There’s always something that gets on our nerves isn’t there? Whether it be that person who parks that little bit too close to you on a car park, the person who stands that little bit close to you in a queue, the person who likes One Direction…
They’re probably oblivious that their activities get on your wick, but they continue to do so nonetheless. And they probably don’t set out to annoy you, but they still do.
With that in mind, here’s a few things that get on my nerves when it comes to comics – and some of their associated media. The first one is quite a big one..
From Secret Wars to Crisis on Infinite Earths, from the New 52 to Marvel NOW!, both DC and Marvel love a good reboot, but sometimes, they get too prevalent – particularly at DC. They’ve hit the reset button more often than an irate Dark Souls gamer. The problem that a reboot inevitably has is that it must fundamentally change the way existing storylines operate and (as another point will cover below), usually ends up with hastily recast heroes or parts of comic book lore that are rewritten or forgotten at the behest of the writer. Marvel’s recent Secret Wars crossover (which I’ll touch on below), has seen lots of characters changed fundamentally, particularly Captain America and The Hulk, and in my opinion not for the better. It’s led to divisions amongst fans and arguments of political correctness and lack of new ideas – but while early sales are up, that was also the case with another reboot that was recently binned. DC’s New 52 was supposed to be jumping on point for new readers (and it did it’s job initially), but it jettisoned lots of things that long time DC fans loved, particularly when it came to big hitters like Wonder Woman and Superman. Both of them had large parts of their backstory removed or altered (Superman’s parents being dead, Wonder Woman becoming the God of War etc). Characters like Deathstroke and Lobo were altered from grizzled old veterans into young, handsome, demographic appealing heartthrobs. The only character who seems to have come out of credit was Batman, in the capable hand of Scott Snyder. Overall, for me, reboots are short term gain, and are often retconned when the next reboot comes around. C’est La Vie.
Pointless recasting of heroes
One of the gripes that comes from the above reboot obsession is the need to take a heroic person and give it to someone else. Sometimes it works, other times it’s nonsensical. Marvel’s Secret Wars event has just pulled a few of these out of the bag just recently. Thor is now Jane Foster (with some waffle depicting the original Thor being no longer worthy enough to wield Mjolnir), Captain America is now Sam Wilson, The Hulk is now Amadeus Cho. Marvel has been accused of pandering to a PC fanbase by changing iconic heroes from being white males to women, or different ethnicities. Marvel says not – initial sales figures would seem to justify their decision too. But no one made such as huge a fuss when Miles Morales, of Puerto Rican and African American dissent, became Spider-Man in the Ultimate Universe. It was welcomed in many circles, with only a few dissenters. That’s not the case now. Might it be, as it is in my opinion, that people want to see Steve Rogers be Captain America, Bruce Banner be The Hulk, and Thor Odinson be, well, Thor? Flipping over to DC, and after seemingly meeting his maker at the end of the Endgame storyline, an amnesiac Bruce Wayne is no longer Batman, and Commissioner Gordon is now swanning around Gotham in a gigantic armoured suit claiming to be Batman. It’s not an approach I agree with, but Snyder has a lot of credit in the bank, and could yet turn the story into something special. It’s not like other people haven’t taken on the role of Batman before – step forward Dick Grayson and Jean-Paul Valley – but after Snyder’s success revisiting Batman’s origins and his growth into one of the most dangerous characters in the DC Universe, this latest move seems somewhat of a backward step.
Crossovers or events
If DC has over-egged the pudding with reboots, then Marvel leads the way on yolking up crossover events. Once upon a time, they were rare – the first Secret Wars, and then Civil War are good examples. Then however, crossovers, or events, or whatever you want to call them suddenly started popping up all over the place: Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Siege, Shadowland, Fear Itself, Schism, Avengers vs. X-Men, Age of Ultron, Infinity, Original Sin, AXIS, and now Secret Wars – all in the last seven years. Then it gets to the point where you get tired of Captain America popping up on the same page as Spider-Man, bored of Iron Man and The Hulk appearing in a story where they just happen to be up against a common enemy – it happens so many times, the “wow” factor dissipates. I want The Avengers getting together to be a special occasion, not because Thor texts Vision of an evening for a couple of beers and a pizza. It also gets to the point where threats have to become bigger and bigger just to provide a credible threat to the combined might of The Avengers/Justice League/X-Men etc. And how big do you have to get before it becomes a letdown?
This is an old chestnut that goes back several years – costume changes can be for the better (Bucky Barnes’ Captain America outfit, Spider-Man’s black costume, Martian Manhunter’s more regal outfits interspersed with black, and even Jean-Paul Valley’s armoured batsuit). Sometimes though, outfit changes are needless, and can actually diminish the character. In DC’s New 52 reboot, Clark Kent, upon first using his powers, used a Superman T-shirt because he didn’t have a costume, but then he found one on the ship that told him of his heritage (actually it was reactive Kryptonian armour – but that’s another story). After the recent “Convergence” event, he’s back to wearing the T-shirt because he’s lost some of his powers. In my opinion, it’s ok for him to have the proto-costume in the character’s infancy, but once he’s adopted his iconic outfit, he shouldn’t go back. Similarly, endless attempts to update Wonder Woman’s outfit have all been reversed since leather jackets and leggings etc have changed the look of the character too much. If it’s change, for change’s sake, why bother?
Sexualisation of female characters
Costume changes also tie into this bugbear – particularly when it comes to characters that play to a certain stereotype. Catwoman, for example, has been someone who has been to accentuate her assets to sometimes implausible levels. The artist Jim Balent always made Selina Kyle sexually attractive to look at, and while he also imbued her with a formidable resolve, it’s hard to get past the way her body is drawn (see title picture). But Balent wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last to try and attract a certain demographic by making female characters into fantasy figures. Power Girl, Black Widow, Emma Frost and Scarlet Witch are just a few of those who have seen their bodies become a marketing tool. But you might think that in these modern, enlightened times, that we’ve moved past that – after all, Catwoman now wears a business suit by day and a black jumpsuit by night. You’d be wrong. Milo Manara’s controversial cover for last August’s relaunch of Spider-Woman featured a picture of Jessica Drew so overtly sexual it was nearly indecent. What does this say to a female reader? I’m a heterosexual male who admires attractive women depicting in art and real life, but there are standards of decency, and the question has to be asked whether that cover reaches those standards.