about The Visions sitting at home pretending to eat meals even though they’re robots.
  2. An obsession with rebooting mythology. This is Neil Gaiman’s hallmark. He’s made an entire career out of rebooting. If you look at Sandman, he takes classic mythological figures, imports them into a punk rock/goth 80s world and turns it into a weird horror story. When he worked for Marvel briefly, he rebooted Marvel as if the heroes had been born in the 1600s. American Gods, his novel, is about rebooting mythology again. His formula is obvious. It’s all he does, and it’s all DC and Marvel do now. It’s not selling? Let’s reboot Superman again with an all new #1. That’ll sell for the gimmick collector for a minute, but then when you degrade into the same, tired, unoriginal realism in storytelling, the sales plummet again. No one wants to read the revamped origin story for the umpteenth time, this time it’s the definitive, real version! The original worked just fine and remain in our memories, not the reboots.
  3. Striving to be darker for shock value. This is where Frank Miller changed the game, and for the worse. Everything is gore. Everything is awful, dark, terrible. Characters are dying, whether it be from street thugs or from AIDS, everyone’s life is in the pits and sucks. The streets of New York or Gotham are pure cesspools of no hope, and pure grit. He paved the way for writers like Garth Ennis or Mark Millar to try to one up that grittiness, or Ed Brubaker to turn an optimistic character Captain America into some depressing, dark story with his Winter Soldier storyline. Guess what? You’ve just made sure every parent in America doesn’t buy these books because they know they’re not appropriate images for their kids to see, thereby turning off an entire generation of customers from getting attached to these works.

The three points above all are dangerous paths for lesser writers to tread, and do lead to even greater problems when EVERY story becomes a combination of these tropes, which is what we have in modern comics. The issue with each of these points is that they necessitate less interesting concepts and characters by definition of what they are. The single issue story moving to graphic novel length or more is evidence of this, and the ultimate result of the realism push. But there’s more to comics’ decline: you may read a modern storyline that is realistic and dark and a reboot once, but you won’t go back and look at it again. That shock value may hold for the moment, but the characters and stories they create are imminently forgettable, because there’s no sense of wonder involved and nothing to root for.

I still remember individual panels from Stan Lee’s Spider-Man or Hulk. There were silly moments when the characters would do incredible things. Hulk would punch a commie and send him into orbit. Spider-Man would web someone up so fast it wasn’t humanly possible. And I laughed in each of those moments and treasure them forever. Why not? I’m reading about a big green monster who got that way because a bomb dropped on him or a kid who got bit by a spider. The fact that good heroes came out of those origins means they’re not dark, the fact that they have absurd superpowers means they’re not realistic. I already have suspended my disbelief and I’m having fun by doing so. Most readers will feel the same way.

The funny part is, Alan Moore was very much aware of this in his later work. His book Tom Strong was a direct response to the changes in comics, and largely ignored by the critics because of that. If you read his interviews, he is ashamed that the industry took Watchmen and decided to move their entire lines in that direction. It’s awful reading about alcoholic Iron Man, jingoistic dated Captain America, wife-beater Ant-Man. It does ruin those characters who didn’t need darkness to them. They’re supposed to be our heroes, and the message that these creators deliver to us is that heroes don’t exist. Why would anyone read that as fantasy when the nightly news tells us the same thing? Comics have been completely ruined, and it’s because of the influences these three writers brought. What’s needed is a bright new generation of writers who want to deliver wonder again, doesn’t want to just copy what’s old or do a quick cosmetic makeover but “more realistic”.  It’s destroyed our country’s faith in our mythology, our heroes, and has not only crippled the comic industry because of that, but has delivered a knock down punch to our culture.

This is why we need the #PulpRevolution.

Jon Del Arroz is a science fiction author best known for his Top-10 Amazon Space Opera Bestseller, Star Realms: Rescue Run. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is oft hailed (quite soberly!) as the Dean Martin of the science fiction writing scene. His next novel, For Steam And Country, comes out later this year. Read his blog at http://delarroz.com and follow him on Gab: @otomo. 

65 Comments
  • I had exactly the knee-jerk response you predicted in your third paragraph, but then I read the rest and I’ve decided that you are right. (I know–who does that?)

