You ever have something on your mind? Not a definite something…more like a collection of thoughts that are spinning around each other like planets. Everything is orbiting the same star but nothing is lining up. Then someone comes along and talks about that something and suddenly everything clicks together and all of those scattered thoughts are alphabetized, indexed and neatly sitting on the desk of your mind.
That ever happen to you?
Well a week or so back it happened to me in a big way.
At the risk of sounding like Sophia from the Golden Girls…picture it…Fayetteville, Ga…2013. It is freaking hot outside but errands have to be run. I’m listening to the latest (at the time anyway) episode of the Fire and Water Podcast, hosted by Rob Kelly and the Irredeemable Shag. It is a top notch show week after week and I actually delayed my departure to run the previously mentioned errands to download that episode so I could listen to it on my travels. Normally the guys cover Aquaman and Firestorm (fighting crime together…soak ‘em down or burn ‘em up…no one does it better) but this episode was one of their periodic Geek Talk affairs where they take a break from the regular format and talk about whatever is on their mind.
I like these episodes. A lot actually. As someone that also hosts a variety of podcasts I can attest to the fact that the episodes which garner the most feedback are the ones where the hosts kind of let their hair down (no mean feat for the Fire and Water guys, which is actually more of a dig at Shag than at Rob) and just let the discussion run where it will run. It’s like listening to a conversation you would have with your buddies at the comic shop or at a diner or anywhere you would hang out and talk.
Anyways…after going over the comics they are currently reading Rob starts talking about his blog, the Aquaman Shrine. I won’t get into all of the details because I really want you to download and listen to the show yourself but in a nutshell Rob brought up two points that really resonated with me.
Point #1: Do comic book fans have a shelf life in terms of liking what DC and Marvel are publishing?
Point #2: What sort of content should you post on your blog and if you don’t keep up with the latest and or greatest going on with your subject matter are you then just a nostalgia blog catering to a very narrow and specific crowd?
At least that’s what I took away as the main themes of the presentation.
We’ll come back to Point #1 in a moment. Point #2 was the subject I had been pondering about for some time that I alluded to earlier. For the past month or so I have been doing some serious thinking about the direction this blog should take. Running a Superman blog is…well, I don’t want to say problematic because this is something I do to have fun. At the risk of me sounding like I am whining about such things Superman has his own unique challenges when it comes to blogging. It’s not like Red Tornado or Firestorm or Ragman or Captain Carrot or other characters that don’t have as much history both in the comics themselves and beyond. Nothing against those characters because I like all of them to one extent or another but they don’t have multiple television series (both live action and animated), movies (both live action and animated) radio shows, Broadway musicals, toy lines, etc. like Superman has had. Then you have to add in the fact that there are two well-known websites (the Superman Homepage and the Superman Super Site) that cover the Man of Steel on a daily basis. The “easy” (notice the quotes there) thing about covering Red Tornado or Firestorm or Ragman or Captain Carrot is that there aren’t a whole lot of blogs and sites out there dedicated to those characters, so you can stand out above the crowd because you are the guy or gal that has stepped up to the plate to showcase them.
Or you can stand out like this…
…but I really wouldn’t advise it. Sure it’s awesome at first but then your Dad gets some bad advice and you wind up on a wacky vacation and then end up on national television and finally impress the hot girl you like…
Come to think of it maybe you do want to stand out like our buddy Max.
The question then becomes what do I cover? I have tried reviewing the newer issues in the past but given my schedule I could not keep up with that. Every once in a while I get the bug to cover the latest solicitations but that tends to fall by the wayside as well. There have also been the odd occasion where I wanted to cover some announcement about the comics or the newest trailer for one of the films but I can never sustain the enthusiasm to cover that and frankly I don’t see much of a point doing so. Sites like the Superman Homepage have a lock on the latest news, reviews, rumors and reports. I even write reviews for the Homepage (mainly Action Comics) and co-host a weekly call-in radio show with Steve Younis (the webmaster of the site) so that itch gets scratched on a regular basis.
This brings up the same question as before; what do I cover? After five years (and a few format changes that always come back to Superman) I have pretty much settled on posting about the aspects of Superman that I like best of all. This has evolved into having the blog feature scans and such from the Post Crisis era of the Man of Steel, which makes sense considering that that was the era where I began reading and collecting the Superman titles and the fact that I co-host a podcast covering those books on a month by month basis. Every once in a while I will trip into other eras but it seems like that time period is the rock my church was built on and to a certain extent I want to be the caretaker of that era and give it its due. It’s not a crusade but between the podcast and the Fortress I want to carry the banner for period in Superman’s history that may not be relevant but holds a special place in my heart.
I’ll even say good things about this era.
More to the point at this point I really don’t feel like covering the latest version of Superman on a regular basis. Sure I write the Action Comics reviews and co-host the live show but the New 52 Superman has not exactly set my world on fire. I haven’t flat out hated anything up to this point but Superman has had a fair number of setbacks and false starts since the fall of 2011. Action Comics, as written by Grant Morrison, was usually an interesting read but it wasn’t a take on Superman that I was particularly fond of. When he left we had a writer come and go even before the first issue of his run hit the stands. Those three issues will be followed by two fill-ins and four .1 issues before we finally get a new regular writer in the form of Greg Pak. Superman had two major creative shake-ups before Scott Lobdell took over the series and even though the stories have been entertaining the characters aren’t grabbing me like I want them too. Superman Unchained is too new at this point to call as is Batman/Superman. Supergirl has been consistently good (though I am a few months behind on that at the moment) while Superboy has been consistently disappointing.
