The stupefying criticism of Superhero comics and films

Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice opened on Good Friday to a barrage of criticism from all and sundry, myself included. Now for me, it’s objectively a bad film. The script is a mess, characters have confused motivations at best, women are treated appallingly, Superman is an idiot, Batman’s a psychotic idiot, and let’s not talk about Lex Luthor/Jesse Eisenberg because I’ll be here for months.

I understand people are going to like this film. I think they’re a bit mad but people think I’m a bit mad for liking things like ELO, or that Inland Empire is at least as good a David Lynch film as Mulholland Drive.If your level of criticism is ‘THIS FILM RAPED MY CHILDHOOD’ or a variation of The Simpson’s Comic Book Guy then that’s not especially criticism. Throw a rock into the pool that is YouTube and you’ll hit at least a fistful of reviews like that but they’re as painfully shite as the film they’re smugly criticising.

At the same time, you’ll also see a lot of very good reviews from people who are obviously superhero comic fans. You can see that it clearly hurts them that this is a bad film but they’re being as fair as possible. These aren’t ”haters”, these are people who want better than what’s being served up to them. Like football fans, superhero comic fans are being exploited by huge companies that see them as a money pit. They know they’ll come and see a dog like Batman versus Superman regardless of the advance reviews because they want to make up their own minds. I did it myself and I’m no longer the superhero fan I used to be. Of course there’s a chance audiences are going to stay away once everyone’s sussed it’s crap, and indeed, that’s happening, but by now the money’s out our pockets, DC/Warners are happy and that depressing Justice League film nobody’s ever wanted is on its way.

There’s nothing wrong with fans or critics wanting better. There’s everything wrong with not understanding this as this article on Bleeding Cool does. The author of the piece, Dan Wickline says this:

But my point is this. If you are reading this post, then you care about the comic book industry. You are a fan of the work and you want it to succeed. Otherwise why would you be looking at Bleeding Cool?Whether you admit it or not, you want the industry to thrive so that more books are shipped, more movies are made, more television shows are adapted. And you’re not going to like everything ever made nor are you expected to. But each of you have people who read what you say on social media and they pick up on what you are feeling. If you share excitement, then excitement spreads, but if you share hatred, then that is what they will pick up on.

What’s the point of telling people how much you didn’t like something, how much you think a movie has destroyed your vision of a character or a comic has made you feel like you wasted your money. Negativity breeds negativity. And negativity hurts the industry that we love.

If you didn’t like Batman v Superman, fine. But why put that negativity into the world when you can talk about a movie you did like or one that you are excited about coming up? Why talk about how much you think a certain publisher is ruining their characters when you can talk about a comic you do like. You can share your excitement about the good things in this industry just as the writers and artists yesterday shared there’s. You can be negative and keep someone from going to see a movie or you could be positive and get them to pick up a new book or try an animated feature.

This industry survives through the excitement of the fans and creators involved in it. And it thrives when that excitement is shared. Maybe think about that the next time you go to post something.

This is at best, an inane childish argument. At worst it’s supporting the exploitation of fans in lapping up shite ‘product’ because if we have more ‘product’ we’ll have a better ‘industry’.

I don’t especially care for the comic book industry. I’ve been there in my time and although there’s fine people in it, there’s too many arseholes surrounded by sycophants pushing crap to fans knowing fine well they’ll buy something rubbish. It’s the argument that places commerce over quality. ”If there’s loads of stuff out things are doing well!!’

Less is sometimes more. I care for the medium of comic books which I’ve felt for around 40 years to be an art form neglected and despised when it shouldn’t be. There’s some extraordinary works of art in the world of comics and some astonishing creators who slave away doing the best they can in a market that’s swamped with drivel. This is the fight between the further commercialisation of the comics medium (Geek culture is after all another way for companies to market things to people) which is the subject of the excellent Jaques Peretti series, The Men Who Made Us Spend.Peretti actually uses the comic fan as part of the discussion of commercialisation.

The medium of comics thrive because there’s good stuff out there. Not because the 524th DC revamp has been announced, or there’s 71 Batman books published every month. That’s just selling product so shareholders make money. There might be the odd diamond in the rough but if your argument against criticism is that it’s being ‘negative’ and you should talk about good then frankly that’s the argument of someone that’s drunk the Kool Aid and is more interested in ‘cool stuff’ than quality. After all if you’re wanting to be a ‘journalist’ in comics (and there’s very,very few actual real examples of comics journalists) it’s not good form to rock the boat by calling a big publisher’s product shite.

You want a better industry then fight for it. Don’t put up with crap because you like the people involved or it’s horrible hearing bad things or you don’t want to fuck up your chances of that job with Marvel or DC someday.

As bad as this is it’s not as bad as the ”I don’t read comics because they’re for kids” argument generally made by ridiculous snobbish Guardian hacks or in the latest example, some Hipster clickbait manufacturer at the Daily Telegraph by the name of Rhymer Rigby whose previous columns for the paper include the intellectual heights of ‘‘How to deal with a killer hangover at work”.

It’s the usual bollocks. Man decides comics are now beneath him. Sneers a lot. The site picks up a load of traffic. Man goes to sit with his equally sad friends in some soulless London pub. Takes a load of cocaine. Bangs one out in the toilet. Cries a bit. Goes home. Does the same tomorrow.

So I’m not saying the medium of comics is beyond criticism. It’s not. I’m also not saying my attempts are the peak of criticism. They’re not. But if people want better comics then they’ll have to call out the crap and do it right. If people want better then that doesn’t mean they want more titles. Wanting better isn’t wrong, and neither are adults liking comics or the related media, even if some of these things are terrible. Wanting better or seeing things in a medium or genre sneered upon by arseholes like Rhymer Rigby can’t see because he’s just yet another clickbait producing hack for the London press is a good thing. If only to show the potential of the medium and also, to put people like that in their place.

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