    The three writers you cite had specific stories to tell that required a particular artistic mood, and I think those moods worked for those stories.

    The ones who tried to mimic the successes of those projects, however, missed the point.

    “Watchman” was a deliberate End Of An Era story, like “The Magnificent Seven” and the way that it is told is antithetical to an ongoing series.

    “The Dark Knight” was much the same (as Alan Moore points out in his introduction to the trade paperback release). The dark grittiness of Gotham in Dark Knight was meant to show what it would be like without Batman, and why Batman had to return. Using that same feel in stories where the superheroes are active makes the heroes meaningless because clearly they aren’t doing any good.

    And while I suspect I have a higher opinion of Gaimen than you do, I do think you’ve hit on one of his main themes, the “what if” cosmology (What if stars were people, what if the subway stations of London were named that way because they are fantastic places hidden from the real world, what if gods emigrated to a new land with their worshippers) and that works much better in a closed story than an ongoing series.

    It seems to me that Marvel, in particular, has forgotten how to tell a serial story. It is the continuity that keeps a series going, the fun of being able to see a story arc unfold over a long period of time, the callbacks to earlier episodes (“Remember that one guy who showed up out of the blue six years ago–well, it turns out that he is really…”). Most of all it depends on having a relationship with characters that we think of as old friends.

    Rebooting kills all that. Changing the cast of characters gradually as part of the story is one thing (is there anyone in New York who has not been a member of The Avengers at some point?) and even have an old hero retire and be replaced by a young apprentice can be part of the continuity, but when you take a story that fans have been following for decades and erase the past entirely you’ll just anger your readers.

    Better to cancel a series and start a new one from scratch with a new name.

    • Matthew Anderson says:

      Neither Frank Miller, Alan Moore, nor Neil Gaiman are nearly as much to blame for the woeful state of comics as Greg Rucka. At least Sandman and Swamp Thing had intellect, all Greg Rucka and his ilk have to show for their crusade is a product made bereft by corporate-mandated diversity, of any creativity or originality.

    • قارچ says:

      I agree with you.
      tank you.

    • Galaxy says:

      While you are certainly correct on the last part, Marvel and DC are mainly abotu business. Let’s get that out of the way first.

      And rebooting, is more certain way to profit than to creating new characters and new series, that may or may not stick with readers.

  • Gaiseric says:

    I get the point of the title and all of that, but THEY didn’t ruin comics (which the text of the post kinda says too)—the idiots who slavishly copied the superficial aspects of them ruined comics.

    I actually quite like Frank Miller most of the time. And I even like Marc Millar’s Ultimates to some degree, or Straczynski’s Supreme Power… as a different take on some classic characters.

    But they can’t replace the ICONIC versions of the characters. If Supreme Power were the new Justice League, well, nobody wants that. But Supreme Power as it’s own thing can be interesting for a while.

  • Anthony says:

    To be fair to Miller, he didn’t go darker for shock value. He went darker because he was telling a dark story, and that’s what it required.

    That later, lesser writers had no idea what made his stuff great isn’t really his fault.

    Now, him ruining his own legacy…is.

    • L. Beau Macaroni says:

      It seems like all the creative arts have their innovators and their imitators. As you suggest, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was innovative. But TDKR repeated, ad nauseam, with only the names changed? That’s imitation, even when Miller himself does it.

      Cf., Why was the only lesson that imitators learned from the musical excellence of Jimi Hendrix was that “a headband = genius?”

  • Tomas Diaz says:

    Geoff Johns in the mid-2000s seemed to sense a lot of this. He was in the mix of the mess, but he seemed to also want a return to the good-old-days, though without ignoring what had happened in the past 30 years. His Green Lantern stuff was pretty good (until the Corps War stuff, but mostly because it got confusing as hell).

    Darwyn Cooke also had a good hand for this. New Frontier, Spirit, Catwoman – all embraced the absurdity and fun of the old days but did so without pandering to warmed-over nostalgia.

    And, of course, we can’t forget Paul Dini. What the comics sought to jettison he picked up and reforged into the DC Animated Universe.