Plus the Angry Red Eyes of Anger has become tiresome.
I can’t be. I just know it.
You could ask why I just don’t quit reading the new books. Well, the stories aren’t bad enough to do that. At this moment there isn’t anything coming out horrendous or offensive enough to make me want to throw my books in an alley way trash can and walk away into the night.
Another reason I know I’m not ready to pack it in is that I did that once and I know how that movie will end. Back towards the end of 2010 I walked away from the Superman titles for a good nine months. I came back because I sorted out the more irrational problems I was having at the time. Most of those problems stemmed from the realization that the DC and Superman I knew were never coming back and I guess on some weird level I wasn’t ready to accept that fact. Suddenly I knew what the Superman fans that loved the Silver and Bronze Age version of the character went through when DC revamped the Man of Steel in 1986. Their world was ripped out from under them abruptly. My world was taken away too but this time DC took longer to actually pull the trigger on it so I went through a few years being angrier about fictional characters and a hobby I was supposed to be enjoying than I should have been. It took me leaving for nine months to figure all of that out.
So while I may not be even 80% on board with what’s going on now I am certain of the following three facts.
- I still want to read about Superman.
- It’s not bad enough to quit yet.
- It’s cheaper and more convenient to buy the books now then have to track them down when I will eventually want to read them.
All of which is a long winded way of explaining why I prefer to talk about past incarnations of Superman rather than what is going on in the here and now.
This goes back to the Point #1: do comic fans have a shelf life in terms of liking what DC and Marvel is publishing?
I realize there are exceptions to this but to me the answer is definitely yes. There are people out there that still love what the publishers are laying down no matter what and remain excited about the latest and greatest while still loving the old stuff and I applaud those people. In general I believe that there are only so many times you can read the same type of story before you either don’t get the same thrill you once did, lose interest or both. This isn’t my fault as a fan and it isn’t DC fault as a publisher. Their job is to grab new readers and get people to buy their product and that group of readers used to cycle out more and more frequently than they have in the past twenty to thirty years. It used to be you read comics for five to six years and stopped and then people behind you discovered comics, read them for about five to six years and then stopped. Somewhere along the way a generation of us held on past our shelf lives and started to see the same plot points and story ideas repeat themselves over and over again and the only reason we saw the repetition is that we didn’t walk away sooner.
I’m not suggesting you have to walk away. If you love comics stay with it as long as you like but just remember that at some point the publishers are going to want to attract new readers and the creators running the show are going to want to retell classic stories and ideas and plot points from when they read comics so you either accept this fact and move on or get out of Dodge. Should publishers consider long time fans’ feelings? Sure. I think any business that has a customer base should keep those customers in mind, especially if they continue to generate revenue but at the same time those customers will eventually die off both literally and figuratively so at some point you can’t pander to a particular group of your audience over grabbing newer customers. This is simple economics. You can’t attract a new audience while slavishly holding to what has come before.
So yes, most of us have shelf lives as fans and you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean you have to give up on the books you loved when you were a kid or at a particular point in your reading history that just grabbed you and wouldn’t let go. You just have to accept that eventually the day to day world of comics is going to leave you on the side of the road and continue you on whether you want them to or not. It’s not evil. It’s not malicious. It’s just the way of the world.
And that, to bring Point One and Point Two together, is why I choose to blog about “my” Superman. From time to time I’ll get the bug to read books from before my time but my “happy” as Shag called it in the episode is the period between 1986 up to around 2000. Sure there are points in that nearly twenty year period where I wasn’t feeling the books but as an era they still get me excited. I want to write about them and share little artifacts from that time period. I want to dig out old Superman house ads or scan trading cards or scan old fanzine articles to show what was going on at a particular point in my collecting history. I do this mainly for my own amusement but also to show off how awesome I thought that era was and maybe like minded people will stumble on to the blog and like it too.
There is nothing wrong with being a nostalgia blog. As I mentioned earlier there are plenty of places on the Internet where you can read about the here and now. The Internet is a big place. There is enough room for the new and the old. Will I have an audience as large as those sites? Probably not but I’m not in this for the fame and I am not in this for the money. I am in this because blogging and podcasting makes me happy and that it is fun and the moment it isn’t fun is when I should stop or at the very least take a break until it becomes fun once again.
And that was much longer than I thought it would be. I appreciate you indulging me with this little diatribe. I did an informal poll over at the Facebook page (by the way, this blog has a Facebook page) and most people seemed to prefer when I would post house ads or Who’s Who entries and the like over more original content but if I can ever get my act together I would love to start having a balance between the two. Not only does it sound like fun and it is something I have a hankering to do but I think it will push the Fortress to the next level. We’ll see how that works out.
As I used to type at the end of every post…more to follow…