Sunday, July 20, 2014


I have been thinking about writing a post about this subject for quite some time. As a person who has worked in journalism and the news media, I feel I can make and accurate constructive criticism, unlike some people have unfortunately been forced to work with (i.e, scummy talk radio people).
This has to due with the coverage of a subject I have loved all my life: comic books.

The news media coverage of the comic books has improved since the dark days of the 50s comic book controversy, when the newspapers and radio commentators were calling comic books "trash." There is a generation that grew up reading many of the older characters, so when a story comes along about a "shocking storyline." The biggest news recently has been "Archie Andrews will die taking a bullet for his gay friend, Kevin." Next came the story "Captain America is being replaced by a African-American." Even stranger is some outlets reporting "Thor gets sex change."

This leads idiots on Facebook to whine that the evil media is corrupting our kids and it is the end of America (Or as they say Murica).

The truth complicated on both sides. First off, these stories are usually used as filler, at the end of a newscast or filler for the entertainment section of a newspaper. These are written quickly without very much research into the subject. The story is also simplified to just give the idea, so the details of the story are left out.

The main thing that is left out of these stories is that comic books have what are called alternate universes. This has been going on since the early days of Superman and Batman. Archie is no exception. Archie has cashed in on popular trends over the years. He was a Man from UNCLE-like  secret agent, a superhero and X-Files-like paranormal investigator. In the 70s, Betty was a soap opera heroine in a alternative storyline called Betty Cooper, Betty Cooper, and Jughead has even taken up time travel like Dr. Who. The Life with Archie title was revamped as an adult themed storyline about a grown Archie married to Veronica after apparently divorcing Betty. It is this older Archie Andrews who bites the dust in the current issue of Life of Archie. My guess is this wasn't a big success, so this will be the last issue. However, in the regular Archie titles, he will still be in high school, drinking malts with Betty and Veronica.

The Captain America and Thor stories make more sense to the long time fans of the characters, when more details are given. Captain America is injured and his long time sidekick, the Falcon, dons the famous red, white and blue outfit while Cap recuperates. This wouldn't be the first time Cap was replaced. While he was frozen in ice, there was another Captain America in the 50s. They wound up fighting it out in 1972.

After Watergate, Steve Rogers decided quit being Captain America and became a superhero called Nomad. Several people tried to be Captain America and failed tragically.

At one point in the 90s, Captain America was replaced by the government and he had to take on another identity. In a graphic novel called The Truth: Red, White and Black, Steve Rogers found out the super-soldier serum was tested on an African-American soldier before him. So really, nothing new for Captain America.
THUNDER THIGHS (Sorry I had to do it)

Thor is a woman??? Nothing new there either. The idea that someone else picks up the hammer isn't new. In the 70s and 80s Marvel series, What If, both Thor's girlfriend, Jane Foster, and X-Men's Rogue have picked up Thor's hammer.

Of course, this is not the first time the news media have left out details about a "shocking development" in a popular comic book.  In 1988, DC Comics had readers call a toll free number to vote if they wanted the Joker to killer Robin in a story arc called Death In the Family. Fans voted to have him killed. What wasn't reported in the media, what was neglected by the media was the fact that this was not Dick Grayson, but a new (and very unpopular) Robin named Jason Todd. Dick Grayson had become Nightwing in 1984 (and like Falcon, he was Batman for a few issues when Bruce Wayne was hurt).

Also this wasn't the first time Robin had died. He was killed in 1964 (above).

Then again, Batman died, but that was after he replaced Commissioner Gordon and he married Catwoman. Confused yet? This was my first exposure to the alternate universe concept. I received several comics books one Christmas. One of them was the issue above with Batman in a coffin.

Truth is this had happened before too.

In DC Comics Earth-1 featured the modern superheroes and Earth-2 featured the Golden Age versions. Some may remember a few months ago, there was a story about a upcoming "gay" Green Lantern. It was the son of the Earth-2 Green Lantern, which you wouldn't have known from any of the mainstream news media stories.

In 1992, the big news was the death of Superman, but that had happened before too.

After Superman's return to life, the news media was a buzz with his marriage to Lois Lane, which DC had already done to death (an early story of this scenario was turned into an episode of the 50s TV show). They even conceived several Super-babies.

DC also had Lois dying after marrying Superman and committing suicide.

Then again, Superman killed Lois once.

Also, the recently media mangling of the Captain America storyline isn't all that shocking considering that in one early 70s story, Lois Lane had Superman use a machine to turn her into an African American woman.

Now, you are probably saying, "Why didn't the news media cover those stories?" It all goes back to my earlier points. Before the late 80s, comic books were seen either as stupid kids stuff or trash that will corrupt kids. In the late 80s, there was a boom among Baby Boomers that collecting comic books were a great investment. They were not just something on a newsstand, they were big business. Also, many people in the media were of the Baby Boom generation and had grown up with these comics. It was apart of their lives. These characters are icons that are old enough to be our grandparents.

At the time, these other stories were done, it was simply to grab the attention of a kid at the supermarket newsstand. Essentially, that has been the complaint of the death of Superman and death of Robin stories. DC issued commemorative issues and they sold so well that they are pretty worthless now. 

Yet, going back to what I stated earlier, much of the confusion goes back to a lack of research on this subject. To many reporters, there is just one Archie, one Superman, one Batman, one Green Lantern. There is also no knowledge of comic book history and it's alternate universes. That is part of the real world.  It isn't as important as political bickering or plane crashes. Why bother?

Because you can still end up with egg on your face if you screw the story up. Us comic book geeks will nail you for your mistakes. Also, the people who hate any form of entertainment media will want to use it as an excuse to censor the industry much like Dr. Frederic Wertham did in the 50s. Even if it wouldn't come to that, you still have cranky adults who would forbid their kids from any enjoyment of comic books because of what they heard in a badly researched news report on comic book. Even if it is about comic books, we in the news media need to get the facts straight.

My opinions are why I'm considered the Super-Villain of the Ozarks!!! Mwu-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

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