Few things give me as much pleasure as reading a cracking-good superhero comic. I grew up reading superhero comics–I can barely remember a time when I didn’t have superhero comics in my life–and they still haven’t lost their appeal. I love bright, colorful stories of brave people in absurd costumes wielding strange weapons and using wonderful, impossible powers to fight against injustice, ignorance, greed, bigotry, apathy and malice. I love epic stories filled with weird magic and mad science, stories that fill you with hope and wonder, stories that inspire you to dream big, to act bravely and kindly.
Sadly for me, my idea of a great superhero comic is mostly stuck in the 1970s and ’80s. I mean, there are plenty of post-80s superhero comics that I’ve loved: Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, JLA, 7 Soldiers and All-Star Superman; Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch, The Authority and Planetary; Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man; Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern; and some others. But more and more, I’m finding contemporary superhero comics to be…not what I want. Although the storytelling of the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages of comics was generally not very sophisticated, I find a lot of the decompression storytelling of today’s comics to be a little on the pretentious side, as well as a blatantly commercial way to pad out stories so that they can be repackaged as trade paperbacks.
One of the things I loved about the comics I read as a kid was the sense of continuity and a shared setting. Doctor Fate teamed up with Batman, Spider-Man bumped in the X-Men in Manhattan, the Justice Society traveled from Earth-2 to Earth-1 to hang out with the Justice League. That being said, the crossover events that DC and Marvel Comics have presented since the mid-’80s have increasingly built up too much continuity. The coming DC Comics reboot looks like it’s bringing all of DC’s titles into one big tightly-knit continuity, and from what I’ve seen of Marvel’s titles (with its multiple Avengers and X-Men comics), the same thing is going on there. I feel completely unable to read one title without also having to keep up with most–if not all–of the other titles from DC or Marvel. And the storylines run on in such a way that it’s incredibly daunting to start reading a title you haven’t already been reading it or stop reading a title after a few issues. The cynical side of me says that this is all geared to boost sales in an industry that has seen consistently falling sales. I can’t really blame a company for wanting to push its sales up, but as a comics reader, it aggravating.
What I want is a superhero comic that tells a complete story in one or two issues, that can be read and enjoyed without needing to know what’s going on in 50 other series, that’s full of wonderful, engaging characters and exciting, weird stories. Are there any superhero comics like this that are currently being published? Or am I just going to have to write my own?