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My Journey Away From Superhero Comics

I've been reading comic books for most of my life, and as I grow older, I've moved away from superhero books.

As a child, I wished I was a mutant (save your quips please). I loved the X-Men, and I always wished I had the "X-Gene," so I could fly or "BAMF" my way around town. The idea of having super-powers and saving the world was incredibly appealing to me. However, as I grew older, I moved away from the super-hero genre. There were many reasons, as a lifelong comic book fan, that this happened, and while there's still a place in my heart for super-heroes and their stories of saving the world, but the transition into adulthood made me want to read books that appeal more to the stage of life I'm currently in.

There's something for everyone, in comic books. It's not all just about strong-men in tights, punching the bad guy, and saving the damsel in distress. In the past couple of decades, the market has really opened up to provide new genres in this mixed media form of storytelling. Science fiction, fantasy, romance, and war books are the real driving force behind many independent companies. When I say "independent companies," what I really mean is "not Marvel and DC." These companies are taking a different approach to the decades old tradition or story telling.

John Waters at Gate 8

Now, keep in mind, this is not a new thing. The comic book industry has jumped away from super-hero books in the past, with series like G.I. COMBAT, LOVE ROMANCES, and many others. Both DC and Marvel have experimented with non-super hero books in the past, and they still do it currently, especially DC with its Vertigo imprint and Marvel with Icon. However, the vast majority of readers are attracted to the super-hero genre, and that's perfectly fine. But the older I get, the more I find myself moving away from super-hero books. There's this feeling I get, every week, in the back of my mind, when I pick up a Marvel or DC book: a feeling of Deja Vu. Before even opening up a lot of books, I feel like I already know what's going to happen inside: a good guy will fight a bad guy, something shocking will happen, and the reader will be left waiting for a month to see the outcome, and then eventually, everything will go back to normal. It's not the case for every series at the big two, but I'm seeing this formula more and more when I read.

That's partially why, over the past 6 years, I've slowly moved over to independent titles. While it's true that each book boils down to the classic tale of good versus evil, non-super hero books really restored my faith in what comics books are and what they could be. Marvel and DC books have one thing bogging them down that many indy series don't have, decades upon decades of continuity to keep track of, and because of this, the storytelling the creative teams can do is a bit limited. Even though the DC Universe rebooted, there's still a limit of the stories they can tell. Many indy books are a limited series featuring brand new characters and stories that have the chance to grow and go wherever the creative team wants them to go. To sum it up, non-Marvel and non-DC books have the potential to do a lot more. They don't have years of continuity that can hinder the development of their stories and characters.

Because indy books have the ability to explore more, I find them much more appealing. I got back into comics around 2004, but quickly saw that formulaic storytelling I mentioned earlier. I wanted to try something different, but I felt it was a big gamble, since I was a college student and incredibly poor. I decided to try something a bit different but still within a relative comfort zone. That's when I picked up Y: THE LAST MAN, a comic I will recommend to all readers as long as I breathe. While the Vertigo imprint is still a part of DC comics, it's a very different form of storytelling and most of their books move away from super-heroes. It is a bit scary to jump into a new kind of storytelling. Y wasn't a book I was used to. No one had super-powers, the "bad guys" aren't as clear as I was used to, and the book had a definitive end. However, those were the things I found myself loving about the series.

From there, I found more and more series, from other companies, that I loved. The majority of my trade collection, which was once filled with X-MEN and BATMAN titles, is now filled with series like THE WALKING DEAD, CHEW, LOCKE AND KEY, and UNKNOWN SOLDIER.That's where I ended up and where I am now. I didn't go much further into non-mainstream independent books. Sure, I read things like MAUS, PERSEPOLIS, and a whole bunch of Harvey Pekar books (I feel like most comic book enthusiasts have either a Harvey Pekar or R Crumb obsession for a short while), but monthly comic book series from indy companies were my happy medium. I never put a limit on where I would look and venturing to comic book conventions was a great place to find new books and series from smaller creators. It became creativity in its purest form because most of the time, there were never editors telling creative teams what they can and can't do; however, that isn't always a good thing, but it's interesting to read when it works and when it fails, nonetheless.