    The majority of the comic industry may have forgotten to respect their heritage in favor of committee-possessed zeitgeists, but there’s a good number of people who want to keep that connection alive. It’s probably a good idea to pull some of this stuff into the #PulpRev. Especially things like Moore’s Tom Strong!

    • Andy says:

      Cooke was brilliant and losing him hurt so much because he wasn’t appreciated enough in his time. He apparently pitched multiple ongoing series to both Marvel and DC and was rejected every time. Of course he was also a strong-willed principled guy and they probably didn’t want to deal with him. I heard he once got so sick of Axel Alonso mouthing off that he dumped a pitcher of beer on his head.

  • Andy says:

    What you find with a lot of the British writers is a distinct skepticism toward the entire notion of heroism. It’s not uncommon to see them speak openly about how “heroes don’t exist, it’s just a bunch flawed people muddling on through.” Wanting uplifting stories about superheroes is perceived as this sort of dangerous American fascist thing that needs to be guarded against because Americans are too stupid to distinguish a fun story read for entertainment from real world political and social issues.

    • instasetting says:

      Thank you for this article.

      Andy, I’ll believe you. Thing is, I see that Brit writer tendency as cowardice.

    • deuce says:

      Two world wars and massive leftist infiltration will do that to you. It’s actually quite analogous to what we see in Germany. The British Empire — thanks to useful idiots like Moorcock, Roger Waters and myriad others — fills the same role in the UK as the Reich and the Holocaust fill in modern Germany. Thank God Tolkien managed to write LotR to remind the English where they came from and what they can aspire to.

      • Galaxy says:

        “Massive leftist infiltration”. Appreantly, having a rise of political left is somehow considered an infiltration, huh? Didn’t knew that an americans could be that stupid…

        • instasetting says:

          Gramsci’s March Through the Institutions. You may have heard of it. We have.

          Would ‘infestation’ be better?

    • L. Beau Macaroni says:

      Yup.

    • Galaxy says:

      Let’s face it. “Flawed heroes” are more interesting, than the same recycled idea of heroism tropes over an over again.

      Albeit, I like both, uplifting, positive stories and more “down-to-earth” realistic stories…

      • Stephen J. says:

        “Flawed” is interesting and defensible. “Depressing”, “monstrous”, and “hopeless” aren’t, especially when repeated ad infinitum.

        As G.K. Chesterton said, “The point of fairy tales is not to tell children that dragons exist. They already knew that. The point of fairy tales is to remind them that dragons can be slain.”

  • Chris says:

    The British tendency has been there at least since the New Wave. Moorcock in the literary realm, the crew behind 2000 AD and Judge Dredd in comics, along with some continental European authors in Heavy Metal. In the 00s, you had Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, continuing these themes.

  • deuce says:

    “but when you take a story that fans have been following for decades and erase the past entirely you’ll just anger your readers.”

    That’s putting it mildly.

  • Nathan says:

    When pulp chased after the same ideas with its weird menace phase, the kids went to comic books. Soon after, the regulatory axe fell, ushering in the comics code as well as killing off several pulp genres entirely. While I do not see any regulation by government or industry, a similar shift from comics to video games and even manga can be seen after comics decided to go “adult” and grim-derp.

  • S1AL says:

    I’m a bit on the fence when it comes to realism. There’s a happy medium of surrealism that exists between grittiness and whimsy. The Marvel movies have done a fantastic job of hitting that middle ground.

    The Miller problem one that continues to come up for atheists, specifically: atheism engenders nihilism, nihilism makes for crapsack worlds filled with terrible people. The problem is that most people don’t want to read about crapsack worlds unless they’re filled with heroes… that, and you can’t write a good ending without heroes, which is why those stories either fall flat or disintegrate into a mess (see: ASOIAF).

    And thus the sex/alcohol/violence trifecta – anything to either feel, or numb the emptiness.

  • Hooc Ott says:

    “A focus on realism in a medium that by definition is absurd. Alan Moore’s Watchmen is what brought this on. The whole point of the book was to show real heroes growing old, having problems, being corrupt and dealing with real world issues and relationships”

    Nope Nope wrong and double nope

    Stan lee did this in the mid 60s. Spider-man and the Fantastic Four were specifically designed to be real people with real problems. Just look at Peter Parker!

