So thanks to ex-housemate Brenton, this following article crossed my feed this afternoon.
The gist basically is as follows: Comic book movies are silly, comics are for children, the movies that are adapted from them try so hard to appeal to the adult crowd and less so for children that the stupidity hurts, superhero movies are the worst way to convey a message.
When I shared the article to my own Facebook feed, I semi-joked that I haven’t had any self-respect for decades, so I’m in the clear, but y’know, as a card-carrying, comic reading, dork-who’s-meant-to-be-an-adult, I think I at least deserve a little more of a right of reply than self-deprecating humour. So here goes.
Dear Mr. Rigby,
I am writing to you in regards to your recent article titled “No Self-Respecting Adult Should Buy Comics or Watch Superhero Movies”, posted to the UK Telegraph, dated 28th March 2016.
First off, cool as shit name, man. Almost superhero-like. Seeing a real Jessica Jones-esque angle here, but then you’re a “self-respecting adult”, apparently, so I daren’t go on.
I’m a filmmaker, blogger, podcaster, writer and self-important raconteur who is turning the tender age of 31 this year and -by the tone of this post I’m sure you guessed- I read comics. I watch comic book movies too but honestly, I’m so far behind the times I have no idea who’s fighting who these days. Apparently there’s a war and it’s civil? I don’t know.
Point is, I get what you’re trying to say. The local cinema is basically a deluge of guys in tight pants and masks, causing enough explosions to give Michael Bay a hard-on, it’s not exactly high-brow entertainment yet everyone enjoys the shit out of it, there’re far better ways to convey a message rather than the dumbed-down way superhero movies go about things, and perhaps “self-respecting adults” should put away childish things and do as you did; Shove the comics up into the loft and crack open a pants-wettingly good novel.
I take umbrage at the fact that comics are entirely for kids. You throw a child a copy of Saga, or Preacher, or Sandman and you’re gonna have some questions to answer. Presumably, you know this already, and that you were talking specifically about Batman, Superman et. al. To which I ask, why can’t these heroes -written for 10-year-old boys- convey a much more important message than the flogged-to-death “good triumphs over evil (but sometimes it doesn’t and it gets really messy when that happens)”? You worry about the “dumbing up” of society, I see it purely as an entry point to invite discussion.
Perhaps having a man dressed as a bat explain why good people do some pretty terrible things in a raspy tone that makes Tom Waits sound like Pavarotti isn’t the best way to get across the problems with humanity, but y’know what? People tuned in, and those people are gonna have arguments with other people about the merits of a singular extended monologue, all because Batman said some stuff then disappeared before the credits rolled. Is it simplistic? Hell yes.
Or y’know, you could just accept the World’s Greatest Detective for what he is: Goofy, high-concept, and more importantly, fun.
Sure, they whip a little message in there from time to time, but you said yourself, this shit is for 10-year-olds. Thing is, those 10-year-olds are now in their 20’s and 30’s and they’re having a hell of a time watching their heroes be adapted to a cinematic juggernaut of a franchise. Sure, I got the basic gist of the message behind The Avengers, but I enjoyed it more as a popcorn flick where a bunch of guys got to blow shit up, kill the bad guy, and save the day. Consider the following clip, and say to my damned face that your inner child doesn’t get an erection around the 1:20 mark:
The fact of the matter is this. These sorts of movies are whatever you want to take from them. You’re just out for a good time and want to see Hulk punch the shit out of Loki? Great. If you want to take something much more thought-provoking away from seeing Hulk punch the shit out of Loki? That onus is entirely on you. This is the joys of living in an arguably free world: You can do, say, think, feel, and speak however you damn well please.
The thing is as well, our childhood heroes, our GI-Joes, our Transformers, our Supermen from generations long past to our generation, to generations well after both you and I are worm food, have always had a habit of throwing a little message in with all the goofy fun, the explosions, the overblown stakes. Don’t be racist, winners don’t use drugs, don’t talk to strangers. Why stop there? Why not use these same platforms as methods to teach the merits and disadvantages of being intrinsically good, or intrinsically evil? Or why dictatorships are horrible and authoritarianism is a shitty form of government?
Sure, maybe I should put away all my toys, my comics, my video games, heck, a guitar or two because Lord knows I’m not going to be Billy Corgan any time soon, but simply put, I don’t want to. You might have stopped being 14 a long-ass time ago, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to. I like highbrow, thought-provoking, engaging, no-mask-wearing entertainment as much the next guy, but y’know what my occasional lazy Saturday needs? Some dude in a goddamned cape and tight pants.
Why do I -now fearing the grave- have to give up childish things? Maybe I’m the exception here but I’m researching and reading and writing and rehashing all the time. It’s my damned job these days to be finding interesting things to talk about, to learn, to remember so I have something cool to say the next time I’m stuck in a room full of people. I adult as much as the next guy, and y’know what? I get tired of adulting.
So I read comics.
It’s not that I don’t ‘do novels’ or I’m ‘not a reader’, I read plenty of stuff, lots of it with big, long, unpronounceable words that would make an English major blush. I read for research, I read for pleasure, I read to educate myself, the crux of the issue is this; It takes me forever and a day to get through a book -partially on account of my shitty eyesight-, it takes me a quarter of that to read, enjoy, and reflect on a comic book.
Perhaps this is because I’m one of those gosh-darned Millennial kids with the attention span of a goldfish, but hey, I’m reading aren’t I?
Hell, some of the comics I read are from established writers, or journalists, or what have you. Genuine, bonafide, bestselling authors who use all those big unpronounceable words that you like so much. You can keep your John Updike, I’ll stick with Neil Gaiman.
Let’s talk about novels for a moment actually, ’cause this door swings both ways. For every To Kill a Mockingbird there’s a Twilight, for every Harper Lee or Dimitry Glukhovsky, there’s an E.L. James. Where’s your long-winded intellectual snobbery about that? Or is The Miserable Adventures of Bella and Edward not “stupid good” enough? Your entire food-based analogy falls apart like a 3am Kebab once you start realize that a hundred-page novel can be -and usually are- just as bad as a 30 page comic. Saying that one doesn’t or can’t portray the same message as the other is foolish, and I feel completely limits you to the amount of stories and fables out there to be cherished.
You get a good enough writer? you’ll get a good story no matter the format. Similarly, shitty writing begets shitty stories.
I could go on, I could try and convince you otherwise, but you’ve seemed to have made your mind up, and I am but a humble writer of a blog hardly anybody reads. Hopefully whatever dumpster you left your own dumb goofy superhero-lovin’ inner child to die in makes a quick recovery, lest -to butcher a quote from Patton Oswalt- “You’re going to miss everything cool and die angry.”
Till next time.