Finding comics to read became this never-ending journey for me. I've become more open-minded towards what I read. Some of my favorite stories I read now have been picked up on a whim. What I find myself loving now becomes farther and farther away from what I always thought comics should be, as a teenager and child. The classic comic story of a man in tights, with a cape, with god-like powers overcoming the worst of all evils lost its flare, especially because we all know how it's going to end. Those characters and ideas don't appeal to me as much anymore. I need something I can relate to a bit more. I'm in this weird era of life, being in my 30s and having to deal with the harshness of reality and being the head of my household. A true adult. That's why I'd rather read stories about a man trying to survive in a world that's too far gone or a story of a person realizing everything they thought they knew about their life was a complete lie. A person struggling with life is what, right now and for the past 6 years, appeals to me as a reader. It's what I want to see more of, especially when they're not in tights, fighting crime.

The whole point of this isn't just me shouting "I hate superhero comics!" That's simply not true. However, it takes time, as a comic book reader or any type of reader for that matter, to find out what you truly love. You may grow out of the things you love and into things out of your comfort zone, which may be, like in my case, non-superhero books. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Marvel and DC. They're the driving force of the comic book industry. There's also nothing wrong with super-hero books. Again, that's the driving force of the industry. Just because something is popular doesn't mean it's bad, and to be honest, there's a lot of stuff DC and Marvel puts out, on the super-hero front, that I truly enjoy. When it really comes down to it, it's all personal preference. As a reader though, you should never stay stagnant. Always keep looking for new things and finding new books to read. If you don't, you could miss out on something special.

Mat "Inferiorego" Elfring is a writer and hosts this silly podcast. He also tweets.

123 Comments
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Edited by fables87

This right here! I'm almost 26 and finding superheroes are kind of getting less and less interesting. Finding my stuff waiting for the next Vertigo comic or Image comic to come out. Maybe It's because they are more geared towards my age.

Posted by noj

No

Posted by StMichalofWilson

Nice article

Edited by Superbat420

Superheros will never lose my interest, I ain't got these tats for nothing. Dc forever!!!

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

I'm much the same when it comes to superheroes. Most superheroes I enjoy in spite of them being superheroes, for example I love Batman when it's Pulp Noir with a dash of horror, I love Dardevil when it's crime noir, I love Superman when it's crazy sci fi, I love X-Men when it's political and about discrimination. Your regular superhero comic doesn't interest me any more, I'd much rather read a crime or horror book.

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

I loved a scoundrel...Perfect.

Posted by TheMantisShrimp

Great article. I didn't start reading monthly comics until the n52 reboot. As a new reader it doesn't really bother me when people complain that DC is retelling old stories because I never read a lot of them the first time around. Although sometimes I do think superhero books can be too formulaic. I just started reading Nowhere Men (along with a few other image books) and I must say that DC and Marvel don't quite capture the feeling of a fresh Image book. Creator owned books can go where ever they want and they generally leave me more shocked. It's also a major plus that they have definitive endings.

Edited by Trevel8182

And Mat continues to be my least favorite person on the site.

Posted by kcjr

I can't read anything in comic book format except superhero stories.

Edited by ptigrusmagus

Your loss

Edited by Owie

I totally sympathize. I read plenty of superheroes now, but I go back and forth between them and more indie comics in phases, as I get oversatiated in one or the other. Sometimes I get too much of the predictable battling, and other times I get too tired of the artiness and want a little mindless fun.

Edited by inferiorego

And Mat continues to be my least favorite person on the site.

Thanks for ranking me!

Staff
Posted by superior_prime_maybe

I think theres always something that clicks with u in a comic. Be it Garfield, Peanuts or Calvin, or Archie (whether its a comidic style or like how its in Life with Archie) or be it pulp... or indy. Theres always something. Its the same basic difference as whether people want their superman to kill or not kill.

My country didnt have many comics shops... and my family used to travel a lot. I could muster only 3-4 comics a year... And they used to be in my native language. I remember how i was overwhelmed by my first actual superman comic. Things have changed so much since then

Edited by BattheMan008

Okay. While you may lean towards Indies, you still put hero books in your part of the Essential Comics feature each week.

Edited by RulerOfThisUniverse

......... -____-

Superhero comics for life.

Posted by jwalser3

I like all comics. Doesn't matter if it's superhero or not.

Posted by PeppeyHare

Whatever keeps you reading man. I love superhero comics but I do like to read indie stuff as well

Posted by zombietag

i like good comics, where ever they come from

Posted by Lvenger

Whilst I do disagree with the subtle knock on the superhero formula being old fashioned, predictable and meant for simplistic stories and younger readers whilst the indie books are mature and more relatable, I get where you're coming from. I'm starting to mix indie titles with the Big Two titles and they're a much different brand of story telling. One that opens up a plethora of creative opportunities along with freedom and flexibility away from what the Big Two do. A very well thought out read Matt as per usual of your articles.