    This is in contrast with say An Alien from Krypton, a statue changed into an Amazon by Goddess, or a billionaire turned vigilante.

    Stan Lee’s thing was to take real ordinary people put them in extraordinary circumstances and coming out the end through virtue and decency rising as heroes.

    One should note almost all the first heroes of Stan Lees silver age gained their powers by accident. Contrast that many of the villains who gained their powers through device. Stan Lee is saying something here and it speaks to the inner heroism of ordinary decent folk vs the innate villainy of those who seek power. This is by design. Stan Lee didn’t stumble upon this stuff by subconscious accident. He is deliberately saying something!

    Without getting too into politics (everyone hates it when I do that) Moore takes real people puts them in extraordinary circumstances and through vice, self interest, and apathy fail.

    Moore deconstructs the every man hero with laser precision and calls it realism. This again is no accident. Moore is doing it on purpose.

    This is not only similar but identical to when GRRM gets called out for all the rape in GoTs and defends it by claiming realism.

    Michael Chabon does the same thing with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Though he if pushed could plausibly dance around it by saying golden age comics were not realistic. Of course to do that he would have to ignore the pulps that preceded it as well as Stan Lee who followed it. (heck he had to ignore Breckett who took out right scoundrels and made them heroes in Jewel of Bas which was published right around when Action comics #1 was published)

    Anyway I should stop here. to go on would put me at odds with pretty much everyone in Pulp Revolution, Superversive and the Castalia House crowd in general. I only have a broad sword when I debate and i really DO NOT WANT TO SWING THAT AROUND AT PEOPLE I GENUINELY LIKE.

    Note: yeah It was not just Stan Lee. Kirby for one but also later people as well followed Lee’s example. I remember reading an essay which was part of New Universe Marketing. I think Jim Shooter wrote it. This is from 30 years ago when i read it so forgive me, but what he said was that the new Universe was meant to be a regression back to the realism found in Stan Lees stuff.

    • Jesse Lucas says:

      I don’t think you disagree as much as you think you do.

    • L. Beau Macaroni says:

      You wrote: Moore deconstructs the every man hero with laser precision and calls it realism. This again is no accident. Moore is doing it on purpose.

      This is not only similar but identical to when GRRM gets called out for all the rape in GoTs and defends it by claiming realism.

      Pro comment. Thanks, Hooc Ott!

  • David says:

    “but when you take a story that fans have been following for decades and erase the past entirely you’ll just anger your readers.”

    For me, the final straw was the whole Clone Saga in Spiderman comics. It started out with potential. Bring back the Spiderman clone…cool. Introduce the more powerful Spiderman clone called Kane…also cool. Bring back the Jackal…not cool, because I know what happens. Yes, lots and lots of Spiderman clones now, devaluing our hero…coolness rapidly fading.

    So the Spiderman you have been reading about since the 1970s was actually the clone all this time…I am out of here.

    It wasn’t that I really believed they were going to stick with that last idea, although to my shock they actually did think they would do that at the time. I figured sooner or later they would switch things back and tell us it was all fake (and eventually they did) but I realized I had zero interest in learning how we were going to get from here all the way to there.

    So I walked away from comics. Why should I read a story, enjoy it, remember it fondly only to be told years later that story didn’t happen the way I read it happened and my enjoyable memory is fake and now I should believe this instead?

    • deuce says:

      Yep, it’s been one prolonged, epic gaslighting campaign for what, two decades now? “What you thought you knew wasn’t true.” In their idiotic quest to find “new” readers in “new” demographics, they alienated one of the more loyal subcultures in entertainment. I mean, did they think teenaged girls were a demographic to go after? That demographic can rarely stay excited about a teen idol for longer than 6mo.

      Just epic contempt for their core audience. I bailed a long time ago, despite having a buddy who owns a comic store and thus I get a discount.

      • Galaxy says:

        Your frustration is illogical. Most of comics, were and are, aimed at teenagers and kids, so it makes perfect sense to search “new” readers in “new” demographics.

        “I mean, did they think teenaged girls were a demographic to go after?” Yes, actually. Kids and teenagers is what comicbook “core audience” is suposse to be. Not continuying stories for 40+ adults with beer bellies and possible families, who just didn’t grew out of their passion yet…

        Albeit there is a better way to do that than rebooting, I admit that.

