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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Thoughts: Comics are Mainstream...Now What?

Sunday, May 13, 2012 Posted by Chris Tung , , , , , No comments

Avengers. The Amazing Spider-Man. The Dark Knight Rises. These three movies will take the summer by storm and could rake in upwards of $2 billion dollars combined. All three center around fantastic characters that millions of movie goers around the world can't wait to watch. But more importantly, all of these movies were originally comic book characters, and as films adapted from comic books continues to prove lucrative for Hollywood, it seems there's no stopping comics from entering the mainstream and showing the rest of the world why, for decades, these characters have endured where others properties have been forgotten. Just looking at the amount of hype centered around these three summer blockbusters, we can see that our world is ready to accept comics as a source of credible storytelling. So, why am I so conflicted?

Comics have always been a crucial part of my identity. A nerd who devoured every book I could get my hands on because the real world was far too cruel. By reading the adventures of mutants and awkward heroes, I learned that it didn't matter if I was small or sheepish or shy. In the end, any man--whether he be super or bat, giant or ant--could be a hero because it was their actions that defined them as heroes. Because that world was so special to me, I couldn't help but cheer when the first X-Men movie was released. For the first time, I could go to theaters and see characters that I could identify with on the silver screen and cheer as they clawed and blasted their way through Earth's greatest foes. 

But, other people were at the movies too. Other people that had once ridiculed me for loving comics. People who laughed when I told them I was going to Comic Con. People who never stepped foot in the comic book section of book store let alone an actual comic book store. Yet somehow, they were now in love with these characters too. Characters that meant more to me than they could possibly imagine. I felt that I was losing my brothers and sisters to jocks and cheerleaders who would never understand my mutant or heroic brethren the way I do. 

And then, I couldn't stop seeing it.

Everyone around me was buying T-shirts with Steve McNiven's iconic Civil War pressed on it or Michael Turner's Wolverine. They didn't understand the years of context behind these shirts. They didn't understand that these characters were so much more than the "it" design of the month, and as I saw more and more people buying up merchandise related to super hero movies (but sales in comic still remained relatively poor), I was enraged at the people that were ready to buy backpacks, shirts, and cups with Spider-Man's face on them, but when it came to actually reading comics that was still "for the nerds". 

Then, I watched the Avengers this past weekend, and I finally realized two things. One, comics are meant to inspire their fans. For a dorky ten year old, it was a safe haven from a world that didn't accept me. But now, comics are on one of the biggest stages, and they're receiving some of the best reviews and opening weekends in history. Millions of people are spending their hard earned dollares to see characters fight bad guys and show us how low humanity can fall and how high we can climb. It is this triumphant trait of the human spirit that super heroes exemplify, and while our economy is still uncertain and senseless wars are being fought, I think everyone--both child and adult alike--could use a little inspiration right now. 

Secondly, comics can still cater to the masses without forgetting the diehard fans. After all, how many people knew that it was Dell'Otto and Cassaday's iconic depictions of Captain America that were being sold by a street vendor in the final shots of the film? Or, how many people knew that "Hulk. Smash" was so much more than a command from Captain America? And most of all, how many people instantly knew that the alien king on the throne meant a much more dangerous threat was coming in Avengers 2? It's these moments that remind me that writers and creators are just as much of a fan as I am. They'll remember the fans that were with them every step of the way, and when everyone else is watching the movie, they'll give us an extra special nod that tells us, "Look! We did it!"

I guess I've come to terms with comic book movies because, at the end of the day, it's not about people taking away something that I loved. Rather, it's people sharing in something that I've always known--the awesomeness that is is two spandex-clad characters beating the living crap out of each other. So, I'll see you all on July 3rd, and I hope you'll enjoy the next one as much as I do. ;)

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