Fanboy Comics’ newest contributor, Robert J. Baden, shares his thoughts on what it is to be a Comic Book Fan.
By Robert J. Baden, Guest Contributor to Fanboy Comics
I have come to the realization, with great pride and enjoyment, that I am a comic book fan. Not something that would stop the presses and be considered of vital importance to the world, but, for me, it is a bit of a change in my entertainment and reading pleasure. It is not as though I haven’t read comics books throughout my life, but I never considered myself a fan until after I had turned 31.
While growing up in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, there were very few comic book titles I would read. This was in part because the majority of the time I spent reading actual books; the other reason is that my parents didn’t consider comic books to be of a worthwhile venture. I had developed an appreciation of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation and would read DC Comics’ lines, and I also found myself pulled into the world of Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe from Marvel. For years, these were the only comics I read in any regular fashion, but when we moved to another city and state, there was no comic book shop or even a retail bookstore nearby, and, thus, my journey into these few titles waned while I entered high school and college.
College was full of possibilities for me, more so than high school ever was, and during my junior year I rediscovered comics once again. The year was 2001, and by this time DC Comics’ Trek lines had vanished, and the Joes had retired from Marvel. So, being the rather large geeky and nerdish person I was, I instead spent my money on other titles: Star Wars. For a few years following this renewed interest, Dark Horse became my only island in the vast array of print comics.
It wasn’t until the launch of the new G.I. Joe continuity from Devil’s Due Publishing that I began to expand myself further. Every now and then, as had happened in the Marvel line before DDP’s, The Transformers would crossover with G.I. Joe, and behold my interest piqued. I had always been a fan of the original 1980s American cartoon and its accompanying animated film, but had never considered looking into the comics. But, now I was faced with a new universe to rediscover in print form and found that I enjoyed it excessively.
It wasn’t to last; however, once again, titles and companies dropped away. Dreaveweave lost the license for The Transformers, DDP made several changes to their G.I. Joe continuity that were very different from Hama’s original version, and I found myself introduced to an ever-growing Star Wars Expanded Universe with a torrent of new titles, characters, and situations. And then, my interest exploded.
During a re-watch of the DC Animated Universe’s various titles from the ‘90s and early 2000s, I had engaged in a conversation with a friend concerning how I had never involved myself in the larger comic worlds of DC’s and Marvel’s main lines. I had always justified it with that the lines were so huge, so long, and so interconnected that it would take forever to wade through them all. Take into consideration how much I considered myself a Batman and Spider-Man fan, and one can understand my reservations about entering into the earlier days of their various runs.
But, the conversation got me to thinking: why couldn’t I try to read some of them? I knew the basic premise of various titles and character, having seen movies and cartoons about them for years, and I talked about them with friends and didn’t always feel lost. So, a decision was made; I would try to read some of the big titles, just to see if there was any actual interest. What came next was completely unexpected.
I started first with reading just the New Avengers line started in the 2000s, because it starred two of my favorite characters, Spider-Man and Wolverine. I had no previous knowledge about who The Avengers were beyond a team of superheroes, and found myself becoming taken with the various story arcs and interconnecting cross-company plots that were shown in just this one title. So, then I went further, and decided to read the Marvel Comics company-wide events of the Civil War and Secret Invasion. From there, it was all downhill (at least in terms of trying to maintain a distanced interest).
I had now become interested in anything to do with The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men (and its various array of memberships and spin-off titles), and Wolverine. I read several late ‘90s to present comics, focusing mostly on The Avengers’ various titles and the Ultimate imprint line. And then, I wanted to learn more about the beginnings, and so I started to read some of the earlier 1960s issues.
And, that’s when my interest became stilted a bit.
For years I had heard about how the Golden Age and Silver Age of comics were vastly superior to the present day issues, but I’m afraid I found my interest in reading the older lines forced. I won’t say that Stan Lee or Jack Kirby or Bob Kane don’t deserve to be held in such a high place for their creations, but I was born in 1980, and my life experiences have been vastly different from someone growing up in the ‘40s or ‘60s.
Part of me was hurt after reading these earlier issues; a new world I had discovered, one in which I was just starting to get my toes into, had a downside to it. I tried several times to read the older issues, and while I could force myself to read some of them, it just seemed as though it was more of a chore than an enjoyment. There are several reasons I could name to justify my feelings, but the bare bones of it is that I just felt rather bored with the older storytelling; as a writer myself, I look at other works and judge their quality and, with regret, I have to state that the older issues were not as intricate as today’s are.
I then heard about the Flashpoint arc for DC Comics and the then-upcoming New 52 relaunch. This was when I became almost giddy with excitement; the ability to read an entire universe just as it relaunches into a new continuity! I could see the progression and development of heroes, villains, and expanding arcs straight from the beginning. It became important to me to try and read all 52 titles—something I’m still working on to this day—and to try and give them all a chance before tossing them aside into the list of “not reading” lines.
Given the somewhat limited reading I’ve done throughout my lifetime, I’ve confirmed some aspects of comic books that I already came to consider possibilities years ago:
- A fully integrated and multi-issue plot will keep my attention more than a single-issue one-shot.
- I identify better with flawed characters who have their own problems than the quintessential “perfect hero” of the older pulp days.
- Life is full of gray and conflicting issues, and, thus, it is reassuring to see a hero face a crisis of conscience rather than always siding with what is considered legally right. (ex. Captain America vs. Iron Man during the Marvel Civil War)
- Characters change over time, just as people do, and it’s both jarring and reassuring to see a static icon such as Spider-Man make different decisions than what he would have at the beginning.
And, the amazing thing is, less than a year has passed since I first read a comic book that wasn’t Star Trek, Star Wars, The Transformers, or G.I. Joe. Here I am, at the age of 31, and I’ve just now become a Comic Book Fan.