        Also, you bailed out from superheroes or you just read other comics from other companies? Because there are manny that are not Marvel or DC.

  • Garry Boldwater says:

    None of those 3 creators were involved in the 1985 Punisher mini-series, or the BWS Weapon X serial. Those two, along with several kill-crazy Ghost Rider series, led to the current craze of “Only those who EXECUTE the villains are truly heroes.” That turd Chuck Dixon also wrote a ton of “Heroes must KILL!” stories that led to that horrible Man of Steel movie written by the proto-fascist Zach Snyder. Why would anyone want to read these horrible DC titles where supposed heroes are killing people willy-nilly like Jeffrey Dahmer?

    • deuce says:

      Miller influenced any future depictions of the Punisher with his Daredevil work. He then influenced all future takes on Wolverine with the 1982 limited series. If you think that was all Claremont, then you haven’t paid attention to the “Marvel Method” or how Claremont’s writing quality would swerve up and down depending on what artist he was paired with.

      Claremont had no idea what to do with Wolverine when he took over the X-Men and it shows. Along comes Byrne — a Canadian and a Conan fan. Suddenly, Wolverine is this cool tough guy. Byrne leaves the X-Men, but here comes Miller with his Japan obssession. We see it with the Hand and then later with Ronin. The later BWS series flowed out of that. No, Miller had a big influence on the “grim n’ gritty” ’80s portrayals of the Punisher and Wolverine. I was in the fan scene at the time and everyone was looking to Miller to point the way. Where he went, others followed.

      • Garry Boldwater says:

        I did not know that DKR preceded the Punisher mini, or any of Chuck Dixon’s pro-serial killer work. I’m not surprised to hear Dixon described as a F. Miller wannabe. Dixon has very little talent.

      • Andy says:

        To be fair, Claremont was also obsessed with Japanese samurai movies. Miller probably emboldened him. I just read an old Deadly Hands of Kung Fu issue in which Claremont reviewed one of the Lone Wolf and Cub movies and his review is hilariously snotty about Japan and completely dismissive of the kung fu movies that were basically the entire point of the magazine. If they’d had weeaboos back in the 70s, Claremont probably would have been their president.

      • deuce says:

        Yeah, I used to own a run of DHoKF. Of course, Claremont also did Iron Fist with Byrne. I forgot to mention that Miller was instrumental in getting the Lone Wolf and Cub comics translated and published in the US.

        • Andy says:

          Haha, Claremont’s Iron Fist is full of peculiar samurai stuff. I mean I love those movies and manga, too, but his insisting on using Japanese terms for all of IF’s martial arts moves, and turning Colleen Wing into a “lady samurai” is just goofy, like taking English characters and having them worship France 🙂

  • GoldenEye says:

    A good post.

    Something that isn’t discussed much is that One of the reasons why these books stick around is that no one has created a superhero comic of equivalent quality to “Watchmen” and “Dark Knight Returns” that shows the counter view. “Kingdom Come” tries to do this, but I think it ultimately fails. Until somebody creates the counter work, these books will stick around and be influential in the worst possible sense.

    • Garry Boldwater says:

      I always thought the Abnett & Lanning iteration of Guardians of the Galaxy was a good counter equivalent. At the time, it was meant to be the flipside of Civil War, which launched around the same time.

    • Jesse Lucas says:

      What would you call the counter view?

      I’ve read Batman TDKR/Watchmen/some Sandman but not really many other mainstream Western comics. I read tons of manga though, which has some very superversive work in it. Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer in particular is excellent at showing heroes learning that heroism is incredibly dangerous and difficult but sticking with it anyway. It doesn’t produce as powerfully gloomy an atmosphere, though, so I don’t know if you’d judge it on the same level.

      • GoldenEye says:

        “I always thought the Abnett & Lanning iteration of Guardians of the Galaxy was a good counter equivalent.”

        It might be, but I’ve never read it. From what I’ve read about Daredevil: Born Agaim, it might fit the bill; however, it’s part of an ongoing series, while Watchmen is a standalone story. I think any story expressing the counterview would have to be a standalone story.

        “What would you call the counter view?”

