The Good Old Days of Comics

About a week ago, my wife and I had nothing to watch on TV so we pulled out Iron Man to watch.  It’s probably my favorite of the current crop of superhero films so I never pass up a chance to watch it.  Immediately following, I threw in Iron Man 2.  It’s not as good a film, but certainly I enjoy it so might as well make it a two-fer.

That got me thinking, especially since my wife and I had just gone through about a dozen long-boxes of comics deciding what to get rid of.  So much of what we’ve bought in recent years is just taking up space and we’re never going to read it again so we decided we might as well dump it on eBay.  We don’t care about making money, just in freeing up space.  These boxes are only comics that have come out in the last decade or so, we have lots of other boxes of classic comics that we’re keeping in storage.

So I started reading through the digital copies of Iron Man that I had stored away.  I downloaded them years and years ago, I got them because if I ever wanted to read some of the comics I have in storage, I didn’t want to dig through boxes, I might as well read the scanned versions because it’s more convenient.  I have full or near full runs of Iron Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Avengers, Daredevil, Spider-Man and many, many more.  Before you ask, no, I don’t feel at all bad pirating all of them, I actually own most of them anyhow.

The first thing I must say is that the stories back in the old days were much better than the stories in modern comics.  I occasionally look in on some of the modern comics, in fact going back to 1963 also made me grab some of the current issues and there just isn’t any comparison.

That’s not to say there’s nothing wrong with the old comics, especially to modern eyes.  Comics from the 60s and 70s read like a thesaurus exploded.  My memory might not be that great, but I don’t recall anyone talking like that back in the day.  You have street thugs talking like Rhodes scholars.  Nobody ever talked that way.  There are also stories that come across rather silly to modern eyes, they dealt with social issues of the day that simply have no application today.

So far, I’ve only read up to about issue 45 and when I started reading comics, the first Iron Man I ever bought was #68, issued in April 1974.  The first run of Iron Man comics had 332 issues and I plan on reading through them all.  This includes some of the most classic, essential storylines that Iron Man ever had, including the Demon in a Bottle storyline that ran in issues #120-128 and Armor Wars which appeared in #225-231.  I honestly don’t think that Marvel has come close to some of these classic stories past the Volume 1 series.

See, I love Iron Man, just as a concept.  My three favorite Marvel superheroes are Iron Man, Spider-Man and Daredevil and I like them all for the same reason.  They can take off their costumes and be normal people, living normal lives.  They are superheroes by choice, not by chance.  Unlike so many other Marvel heroes, they’re not green, they don’t have wings or tails, they are not forced into the role by the physical freaks that they are.  That was sort of the X-Men schtick and while there’s certainly a place for that, it’s not what really drew me to it.

Especially in the case of Tony Stark, when that costume comes off, he’s just a normal guy.  He might be a billionaire playboy, but he has no underlying abilities.  Peter Parker and Matt Murdoch, even in civilian garb, have abilities to call on in an emergency, Stark has none of that.  Without the suit, he might be a genius but he’s a powerless genius.  I think that draws me to the character most of all.  In more recent incarnations, where they’ve tried to do Extremis and the Ultimate version, where the suit is a part of the man, I’ve been much less interested because he’s no longer human, he’s superhuman.

In fact, this has gotten me into re-reading tons of old comics.  We sat down to watch The Incredible Hulk and yes, I loaded up a bunch of old Hulk comics on the tablet and am reading them.  I also stuck on a pile of John Byrne Alpha Flights.  It’s been a lot of fun, “paging” through old comics that I know and have loved and recognizing how much better they are, even 30-40 years later, than the crap that’s coming out today.

It’s no wonder that the comics industry is in the dumper today.  There just isn’t much quality and the stories that appeal to a wide audience certainly aren’t there.  They’re just a vehicle for getting movies made today and when that goes away, as it inevitably will, where does that leave the comics?

Spiraling into oblivion.

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