As an awkward, neurotic, bespectacled smartypants, I am stereotypically predisposed to be a fan of superheroes. And so I am, but only fairly recently.
When I was a kid, I liked the cartoons and toys associated with characters like Spider-Man and Superman, but no more than I liked any other inescapable franchise at the time. My prime action figure playing years were much more focused on Transformers, He-Man, Ghostbusters, and, just as I was becoming a little too old for such things, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Once I had grown out of toys, the Star Trek universe became my obsession. Superheroes didn’t capture my imagination the way they have for so many other kids who later go on to become true fans and indulge in superhero geekdom.
I think part of the reason is their roots in comic books, and when I say “comic books,” I mean the byzantine lattice of comic book culture and lore; the dizzying array of characters, story threads, reboots, crossovers, and timelines. Whenever I would dip my toes into a given title, I would inevitably run into that asterisk in some panel, in which a major piece of information would be hinted at in a character’s passing comment, only to be directed to a footnote telling me, “ SEE [COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SERIES] #657!” Well, I haven’t seen whats-its-whatever issue 657, so I guess I’m just going to be lost.
But that’s another story.* (*SEE BLOG POST 6–23–2014!)
Despite my compulsion for completionism, I’m now mostly at peace with that aspect of superhero comics ( mostly). My latter-day enthusiasm for superheroes, along with some help from digital comic book all-you-can-eat subscription services, have made it so that I can now dive into comics with a much reduced sense of cultural intimidation.
I think the other reason I didn’t take to superheroes earlier was that they often seemed to me to be sort of dopey. This is no doubt in large part because my first frames of reference were shows like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and Super Friends, which were really, really dopey. As I grew up, the idea that folks with superpowers would dress up in colorful, tight-fitting costumes, beat up bank robbers, and fight evil clowns and superintelligent gorillas just seemed kind of silly. Superheroes seemed like a form of escapism that was dated and irrelevant. Star Trek…