Monday, October 23, 2006

When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny

Ambush Bug in Who's Who
Originally uploaded by roadkillbuddha.
I think most comics fans experience a pole shift every few years. Something happens... either in their personal tastes or in the comics industry... and their DC/Marvel preference polarity is reversed. This phenomenon doesn't include the hardcore fans who stick with their favorite publisher for life, of course, declaring no matter what that the opposition sucks ass and always will. Those guys are a breed apart. For the rest of us, DC and Marvel seem to go through phases, or eras, that determine which company's output we read more of.

These days I read more Marvel than I do DC. I think it was back in 2000 when Cap'n John turned me back onto comics after I'd spent a few years away, and the tool he used was the Daredevil: Visionaries trade paperback, collecting the first eight issues of Kevin Smith's run on the series. Shortly after that I began to follow all of Marvel's then-new Ultimate Universe, and it wasn't long until I was embarrassed to realize that I'd returned to the Marvel Zombie tendencies of my youth.

And although I'm following fewer Marvel titles now than I was then, I find myself gravitating back toward independents rather than back to DC. Because while there are a few outstanding DC books, like Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman series (which, tellingly, exists in its own continuity), these days I find the DC Universe to be a bit tedious.

Based on the events of Identity & Infinite Crisis, I can only assume that there was an editorial mandate somewhere along the line to eradicate humor from everything they publish. And I consider that extremely unfortunate, because for me the heyday of DC Comics (post-Silver Age, at least) was the '80s.

That's right: The era of the Giffen/Dematteis/Maguire Justice League and, of course, Giffen's Ambush Bug... the halcyon days when laughter could still be heard in the DC Universe. Which is why I was extremely surprised last week when, in the humorless aftermath of the various Crises mini-series, Ambush Bug turned up on the cover of DC's 52: Week 24. Maybe there's hope for the DCU yet.

For the story behind the picture of Ambush Bug above, click on it and read the caption for it on my Flickr page.


Jimmy DC said...

The Bug is the bomb. Completists should make sure to check out his earliest appearances in Action Comics, where he practically made an art form out of poking fun at all the silliness of our buddy Clark's pre-revisionist Silver Age continuity, and at the whole pre-Crisis obsession with impractical continuity resolution in general. Not to say that it ever all went away...

Giffen also had a throwaway character named "Continuity Cop" who looked like the old "Johnny DC" mascot - you know, the old circular DC "bullet" logo, only rounded off with eyes, arms, and legs. Shadesza R. Crumb, and the old GE lightbulb character, which he made into a sort of Zap Comix mascot. Wotta hoot! 'Doze was some goood funnybookz!

capn john said...

As for humor at D.C., I might also point out the recent exchange between Batman and (was it the new Blue Beetle?) that you e-mailed to me. That was SERIOUSLY funny. And bonus points for taking a jab at the (very dark) events of recent D.C. continuity.

Corey Bond said...

Cap'n John is referring to Blue Beetle #7, pages seven and eight.