Posted by akbogert

Most superheroes I enjoy in spite of them being superheroes, for example I love Batman when it's Pulp Noir with a dash of horror...

This is a really interesting way of putting it. And the more I mull it over, the more accurate I think it is for describing my own tastes. When I was discussing Superman with someone recently, I told him "I've come to understand that a big reason I don't read Superman stories isn't so much to do with Superman himself. It's just that, you have a company with two lines, action comics and detective comics, and I wanted something more to do with mystery and psychology than feats and fights." Obviously neither is quite so simple as that dichotomy, but the point is clear: I'm drawn more by the genre than the specific characters or even nuances at play, and if it just so happens to be that the character in that story is a superhero, that's fine.

Edited by Renchamp

Superhero books got me into the medium and I think that is the case with many people. It wasn't until this site, however, that I ever got the courage to branch out to books beyond the Big 2. With so many people having favorites and having a place to discuss them got me interested in trying out books from Image, Boom!, and Vertigo. Not everything is gold but, like Jay Z sort of says, some things just aren't for everybody.

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Posted by AllStarSuperman

@lvenger said:

Whilst I do disagree with the subtle knock on the superhero formula being old fashioned, predictable and meant for simplistic stories and younger readers whilst the indie books are mature and more relatable, I get where you're coming from. I'm starting to mix indie titles with the Big Two titles and they're a much different brand of story telling. One that opens up a plethora of creative opportunities along with freedom and flexibility away from what the Big Two do. A very well thought out read Matt as per usual of your articles.

I really agree with this

Online
Edited by artagem

Yeah I pretty much feel the same. I took a 20 year hiatus from reading comics and when I came back I basically have stayed away from superhero comics. Luckily there's lots of alternatives out there! In fact, I'm working on my own non-superhero comic and here's the Kickstarter: http://kck.st/18hmD7H

Max

www.artagem.com

Posted by sheldipez

I'm following Spider-Man and Batman, two of my all time favorite characters that also have great creative teams, and Injustice. The rest of my purchases are indies, one-shots and stuff like X Files Season 10 or Brian Wood's Star Wars.

There's only so many team-ups, cross overs and "events" with their endless tie-ins before you get the feeling like you've seen this all before. Not to mention there's just too much great non-capes n tights books ongoing these days.

Posted by MaccyD

I'd read both sides equally and generally don't side with one over the other (Indie vs Superhero btw).

The thing about superhero is, it's a genre that is rarely explored in other mediums and tbh most indie genres have been explored in other mediums. Most of the time, these other mediums tells it greater as well.

Posted by kriminal

......... -____-

Superhero comics for life.

@kcjr said:

I can't read anything in comic book format except superhero stories.

me too. though i am trying velvet. i try to stick with dc and marvel, though idw has tmnt and now samirai jack i cant pass up

Posted by G_Money_Christmas

I still love my superhero books but I have found myself picking up more and more indie books, pretty much meaning Image... Pretty Deadly, Three, Zero, I wanted Velvet but it was gone. I won't ever get tired of Daredevil or my X-Men books but I'm finding more and more indie books I like too.

Posted by darknightspideyfanboy

i think every comic reader goes thru that stage where they moving away from hero comic it not a bad thing imho is a good thing that they explore other company book than the big 2 like dynamite,image and valiant.

Online
Edited by Kerrigan

I'm older. Moved away. Moved back. You can do anything in the comic book medium, but the iconography and kinetic action of superhero books are uniquely suited to it.

But the main determining factor, as in any literature, is quality, not genre. A good superhero book is a good book.

Personally I'd like there to be more big-scale sci-fi out there, but I'd still read the hero books.

Posted by MatteoPG

@artagem said:

Yeah I pretty much feel the same. I took a 20 year hiatus from reading comics and when I came back I basically have stayed away from superhero comics. Luckily there's lots of alternatives out there! In fact, I'm working on my own non-superhero comic and here's the Kickstarter: http://kck.st/18hmD7H

Max

www.artagem.com

Wow, you're artgerm. You are very good, I follow you on DA. Nice going.

Edited by ALFMutant

I never understood why someone would read a comic that doesn't deal with super-heroes. I'd just read a novel or watch a movie about the subject I am interested. Most of the time, comics are restricted by its format. There isn't really many sci-fi comics or heroic fantasy writers out there, novels have way much more diversity.