        I don’t know the details. It would have a Christian worldview and the heroes would be heroes. I’m spitballing, so at this point it’s not too well thought out.

    • Andy says:

      New Frontier does that for me. Gets better every time I re-read it.

    • Anthony says:

      Fails, huh?

      I can’t really agree with that. Progoressive preacher guy aside, “Kingdom Come” is brilliant.

      I don’t know if you’re being fair to DKR either. It’ actually ends on a pretty high note.

  • Fronzel says:

    Unfairly lays the rash of reboots at Gaiman’s feet; it started in the ’90s as a way of fleecing speculators who thought their issue #1s would be worth something someday as #1s from the ’30s and ’40’s are very valuable. All those ’90s books are actually worth virtually nothing.

    “Marvel 1602” was an eight-issue mini-series and was just a short exploration of a weird idea. Marvel also did similar thing in a sci-fi vein with the 2099 books. They’re not replacements for the normal series but odd digressions.

  • B&N says:

    I agree that the three works have been imitated too much and by people who can’t write well enough to write a complex story and/or characters, but of course, the same thing happened to Tolkien.

    The problem is when a good work becomes the genre/industry–like when fantasy became Tolkien-fantasy (see Terry Brooks), or when young-adult fantasy became Rowling, or when fantasy became . . . but you already know what i’m going to say.

    Perhaps part of the problem is, that students aren’t exposed to enough different types of work, so that when they start writing they’re always writing Tolkien, Rowling, or Martin—or only composing music like Zimmer.

  • Garry Boldwater says:

    DC Rebirth has confirmed that DC considers “Watchmen” to be the finest piece of work ever published. The retconned their continuity to make the entire DC Universe a creation of Ozymandias after the events of the Watchmen mini. Dr. Oz (as Ozymandias is now called) sank Atlantis, he blew up Krypton, he created the Amazons. They will also soon be revealing that the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents was actually V from V for Vendetta – which makes sense, since V HATED the wealthy.

    • Earl Rogers says:

      Not quite. An unknown entity (strongly implied to possibly be Doctor Manhattan, but as of yet there is no confirmation), stole ten years from the lives of the modern DC heroes, erasing long-established relationships, legacies, and weakening emotional bonds. There is a being calling himself “Oz” working behind the scenes for what is implied to be a different agenda, but we have no confirmation that he is Ozymandias, or that he directly influenced the cosmic meddling that erased ten years. Geoff Johns is on the record that if anything, he considers “Rebirth” to be a rebuke to the clueless imitation of “Watchmen” that happened in the years since.

  • Jaycephus says:

    The “readers down’t want diversity” thing makes me laugh. Obviously an SJW casting to simple facts on the ground, which were that new comics are not selling. A equally valid casting from those base facts is “readers want a good story” or “readers want their original character back” or “readers felt insulted,” and this could go on for another 1000 words.

    Agree on Watchmen. So damn overrated. I read the whole series as it was released, and could barely be bothered to finish it. Sure, it’s ‘artistic,’ but in the end I felt like it didn’t come through with anything worth the time and money. There was no moral power to it, and I think the average person is meant to feel like, “gee, people ARE stupid, so the ‘smart’ people are justified in employing the Big Lies.”

    I mostly agree, and I suppose FM is all about Darkening everything, but he’s only to blame for being a good story-teller, and being copied far too much. It’s fine to take Batman or Dare Devil and add darkness where it really is strongly appropriate and was only ever missing because of the Comic Code. It’s another thing for all the weak follow-on writers to use ‘Darkening’ as their secret sauce that will automatically make their stories as great as FM’s. Not that I think he was perfect. He just stands out in a crowd of weak players when he was first releasing this stuff. IMO.

    Anyway, perhaps it is coincidental, and certainly anecdotal, but The Watchmen are about the most recent issues of anything in my 4 long-box collection, marking the end of my comic-buying days.

  • Garry Boldwater says:

    What worthless son of a whore wrote that horrible and anti-American Batman comic where Robin got beat to death with a baseball bat, because DC’s sick-ass readers had voted for him to die? Was that Chuck Dixon, or the fat pedo Gerard Jones who just got sent to prison for corn-holing little babies?

