A friend and I were talking about if I hated comics or if Im just too jaded to enjoy them in my old age (an ancient 35). Well allow me to tell you my response. I'm jaded because I dont see why comics cant be crazy and fantastic and must be gritty and cynical these days. Why cant the hero be an individual that wants to be something better and not just some asshole who says "fuck you" and beats up bad guys just because he can. Seems that is all you get these days, thanks to so many writers and artists wanting to do their own version of the Watchman and Dark Knight Returns. Now dont get me wrong, I dont think that trying to bring some realism to stories is a bad thing, but lets face it kids, if Superman really existed 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, hell even the Vietnam War (Im not calling it "conflict" so it sounds like we didnt lose a fight) would not have happened. We are talking about people who wear tights and bright ass colored underwear who can fly and lift mountains, so lets just stop thinking this is the real world here.
I remember when Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch brought us The Authority. We were all so happy to see Superman and Batman really beating the shit out of people as the gay couple Apollo and Midnighter. Hitch's art was astounding, each page was more beautiful then the last... but where are those characters now? The easy answer is "Who cares?". When Ellis and Hitch left you had writers come and reduce characters, who werent really all that 2 dimensional to begin with, into cookie cut outs. Say something "witty", punch head off of bad guy, and then say something else "witty" (rinse and repeat if necessary), was the norm. I never really felt like there was anybody to root for. Heroes werent heroes just assholes who liked to break people. These comics are for those that dont have that awe in them anymore to me. There is no bright light at any end, of any tunnel, anywhere. Life sucks, so smoke a cig if you got it, kick some dude in the balls, go screw some catwoman clone at the end of the day before you put a cosmic bullet in your brain after saying something prolific that in the end just sounds stupid.
Where is the wonder? Where is that sense of reading something amazing? Have we grown up so burnt out that we cant feel that anymore or is there nothing out there that is good enough to reach that long bricked up kid we once were? Is there no book that can be compared to Chris Claremont's & John Byrne's soap opera run on X-men? Or a comic that hits your funny bone and your heart strings like Giffen's & DeMatteis' Justice League? Or is everything just a copy of Mark Millar's Wanted or Kick-Ass?
Well, here are some that truly hit me as why comics are just as fantastic as when I was a kid. Geoff Johns' Green Lantern, Todd Dezago's and Craig Rousseau's The Perhapanauts, the duo known as DnA's Nova, Greg Pak's and Fred Van Lente's The Incredible Hercules, Robert Kirkman's & Cory Walker's (with Ryan Ottley) Invincible, Mark Waid's Flash run as well as his and Mike Wieringo's Fantastic Four, are just a few that are not afraid to embrace the amazing and fun side of superheroes.
These comics demonstrate what talented people can do with a cast of characters that develop in interesting and real ways without resorting to the norm of gritty and dark that seems to sum up all that superheroes can do these days. Yes, some of them are rich, some are gods, some are just plain monsters but these books are able to find that "Holly Crap, this is cool" moment (like when Invincible first goes into space or when The Human Torch ends up working for Galactus) or that spark of humanity and vulnerability within all of us (like when Ben Grimm takes on the form of The Thing again to make sure the world is not without a Mr. Fantastic or Hal Jordan not wearing his ring when he flies jets so he stays on his toes), that helps us (or at the very least me) connect to these characters. They make them real, flawed real people that happen to be able to shoot beams from there eyes.
So its not that I hate comics, I love them! I love reading a great story and seeing an artists idea of the magical world we the readers wish we were in. I love the awe and spectacle of it all. And Im not saying grim and gritty doesnt have its place, Invincible has shown us that it can be done without being a Wolverine or a rabid Batman rip-off. And although I am more jaded with age, my hide thicker with years of the "real" world beating me down as it's prone to do, I am not jaded when it comes to comics, just writers/artist who think if heroes really existed they would be Superman on acid. Heroes are meant to be like us, flawed and damaged individuals who sometimes dont really know what the best course of action is but are always trying to do the right thing. Fighting the forces of evil with not just their powers but with their humanity, courage, intelligence and even humor. And I dont see why they cant continue to do so.