Here are the Gods and Monsters shorts if you’d like to play watch-a-long at home:
We’ve been at this for nine weeks now, and you have probably inferred that I am not terribly impressed with modern DC comics. Well, not impressed with three-year-old comics and actively declining to read all current comics. I’m probably coming across as the worst kind of complainer, the guy who bitches constantly about media he doesn’t even consume. But it comes from a place of disappointment and frustration at how badly something I should theoretically enjoy is being handled.
My first real exposure to the DCU was the Fleischer Superman cartoons and Paul Dini/Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series and I loved the bejesus out of them. Much later I got into Teen Titans, Young Justice (you cancelled it, you cancelled it, you maniacs) and arrived extremely late to the Batman Beyond party.
(oh my God you guys how good is Return of The Joker?)
None of these shows were perfect, but they nail all the best parts of superhero storytelling. Interpersonal conflict, compelling villains, great fight scenes, humour fucking humour, and of course the age-old anime question: Why Do We Fight? They were bright, colourful well-written and lushly animated.
Given my frequent rantings about DC Comics’ inability to do anything other than grimdark nonsense, I’m sure you are totally unsurprised that my favorite Batman episode ever is Almost Got ‘Im. That setup is everything that I love about the genre, not least because if we treat the villains as people rather than monsters we can get more interesting stories out of them. This is not fucking rocket science.
Coming at this from the other direction, my history with comics is a lot weirder. In my younger years I was an avid reader of Garfield collections, in fact as I turn my head to the right I can see a bookshelf full of Peanuts, Garfield, Footrot Flats, Asterix and Tintin. When I got my first real job at the age of 17 (Subway sandwich artist, no autographs please) I decided to get back into comics and ran into the exact problem that DC so impressively failed to solve with the New 52: where the fuck do I begin?
I rolled into Minotaur , looked around and quickly realised my choices fell into two camps:
- A bunch of single issues in racks on the wall that all had names like Uncanny X-Men #275 (with CIVIL WAR tie-in)
- These things that looked more like actual books and had numbers on the spines that started at #1
Unsurprisingly, I went with the thing that let me start at the beginning of the story (and provided a lot more pages per dollar then single issues did).
Rather spoiling this little narrative is the fact that the first comic I ever bought was Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, which has no number on the spine because there is only one volume and which I think I only got because a friend recommended it and the cover looked so weird.
After that I picked up Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes and there was no going back. The Invisibles, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Watchmen, 100 Bullets, V for Vendetta. Noticing a pattern? For over a year I walked into a comics shop once a week and bought a trade off the Vertigo shelf with near-total confidence in its quality. I didn’t do them one series at a time either; it was agony trying to choose between the next chunk of Sandman or Transmet. Ah, to be young and poor(er) again.
What I’m getting at is this: my first experiences with “real comics” gave me some fairly high expectations. During this period my exposure to traditional superhero fair was limited. I read and adored Warren Ellis’s Nextwave comics (subsequently declared non-canon by people with no sense of humour) and Sean had discovered J Michael Strascinsky’s Spiderman comics and used to loan me the trades, those were good too. I read Batman: year 100 and thought it was pretty cool, I suffered through All-Star Batman and Robin and decided I hated Frank Miller without ever having read any of his allegedly good works, and I read the vastly superior All-Star Superman and was reminded once again that Grant Morrison is the man.
Also, I read Invincible. Invincible ruined me for all the other superhero comics by actually being good and not treating its audience like idiots.
Wow this is gone on for a while, this was supposed to be notes for the podcast and I’ve turned it into a thing. I’ll shut up soon I promise.
Roll around to the New 52.
It’s really my own fault. Up until this point I had been (mostly, unwittingly) doing what savvy comic book readers everywhere do: just reading the good ones. Of course not every comic a company puts out is going to be good, that’s ridiculous, what kind of moron would think that it would be?
*Indicates own face with both thumbs*
This was my first brutal encounter with Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything sucks.
I had naïvely assumed that the huge unexplored world of superhero comics that I wasn’t reading was somehow amazing and life changing and it obviously fucking wasn’t. Worse: it was nothing at all like the superhero shows that made me love the genre in the first place. I began to seriously doubt whether the thing I thought I loved had ever existed. I’m still not sure it ever did.
Replace the little girl with a man in his mid-20s unabashedly wearing cargo shorts in the daytime and you’re pretty much there.
In spite of all that, I’m not willing to give up completely. So here is what I’m going to do: I am going to find the good superhero comics, I’m going to read them, and I going to tell you about them in excruciating detail.
We now return to your regularly-scheduled podcast notes.
The founder of Melbourne is John Batman, Sean is an idiot.
Batman did found Melbourne, not just design it. I am an idiot.
Oh god I said Justice League, I MEANT AVENGERS. I know that those are different things, obviously. This is like how I always think Dr Strange is a DC character even though he manifestly isn’t
Ugh, fucking ctrl alt delete. I actually used to really like it, although I now have no idea why. The infamous miscarriage comic was kind of an important moment for me, even if I didn’t really have the words to express why at the time. I think was the first case of total story collapse I ever saw, just the entire premise bursting under the weight of this ridiculous attempt at serious drama. I remember the day it happened quite distinctly: I opened up my folder of webcomic bookmarks, tabbed down to CAD, took a long look. Deleted the bookmark. “No more of that”, I said to myself “no more of that.”
I certainly wouldn’t advise you to read the wretched thing, but I’ll try to give you some context: Imagine if there was an episode of Dora The Explorer where instead of reprimanding Swiper, Dora had a miscarriage. I hope that helps.
Webcomic link dump follows:
LFG man is called Richard, I remember now.
Haha, the greatest thing about webcomics is that their early pages are almost universally terrible. So trying to convince other people to read them is impossible. This is why I weep.