    • Earl Rogers says:

      The writer was Jim Starlin, who originally planned for Robin to live. The 1-800 number voting stunt was a last-minute addition by editorial, who senses that the post-crisis version of Jason Todd was unpopular with the readers, who at the time in the letter columns were demanding darker stories and more “realism”. The vote ended up being close, but Jason (at least for a while) lost.

  • jic says:

    “If you read his interviews, he is ashamed that the industry took Watchmen and decided to move their entire lines in that direction. It’s awful reading about alcoholic Iron Man, jingoistic dated Captain America, wife-beater Ant-Man.”

    Except all those things happened before *Watchmen* was even published. Yes, the comic book industry deciding that *Watchmen*, *Sandman* And *The Dark Knight Returns* were ‘the future of the industry’ helped hasten the death of comics as a part of mainstream popular culture. However, the industry only decided that because they were simply more extreme examples of the direction comics were moving in already. The success of those titles were just taken as evidence that they were ‘right’. it’s easy to push somebody off a cliff when they are already teetering on the edge of the cliff.

  • I don’t think you disagree as much as you think you do.

  • Galaxy says:

    Well…I can’t say that I disagree or agree.

    I think it comes down to specific comicbook stories and superheroes. Some work with bigger dose of realism, despair, darkness and grounded enviroment, some with more escapist, batshit crazy, fun stories. Some can do both, like Green Lantern.

  • Horaz SC says:

    If anything, at least as a sequential artist/enthusiast with more graphic novels, Japanese manga and Argentinian historietas than North American comics overall read, I believe Moore and Gaiman’s works helped diversify the medium.
    After their works, the vignette, layout design and dialogues could suddenly be used in a whole new different way. And it shouldn’t be left out of that package artists like Garry Leach, Brian Bolland or Gibbons helped and added to that.

    It is hilarious to say what “the trick” behind Gaiman is, because you have to read quite a bit to get to use that trick, let alone have a bit of a knack for clever writing not many writers have (anymore, in certain cases).

    And about Alan Moore, after recently re-reading Watchmen (make no mistake, the Watchmen intervention in this new universe is another way to keep Watchmen in print, something the more educated in this particular thing know how it affected certain professional relations), V, the whole League of E.G…

    I can say that Miracleman predates the deconstruction and may be by far the best I’ve read in a long time -still reading it-. The way the references and previous original MIke Anglo work is inserted just adds to the legend.

    Probably because I lack a proper superhero background, but let’s not forget that grim and grit along with drugs and the such were brought on the Silver Age.
    Stark was already an alcoholic, then there’s Green Arrow issues with drugs, Harry Osborn on LSD, etc.

    Poor Spider-Man. I freaked out when I first watched that episode on FOX’s cartoon when all the different Spider-Men appeared. Almost an unending potential just out there. What happened with that (and most importantly, WHERE are the proper videogames for them)…?

    If deprived from humanity and kindness, stories become dull, insensitive, and needlessly violent. Are we seriously pointing out Moore and Gaiman over a freak like Mark Millar? Seriously?

    Two writers that broaden the horizons and have shown that comics are more than superhero comics, against an obsessively disgusting individual that says that if Kirby was alive he would be imitating his marketing methods of “putrid comics sold by the millions for mainstream movie titles”…? Seriously?

    Frank Miller. Poor man. I feel so sorry for him, and he clearly needs help and support.

    Year Zero, Dark Knight Returns, Sin City; wow man…
    And then All Star, that The Spirit movie, Holy Terror…
    What *really* happened to him, I wonder?

    I believe the points put out by the post are quite valid and make place for, at least, some thinking about the matter.

    But if we are to save a basket of apples, let’s not treat the golden ones as rotten (unedible, perhaps).

    At the very least since we’re many of us out there and willing to help, let’s try to really eradicate the rotten ones, while we look at the golden ones and decide their fate without denying it their magnificent nature.
    Please.

    Saludos desde Argentina, and long live sequential art.

  • Stadlai Aevnson says:

    You know when you have a feeling that’s been sitting around inside you for awhile, but you’ve never been able to express it properly, or it wasn’t formed well enough for you to even be aware of it? But then you read or hear something that drops all the pieces in place, and suddenly that hazy image is clear in front of you like someone blew off a thick layer of dust. That’s what reading this did for me over my opinion of Neil Gaiman.

