Saturday, March 14, 2009

Define "redefined"

Hey remember how superheroes were one way in early 2008, and then Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo's Joker came out in November and suddenly superhero comics have been totally different ever since?

Okay, I'm really just being an ass. The image above is a house ad that ran in some of DC's comics this week, toting their site. The site is pretty nicely put together, and I think it's quite wise of them to employ the asking "Well, what did you like about Watchmen specifically?" tactic in making their recommendations. (It lists books in five categories: More by Alan Moore, more by best-selling authors, more for mature readers, books that "redefine" modern super heroes and books that "push the boundaries" of science fiction.)

There are some questionable choices there, and a few books that are pretty much complete trash, particularly in the superhero category.

For example, Superman: Red Son was a pretty good Elseworlds Superman story, but that's all it was. Like The Joker, I don't think it had any seismic impact in terms of people's definition of superhero comics. Batman: Hush, Batman: Broken City, Superman For All Seasons and JSA: Justice Be Done, whatever their individual virtues or vices, are pretty much just standard superhero books of the type bookshelves are full of; I'm hard-pressed to think of any way in which they might be construed to have influenced the direction of superhero comics.

And, while perhaps "trash" is a little strong, I can't imagine recommending Heroes, the comic book based on the TV show based on Watchmen, Chris Claremont comics and the plots cliches of a decades worth of superhero comics*, or Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman or Identity Crisis to someone who told me they really dug Watchmen. Not without expecting them to hit me over the head with the recommendation after they got done reading it, anyway.

But there's so much wheat recommended among the chaff that if someone were new to comics, reading everything on these lists probably wouldn't hurt them one bit (Additionally, the books included are ones that are, for the most part, very likely to be carried by public libraries and in big box bookstores, so, depending on your personal geography, you can read most of these without actually having to buy 'em).

They forgot two of the most obvious after Watchmen books though, Alan Moore's Supreme and the original Squadron Supreme miniseries by Mark Gruenwald, John Buscema and company. Oh, wait...

*Of course, I've never managed to watch more than five consecutive minutes of any given episode of the show without becoming so bored that I turned to something more exciting, like petting a cat or pacing, so don't take my complete disinterest in comics based on a show that no one I know watches based on comics in general as an indictment of it. I didn't really like that graphic novel though.

1 comment:

Hdefined said...

Most of those books would be worthwhile for the single reason that they demonstrate the superhero conventions one ought to be familiar with in order to grasp the context that the story of Watchmen operates in. Watchmen is a clever twist on superhero conventions, but you can't appreciate that twist if you don't understand what the conventions are.