Wednesday, January 11, 2006


A process, condition, or period of deterioration or decline, as in morals or art; decay.

Chris Butcher's recent post on the subject of skeletal superheroes and the rather transparent thanatos being practiced at the corporate level of the great mainstream superhero manufacturers has been rattling around my head for the past few days. I recently had the chance to flip through the first two issues of Marvel Zombies, and I have to say that while I think I wholeheartedly love this comic, it is also probably the most evil thing in the universe.

It only works if you have an intimate familiarity with the characters and their histories. You have to know them well enough that their personalities and character tics are subliminally familiar. That may sound like a lot, but there are very few people reading comics today who aren't gynecologically familiar with the psychic innards of Spider-Man and co. - even those who ostensibly hate superhero comics and all they represent still know too much for them to ever sleep comfortably at night (which explains the chronic self-loathing). Gary Groth could pick up Marvel Zombies and probably get every joke therein , and maybe a good chuckle as well.

But let's look at it closely for a moment: when was the last time anyone told a zombie plague story from the POV of the zombies? Marvel Zombies gets points for showing the logistic involved in a superhero-sponsored genocide, wherein a handful of people with godlike powers set about depopulating the planet in a matter of days. It comes off as funny because we know these characters so well. It's funny because Spider-Man keeps weeping over the fact that he ate Aunt May. It's funny because they've tied up the Black Panther to an operating table and are slowly devouring him piece by piece. BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!

It's fairly obvious that the mainstream superhero books are "through the looking glass" in terms of their relationship with their audience. Gone is the brief flirtation with mainstream tastemakers. Here to stay is the realization that in terms of the direct market and superheroes, the Big Two are actually doing quite well selling their product to almost the definition of a captive audience. (Excuse me if I'm going over some of the same territory that was covered in the recent OH MY GOD MOMMY AND DADDY WON'T STOP YELLING saga.) They've essentially conditioned the market so well that it doesn't blink when they release a comic that involves Spider-Man and the Hulk eating millions of people. That is an awesome, perhaps unprecedented achievement in the history of marketing.

I think it's great, really. "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose," or so the song goes . . . the Big Two don't have anything to lose because the audience they have now is basically going to be with them until they die. They can put out whatever kind of bizarro shit they feel like. At the very least, we'll get to experience the sheer joy of bat-shit crazy comics such as Marvel Zombies.

But I will say that after I've seen zombie Bruce Banner's shrunken stomach explode because the Hulk ate Magneto's foot, they've really got no excuse for not publishing Peter Bagge's Hulk book.

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