Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Look Everyone! Comics!

There's a slight move towards making comics fun again. But you really won't be seeing it from the Big 2. At least not yet... Not until they realize what's going on.

Despite me dropping virtually everything from DC post-New52 (I did decide to stick with EARTH-2 and WORLDS' FINEST, however. Both are excellent books.), I have managed to find a couple non-New52 titles worth reading. Surprisingly, one IS from DC Comics. The other is a relaunch of a franchise that DC had their hands on but never really sought to utilize it to its full potential since they already had their own Universe to market and sell.

The first is YOUNG JUSTICE. Almost everyone is familiar with the show. It's one of the best superhero cartoons in recent years. I personally think this series ranks second only to the classic Batman: Animated Series.

DC Comics has been putting out a comic to support the show for almost two years now and although it's lumped in with their DC Kids line it's really all-ages material. All-ages as in "appropriate for adults", too.

All-ages is a tricky thing. Most everything that's labeled "All-ages" really isn't. Once someone picks up one of a majority of titles labeled as such they quickly discover that "All-ages" means "just for kids". But that really does a disservice to books like YOUNG JUSTICE, which can be enjoyed by kids AND adults.

Back in the old day readers started to feel they needed more Mature comics. With Mature themes, nudity, sex, strong language, graphic violence, etc. And they found it in titles specifically aimed at Mature Readers. However, slowly, that mentality creeped into the mainstream comics. I remember when Marvel launched their MAX line to compete with DC's Vertigo and just threw everything in the books that they thought would make them Mature. Except, of course, a story. Suddenly you had four-letter words flying left and right and graphic violence being done just for the sake of it. Forget story. No one bought comics for that anymore.

Which brings us to now. Most mainstream DC and Marvel comics are not appropriate for all ages. And the few titles they publish with an "All-ages" label is really "kids-only".

You can blame BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, WATCHMEN, THE ULTIMATES or the Saw films but it really boils down to the Big 2 trying to market to the same group of fans they had in the '80s. Fans that are now older. So they pepper their comics with decapitations, t&a and more "ahem" serious language. All in an effort to be taken more seriously. And it really just comes off absurd.

They really should be more focused on trying to attract a younger audience while still writing stories that would appeal to the older fans. Without insulting the intelligence of either crowd. Otherwise, the vast kingdoms they've built will die off when those older fans do, too.

DC and Marvel CAN do it. They succeed immensely in that respect with their animated shows (DC) and movies (Marvel). They just don't bring that same approach to their comics.

YOUNG JUSTICE is DC's current bastion of hope. It's their connection to bring in those new readers. Any fan of the show would love the comic because (most importantly) it's written by one of the show's producers, Greg Weisman. Because of that, it keeps the same feel and characterization that viewers are familiar with. Add in the stellar art that's much more sophisticated than what one find in any of those "kids-only" comics and you have a winning combination.

Honestly, I've found more entertainment in the YOUNG JUSTICE show and comic than I have in mainstream comics in years. I highly recommend that folks try it out. And don't let the "but it's based on a cartoon" mentality set in before giving it a shot. You may just be surprised.

Oh, I mentioned two, didn't I? Well... the other title is not from DC or Marvel. It's not even from Image or Dark Horse.
It's from Archie.
I can hear you now. See... there's that preconceived thought coming in.

Archie Comics relaunched their Mighty Crusaders franchise this year as a digital-only comic, called NEW CRUSADERS. This title picks up years after the last MIGHTY CRUSADERS comics Archie published back in the '80s, ignoring everything that DC did with the characters since then. (Note: I did like the Impact line when DC used the characters in the '90s but since they weren't DC's "babies" they weren't held in any importance by them.)

NEW CRUSADERS, the digital-only series actually became so popular that readers demanded a print comic. Now the "digital-only" title has become a "digital-first" one with the print edition collecting the stories for everyone to enjoy.

There's a bit of similarity between YOUNG JUSTICE and NEW CRUSADERS. You have the obvious: the younger group of heroes and the anime-influenced art. But you also have adventure and excitement that seems to have been all but forgotten in the mainstream books.

Anyone that's tired of dark and gritty comics and are looking for comics that are fun and adventuresome but not kiddy fluff material should really check them out.
NEW CRUSADERS #1 is out now and YOUNG JUSTICE is up to #20.

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