    Since I first read his work – no even before that – when I first read about him and his work, I had this feeling about him that I was never able to put into words, but damn if you didn’t say what I’ve been feeling for a long time.

    There’s this saying that you can fix bad writing, but you can’t fix bad ideas. Neil Gaiman is one of those people who can write like it’s no one’s business, but his ideas are so played out. I’m reminded of high school and how I was in a writing class where we split into groups to write a screenplay and then make a short film. One of my classmates suggested juxtaposing Greek gods into a high school environment and making them high school movie cliche archetypes. The idea irked me to no end, but the rest of my group and the teacher thought it was super original and clever. That’s Neil Gaiman. “Let’s take this only instead it’s like that,” and every time, “That,” ends up as modern times, mopey goth, or both – and everyone eats it up.

    Where you would have people like Jhonen Vasquez personifying the misanthropic, anger from the angst side of the goth spectrum all to a Marilyn Manson soundtrack, Neil Gaiman is there on the other end of the darkness spectrum with characters shuffling their feet and looking at cracks in the pavement or wistfully toward a gray sky while The Cure echoes faintly from inside the cab of a rusty 85 Chevy Cavalier.

    I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about people where the sad, brooding stuff is immediately accepted as deep on both an emotional and intellectual level. I’ve said this for years to whomever will listen, but I think it’s much harder to make someone smile and and laugh than feel sad, scared, or angry.

  • DrTorch says:

    “Alan Moore’s Watchmen is what brought this on. The whole point of the book was to show real heroes growing old, having problems, being corrupt and dealing with real world issues and relationships”

    Sorry Jon, but I’d say Amazing Spider-Man brought this on. This was exactly what Peter Parker had to deal with (more Aunt May’s health than growing old) and what was so lauded by fans and critics in the 1960s, “It’s so realistic!”

    It’s why we soon after had to tolerate Ben Grimm’s incessant depression, and it’s why we now see the Visions eating dinner.

    It doesn’t have to be bad. Bendis made the back story a lot of fun in Ultimate Spider-Man. Neil Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow was lauded for dealing w/ current events, although that is where the leftist bent really got traction.

  • Erin says:

    Sorry, but you’re misinformed. and wrong.

    Comics have had reboots long before Neil Gaiman came along. Granted, there is a lot of that in his writing, which is one of the many reasons why he’s a poor writer. But he’s certainly not to blame for that.

    The X-Men were rebooted in the 70s as the Uncanny X-Men with new characters due to fledgling sales. It went on to become one of the most popular comics of the day.

    In fact, nearly every comic you’ve read has had some sort of reboot. Look up Crisis On Inifinite Earths. This came about as a way to try to establish continuity due to the various versions of each super hero.

    The Batman of the 70s is not the Batman that came before, and there were various reboots prior to that.

    You were also fairly redundant in your points about realism and darkness, since you talked about darkness in your realism point. There are two problems with your views.

    First, Tony Star/Iron Man was an alcoholic before Miller started work on Daredevil. We also have Wolverine from the X-Men who was pretty much a killer. He appeared about six years before Miller took over writing Daredevil. Miller isn’t the first to use dark subjects, by any means. If anything, he and Moore were just continuing something that was already started.

    Now, I’m not saying I like my characters being dysfunctional. But I certainly don’t want your goofy, childish view of them either.

    You also argue that, due to the nature of the material, that comics should not be realistic, which is another erroneous statement.

    If you actually read mythology, there was realism in those stories. They dealt with morality, and they were written about intelligently. Read Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus.

    This is high brow literature that deals with gods, which are really what super heroes are. If they can treat those characters with literary respect, then super heroes can be treated the same.

    I’m not against lighter portrayals either. The Adam West Batman is still the best version, but it’s not necessarily due to it being light and silly.

    It’s due to the fact that the scripting was very witty and intelligent, even though he was portrayed in a goofy fashion. It’s generally Lorenzo Semple’s writing that accomplishes this though.

    If all someone did was show the Hulk punching someone into orbit, that itself is pretty empty. But if you have someone like Semple writing it, he could turn it into something clever. That’s what makes the difference in any story.

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