Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here. He writes: Hello, I will be going to the upcoming Las Vegas Diamond Summit. If there are any publishers interested in doing interviews feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now on to our regular program.
I remember as a kid going to a comic store in the area and remembering at times the owner talking with others around his own age about how much better comics were back in his day. I paid little mind to it, I was enjoying what was going on then and there comic wise. Now I am older and finding myself wandering were comics better when I was younger? I do not say that out loud at the store. I do not want to discourage people from making a purchase, of course. A Dungeons & Dragons player left here after going on and on about how much better D&D was back in the day. A former employee told me they called those people “Graybeards”. Old school D&D players that are still caught up in the past. Is that me? Am I now a “Graybeard” about comics? I still enjoy comics. Still eagerly looking forward to titles such as Doomsday Clock. Though at times comics seem much more chaotic plot-wise. By that I mean I keep thinking at times after reading a new comic that plot makes no damn sense whatsoever, such as when I read the latest Heroes in Crisis. It is not even the revealed murderer, it is the over-complicated steps to get there. Comics were dark at times, though the hero was a “hero”. Someone that managed to do the right thing and, of course, despite all the odds against them put out a win for the good guys. Not a person that betrayed their friends or someone who was so unlikable that people would not want to read about their adventures.
Now, a thorny area to get into. Were comics of better quality back in the 80s? I know printing quality and the paper have improved over time, of course. Though has the writing and art gone downwards overall over the years? Heck, even the editing? It seems at times that when a writer is told he or she can not do something by the company they work for, they go to social media and cry “Creative Freedom!” or something. Never mind that they are getting paid by the company to write for them. Art-wise, I used to collect more original art in the past than I do currently. Do artists get paid less than they did back in the day so fewer try to get into comics? Editors at times seem powerless now. It is hard to believe former editor Len Wein left editing the Watchmen over feeling Alan Moore could have had a better ending. Now a writer is able to get an editor off a book.
Continuity is starting to make its way back to being somewhat important again. Years ago it was much more important. Books matched up much better. Some people say continuity makes comics too confusing or daunting for new people. This always puzzles me. I got into comics more because of continuity. This was also before the internet which makes learning about characters much easier. Don’t know the character? Do an internet search and away you go. In the original Secret Wars, I was puzzled that the Hulk could speak and seemed more intelligent than he did on the TV show that I associated the character with. I got over it. The story pulled me in. That limited series got me into TSRs Marvel Role Playing Game. Me and my friend played a lot of the Secret Wars RPG. I most likely do not want to know how many times we replayed the Secret Wars RPG game from TSR. To make things more challenging we did not have access to a local comic store in town and even between the two of us we did not have the complete Secret Wars limited series. The fact that the black suit from Secret Wars went on to become Venom was cool. I have that Secret Wars issue still. Well read and beaten, though to this former kid, priceless.
Nowadays, when a new writer comes to a comic and ignores whatever happened previously in the title, often the writer does almost whatever he or she wants with a character or characters that another company owns and then leaves. The next writer takes over and repeats. Imagine if TV shows did that. NCIS Special agent Gibbs must track down and kill (not just capture because that is not what the writer wants to do) former teammate Special Agent Timothy McGee because McGee killed follow teammate Elenore for daring to say no when he asked her out on a date. Then imagine the next episode totally ignores the last episode because a different writer does not want to be bogged down with the show’s past history. That sounds incredibly stupid, right? Writers are humans, not every idea they have is pure gold. An editor can also make a good story even better. Or used to be able too.
That comic collection I bought from the 90s I keep bring up in these columns? It has been selling well. I have been trying to get them put away and have them out on the back issue bins at times and people are buying them up. I have sold more copies of the Venom Lethal Protector #1 from decades ago at $14.99 than I have sold copies of all of the issues of the latest West Coast Avengers series. Even comparing the original issues of the West Coast Avengers, I look at the most recent issues and ask why was this not just a limited series to start with? Why is the original West Coast Avengers better? Like Solo, the West Coast Avengers will go into the dollar bin and collect dust. Marvel seems focused on quantity instead of quality. Shooting out material that will not sell is not the answer. Putting out comics that only a few people will like, makes little sense. Oh look, it had so few readers that it got cancelled.
Or am I remembering comics under the rosy innocent eyes as I first saw them as a kid? The kind of wonderment and excitement to a new world that only a kid sees?
Have I become what I have long feared? The Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons? “Oh, I’ve wasted my life.” Thud.