Letters to Holly

Wednesday, June 14

Catches Breath

We're trying to finish a convention program and the summer issue of the magazine at the same time, and it's making me a tad scatter-brained.

I finished up Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night, and it was disappointing. The formula of the franchise showed through, and it took an awful long time to get to the point. This sucker's about 850 pages, and about 200 of those could go without affecting the book significantly. This is the first book of the series I had read without seeing an accompaying movie adaptation first. I can't say how that affected my dislike of the book, but I could clearly imagine the action taking place in the adaptation production design, and all the characters sound in my head like the actors playing those roles. I'm gonna start reading The Tempest next.

We're talking about our individual insurance policies and trying to decide if I should join her state-employee coverage or stick with my own. We'll compare policies this weekend.

Picture of the Day/In the news
Comic companies like Big Event Stories, and usually these occur in crossovers, stories that run through several titles. DC (the Superman & Batman people) just wrapped up Infinite Crises, wherein their universe of characters tidies itself up a bit. Now Marvel has Civil War, wherein the heroes fight each other over the notion of deputizing themselves in exchange for their secret identities. This week, Spider-Man, to show his support for the idea, went public with his alter ego. This is causing a lot of hand-wringing and airmchair quarterbacking.

Myself, I don't like it. Not because I espouse a status quo among supherhero books. Nope. I don't like it because of what I call "spectacle writing." In order to attract collectors, publishers present Big Events that usually change back within a few issues. And Peter Parker has gone through a heap of Big Events within the last five years: Aunt May discovered he's Spider-Man, his power is now magical in origin, his first love was revealed to have slept with his archenemy and had his kids, he got a new ugly-ass costume, and he lost an eye and developed a strange healing coccoon power. And this kind of upheaval is happening across the board in Marvel. Cool comics? Maybe. But I call it needless turmoil. Writers are drifting away from telling Spider-Man stories and are instead telling big stories with Spider-Man in them. I'm no crank. I don't want comics to be the way they were when I was younger. But so much has happened recently and none of it feels like organic storytelling. It smacks of crass marketing, and the characters are losing their distinctive flavors. Each story feels like the others. These Big Events carry no weight when they occur so often. It's just bombast. I want comics that are fun and smart and occasionally meaty. I don't want mindless fluff, and sales gimmicks are mindless fluff.

You'd think they would have learned from the Big Spider-Man Event in the '90s: The guy we all thought was Peter was really his clone. Sales of the comic dropped like a rock, and it took years for the editors to pull the character ouf of that mess. I started reading Spidey on a regular basis when a new writer came aboard about six years ago. I dropped it amid the aforementioned list of Big Events. My favorite story during all that was a fun little arc about Spider-Man acting as a bodyguard for a mobster chased by a gamma-radiation Frankenstein of dead Mob victims. Spidey had to decide if he could keep the mobster's money and ultimately used it to build/dedicate a library branch to his first, and now dead, girlfriend. A little action, a little sentiment, a little moral dilemma. That's fun comics. That's all I want.

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