I work a few days of the week at my local comic book shop. A few weeks back I overheard a couple customers and the owner of the shop, talk about the Barman R.I.P. storyline. I wasn’t particularly paying attention until one of those customers made an off-handed comment about Superman: “That’s why Superman sucks.”
A little while before I had also overheard another customer with his little brother or cousin, the elder one probably mid to late twenties, and the little bit of their conversation that I overheard ended with that Superman “is just too invulnerable to relate to.”
As far as some readers out there not “getting” Superman, I in turn don’t really understand: what isn’t there to get? But that’s the thing about personal preference, isn’t it? We all have different taste, and not every single one of us is going to agree on things. Superman is a God-like figure. His personal story, and how he came to earth is such an epic origin. Superman’s biological parents sent their only son into the galaxy’s vast unknown, and onto a world where he would possess powers beyond ordinary men. Batman’s origin is rooted in a deep-seeded yearning to avenge his parents’ death. Wonder Woman’s mother sculpted her from clay. There have been numerous men to hold the Flash mantle; so much so, there’s a museum dedicated to the hero. There is an innumerable amount of Green Lanterns in the universe, yet through the years there have been a handful of Lanterns to occupy sector 2814. The strength of the DCU is that their characters and their stories are inherently epic.
On the other side of the street is the Marvel Universe. Most of Marvel’s characters don’t seem as epic, and are as normal as can be, but somehow find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Peter Parker was a kid part of a middle class family, who like anyone else has their ups-and-downs. He’s given these wonderful abilities, and yet experiences heartache and tragedy over and over again. The Fantastic Four are a family of science, and instead of dying out in space in an explosion; they come back to earth with abilities given because of that explosion. Steve Rogers was a soldier enlisting in a war that he believed our country had to absolutely win. Their stories just seem to resonate on a more personal level.
I’ve only been reading and collecting comic books since 2002, and still think I’m only just scratching the surface of what comics can offer. For that first year or so, I got into comics mostly reading DC books, and some Marvel books, too. But I didn’t start expanding my reading material beyond the big two universes until I picked up on Y: The Last Man. I found it unique in not only that it didn’t have any capes, but also in it’s execution.
Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director. I saw Psycho for the first time in 9th grade. In fact, some of my friends and I had recreated the film for a short stage play for our drama class, with one of them suggesting we do Psycho. And as it was my job to translate the script to fit our play, I had to dissect the characters, story, and plot, and then help perform the play itself. I made the realization of not only discovering how awesome film really can be, but it was what inspired me enough to think I can aspire to be a screenwriter / filmmaker. I had that same wide-eyed look of wonder when I first started reading Y as I had when first watching Psycho.
Being the film nerd that I am, I can really dig old black and white films, but I have friends –who aren’t into classic cinema/studio era films– that just can’t sit through black and white films. Adversely, I once had a film professor that believes that the films of today are nowhere near as creative as they once were in the studio era. Another film professor –last time I heard– had seen Citizen Kane eighty-four or eighty-five times. It’s likely that number is up closer to ninety by now. When discussing film noir with a friend of mine recently, he mentioned that although he realizes and appreciates all of what Citizen Kane brought to cinema, the film itself just wasn’t his cup of tea. It’s totally understandable. I’ve seen the film four times, but I ended up somehow taking a power nap during the second act in each of the last two viewings. Yet I do geek out at specific scenes just like anyone else who comes across their favorite scenes in their favorite stories. Citizen Kane is a favorite film of mine, but it’s not as high on my list as it would be on my old professor’s. I understand why it’s so great, but I also understand how tedious it might seem to most.
I started out reading primarily DCU books, but gradually, my taste widened. I still gravitate mostly toward DCU books, but there are a little more Marvel and creator-owned/ independent books thrown in here and there. Everyone has their own preferences in a myriad of things, not the least of which are comics. Sometimes as I try to figure out how a character in a story ticks, it somehow bleeds into how I might analyze a work in general.
People are the most fascinating creatures on the planet, and I can’t seem to ever be surprised by that. You can get two totally different reviews of a comic from two different friends, and each argument raises valid points. So what makes one person’s opinion more valid than the other? Well, if you have to choose one, then you’re likely to choose the opinion from the person you trust most. But what you must also consider is which person best realizes the appeal of the story and/or the character(s). But in the end, each one of us will read or watch what we read or watch because it’s what we like; or whatever the reason may be. It’s just fun trying to figure out why someone’s taste is different from your own. It helps you understand your taste, and help gauge whether or not your taste changes from time to time.
When sharing my thoughts on this with a friend of mine a couple weeks back, he pointed out that my argument just seemed, well, obvious. And of course, he’s absolutely right, but I just wonder if readers out there that are willing to try to understand characters and stories that aren’t necessarily to their taste. I’d like to think that I would, and have tried to give my best college effort to understanding material that others have no taste for. I also like to think of myself as a good observer of things, as someone who can read a particular situation well. Maybe I’m just a big softie, but there is underlying merit to the stories that we read, watch, and hear about, and the characters that inhabit them. Sometimes, I just wish that people’s tastes were broader than they are, and those characters and stories that are not to a particular person’s exact taste not be immediately dismissed.