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.
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.