Not too long ago I brought home the last hardcover of Grant Morrison’s Zenith series, a favorite of mine. I was elated! I remember reading this 2000 AD tale years ago and being blown away by it! It still is ahead of many comics coming out today!
I was poking around online to see if other people were as happy as I was. I did find some who shared my feelings, but I also found a perception that genuinely stunned me:
“It’s too old to be any good.” In other words, it might have been great when it first appeared from 1987 to 1992, but we’ve moved on. It’s not worth bothering with now.
A GOOD STORY IS STILL A GOOD STORY
Look, I get the idea that whatever came out in 1987 could be out of date. After all, there have been literally decades of comics storytelling since then. A lot of stories have built on or borrowed from Zenith, in my opinion.
But it’s like saying that The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, or other great comics are not worth reading or re-reading. I’ll NEVER buy that notion. Granted, not every comic is a classic, but to dismiss one out of hand because it’s older is something I think we need to discuss!
I’m interested in how things got the way they are, and so things like Zenith will always appeal to me. And I love a good story regardless of when it was written. I’ll pull out this series at some point in the not-too-distant future and relive it when I’m in the mood for a top-level adventure.
I also think that a great tale will pull us in no matter when it was conceived. Years from now I think people will still be discovering Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, for instance. It’s that well-told!
ONLY THE LAST FIVE YEARS MATTER
It’s been a common expression around the comics industry that many readers drop out after around five years of reading, moving on to other things like video games and other kinds of books. However, with comics appealing more and more to readers who have been or will stick around longer than that, this is no longer valid, in my opinion. But with some, that persists.
I buy hardcover collections of storylines to be able to dive into them again because they’re so good. Granted, some of them ARE from the last five years, but I it depends on more than that.
For instance, DC released a hardcover called Batman: Gothic, compiling Mr. Morrison’s five-issue story from Legends of the Dark Knight #6-10 in 1990. This writer was clearly making great comics at that time, so I highly recommend it to anyone who may not have read it before. Don’t let the age scare you – it’s something special!
A friend was telling me that he had copies of when a certain character appeared for the first time. That took place about 30 years ago. Is that too old for today’s readers? Or would it help you understand the character better? Hmmm…
I STILL LOVE TODAY’S COMICS
Please don’t misunderstand me here. There are a lot of comics that are terrific today, and I often recommend them here.
I want to also say that I’m really happy with DC’s decision to open up their books to literally any period or set up they’ve used in the past. I think this will help coax back a lot of readers who felt alienated when The New 52 came in a few years back.
But what will really matter? The story! Is it good? Do we care about the characters? Are we surprised in a good way? Does what’s happening make sense? These things are all important to me.
What intrigues me is that Marvel seems to be going in a direction similar to what DC did with The New 52. There will be only one Marvel Universe, and the past has been largely been wiped out. Sound familiar? Like the Ultimate Universe, eventually you get back to where you were before you started Secret Wars. How do you fix it when that happens again? Make yet another Secret Wars? Personally, I think DC’s choosing a better route.
I’m not sure if the collectors will turn out in droves when the new number one’s appear as they did when The New 52 debuted, but we’ll see. I think we’ve gone to that well too many times, frankly.
IF IT ISN’T NEW, IT’S OLD
In our culture, we need to be tuned in to the latest, hopefully the greatest thing trending. This is far from new – we’ve been like that for decades now. What happened yesterday (or these days, a minute ago) is “old news.”
It all comes down to why one reads comics. I don’t read them to keep up with the latest trends, although I’m sure whatever company created the books you’re reading will be happy to take you money regardless of your motivation. Instead, I read them to experience excellent storytelling, to dive into that world for a brief period of time. When I wonder what will happen next, it’s not to be trendy. It’s to know what will happen to these characters I’ve come to understand and care about. And that’s important to me. Oh yeah, and sometimes I even learn something!