Defining Thought | Describing Creation | Telling Stories | Illustrating Concepts

The Lost Magic In Comics

Golden_Age_Character_Sketches

Awhile back in our forum www.visadj.com, Blackmage and John Reid had a very interesting conversation about comics. I thought I would share some of it, because it really was quite thought provoking.

Blackmage:
While strolling through the internet I came across this independent comic website called IndyPlanet

(http://indyplanet.com/store/index.php).

I found the website mesmerizing because it was a honeypot of creativity and new talent trying to get into the industry.

While fumbling through some of the comics, descriptions, and covers, I found myself interested in only a few of the products. I asked myself… ‘Why?’

Remember how the OOOld Golden Age and Silver Age comics looked? They were basic with corny dialog, flashy suits, and kooky powers… they were magic! I find myself going back even now to periodically enjoy how things started.

What makes now so different? What are modern day comics missing when it comes to ‘magic’? How can it be recaptured?

If you get a chance, go to the IndyPlanet website and pick a couple of titles that you believe have the ‘magic’ and share it with us.

Please explain, how is it magic? What makes it magic? Why is it magical?

I am VERY interested in learning how to capture this missing art.

John Reid:
Yes when I was growing up comics were only 12 cents and each issue was a treasure to me. I was around for the silver age of DC comics and the birth of Marvel comics, plus other long lost companies like Charlton.

Yes each one was magical, unlike today’s comics. So what happened?

To begin with in those days comics were written for ages 7-10 year olds. But as the baby boomers grew older the writers of the comics kept upping the writing to match the age of the consumer.

So they began writing for teens in the 60’s and college level from the 70’s on. Today’s comics are expected to compete with the writing of novels, TV and movies. Indeed writers like Joss Whedon write all of the above.

The price began going up as well, the cost of paper and salaries as they competed for the best artists and writers they could get.

So while the 12 cent comics were found on a rack in every drug store and convenience store in America, now they can only be found in book stores and specialty comic book stores and cater to the comic book lovers like me, who grew up with them.

So getting back to the magic that’s been lost. Ever read the early Marvel comics written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby? His characters Iron Man. Thor, Spider-Man, the Hulk and so on, now household names due to Hollywood finally catching up with Stan Lee, were some of the most imaginative characters ever created. Stan Lee was the Walt Disney of the comic world

Over at DC I still enjoy the silver age, square jawed Batman and Robin stories that inspired the 60’s TV series. They were magic because to the very young they were adventure stories and to the adults they were humorous and entertaining. In many ways I would prefer to watch the old Adam West Batman than the super-cool Christian Bale Batman.

Again the age range they were trying for were pre-teens.

Comics today while far better illustrated and written at the adult level are far too dark. Even Batman comics treat us to tales where murders are graphically depicted. Heroes like Wolverine and the Punisher are portrayed as more violent than the criminals they face.

The magic was in the innocence of the tales, which has sadly been lost. Kids are not allowed to be kids anymore. They must be “cool” pre-teens, who are must behave like mini adults.

Blackmage:
In the old days, it seemed that the magic was as simple as good versus evil. The bad guy wanted to do bad and the good guy strived to do good. As the line blurred, we entered the new era.

This made comic book storytelling more intimate and realistic. It made it something that the reader could relate to, but it came at a price. The old way gave us a direction to aspire to, while this… merely one to relate to.

I remember when they made Speedy (Green Arrow’s ward) a drug using junkie and Green Lantern have to deal with racism in the 70’s. While both of these touched our hearts and were relateable… they introduced a path in comics that could only move forward away from innocence… and ignorance.

They were as powerful as what The Muse mentioned with sex and the depiction of dead bodies.

Comics were originally for children. The ‘POW’ from a punch merely knocked a bad guy out. Now it leaves a broken nose, running blood, bruises, and lingering fear.

In every other comic, the hero would make a statement as to why he wouldn’t kill, protect the innocent, and despised guns. Now, the hero is vengeance and fear incarnate. They’ve introduced a new type of ignorance to embrace…

CONSEQUENCE!

Wolverine IS a murderer! Punisher is a murderer. Spider-Man has committed man-slaughter… and so has Batman on multiple occasions. Green Lantern has killed… and Wonder Woman – uhm, no comment.

None of them has answered to the laws that they supposedly fight to uphold. None of them have spent time in jail OR prison for the crimes that they have done. None of them speak of not-killing much anymore. In fact, its the opposite.

I don’t know if they is a way back to innocence. I find it much like the day after your first time having sex. May father said it is the last line of innocence in your life. You can never go back to the day before it.

Maybe, this is the TRUE path that comics must take and we were merely blessed to be born in the age that it all began.

-Blackmage

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