I can see why people read Fables since there wasn't really anything like that before it came out. It was unique and brought a new twist to the genre.

I do read indie stuff...but they're dealing about super-heroes, Invincible-Judge Dredd-TMNT and Valiant Comics.

Posted by MadeinBangladesh

I still love Dc and Marvel comics but independent comics are the best!

Posted by zodac

As I've gotten older I find myself more and more into superhero comics. I didn't grow up reading comics (except for some Ren & Stimpy comics when I was really young). My first real comic experience was when my dad (who has always really been into comic books) shoved Neil Gaiman's Sandman in my face when I was 14, which then turned into a love affair with Vertigo. I then started reading Dark Horse and Image stuff, and then went really indie with mainly reading stuff from Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly and Top Shelf. But with the New 52, I decided to give superheroes a shot (previously my superhero experience was with Vertigo reimagings and Image creator owned). So now I'm i my mid 20's and all I want to do is read superhero books. I've kinda moved away from the New 52 and mainly focus on Ultimate Marvel and Valiant, but to me those are still pretty mainstream.

Posted by pikahyper

Well said, I've always read all types of comics but the past couple of years I've been finding myself gravitating more towards manga and indie stuff, mainly cause it is indeed more open ended and more can be done with it and I find it more enjoyable and exciting to get and read. I still read all the Big 2 stuff but most of the time I don't feel excited about it or after reading nothing feels memorable any more not like in the old days cause it is just event after event piled on and nothing has any long lasting repercussions.

Most modern Marvel and DC books are too forgettable where as I can still clearly remember all the stuff I loved growing up and why I found them so exciting especially the old crossovers when they were only once a year like War of the Gods, Bloodlines, Inferno, Acts of Vengeance, all that stuff was just more memorable and with these modern events when I finish them I'm just like meh I'll forget this tomorrow. Superheroes didn't used to always need big events, it was much better when they had one big memorable one each year and the rest of the year was spent building up the character and expanding its own section of the shared universes.

Moderator Online
Edited by iceslick

@trevel8182 said:

And Mat continues to be my least favorite person on the site.

Thanks for ranking me!

@trevel8182: Not really, once you get to meet Mat in real life your opinion will truly change. He is really an awesome guy. :-P lol

Edited by dondave

@jwalser3 said:

I like all comics. Doesn't matter if it's superhero or not.

Posted by ptigrusmagus

Never did I expect a comic book hipster article on Comicvine

Posted by BR_Havoc

I fully understand Mat's point. I sometimes think I am holding on to reading superhero comics because I want to some how relive those key moments of books I first read when I was little. I guess the biggest issue I have with Superhero books right now is the lack of growth from characters marriage only last till the next writer takes over kids can be killed off or written out of existence. Sometimes its hard to love Superheroes when they seem to live in a pocket of time were nothing changes and they never grow when every year your life changes and you grow.

Anyways it was a well written article nice job Mat.

Posted by 2cool4fun

I still have yet to read a title that is not from the big 2, but i am still a newbie, and i do plan on reading lots of other comics, but i don't think i will ever move on from DC.

Posted by Rossnrachel4ever

I'm in my thirties also and your reasons for moving away from superhero stuff(real world problems, relatability, etc.) are the exact reasons I stick with superhero stuff. I've read and loved Y and a lot of the other standard non superhero comics and I like them just fine, but being a grown up with grown up problems makes me want to read about grown up stuff less and less. I gave up on The Walking Dead. I hear it's still great, but life as it is is already bleak and troubling. Read the news. Things aren't great. I don't want to spend my free time depressing myself, I already do that most of the week just being an adult. I just don't understand how the weight of the world would make you like fantasy less. The worse things get the more I'm thankful for Superman.

Edited by Vulshock

I like your article Mat! I might check out Unknown Soldier.

Posted by NightCrawler358

I love superhero and non-superhero comics about equally. Still read tons of Marvel and DC, but specifically Vertigo, Image, and IDW have carved out spots for themselves in my lineup. But no matter what you prefer, I'd say the comic industry is at the top of its game, or at least the best its been in a long time in terms of creative talent and sales figures.

Posted by vPuik

I wish I could, but I have too many superhero books I'm reading. I tried few Image comics last summer, but they did not grab me fast enough to justify the expense. I guess I've been away from the comics for about 10 years so I have a lot of catching up to do.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

Never did I expect a comic book hipster article on Comicvine

I was expecting some douche bag comments tho

Posted by G-Man

The real reason, as Mat's friends know, is because he really really likes Ziggy.

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