One Fan's Opinion: Issue #22

Thu, January 12th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Erik Larsen, Columnist

The problem is - that more often than not I can see both sides of an argument.

As an inker - why am I involved if I'm not supposed to contribute anything? Why not just scan in the pencils and adjust the contrast?

As the penciller - why can't somebody just let the stuff look the way I drew it? If I wanted this stuff to look different I'd have drawn it different! They hired me to draw it - they must want to see my stuff.

Both sides have a point. And there have been times when all I wanted was an inker that would faithfully follow the lines that I put down. These days, however, I'd like to have an inker make his mark. I can ink myself faithfully - show me what you've got.

Same goes for everything else. If a writer isn't adding to the history of a character, why hire them in the first place? If you want to just maintain the status quo, why not just run reprints? On the other hand, why shouldn't my son be able to read the adventures of Superman like I did? Tigger and Winnie the Pooh haven't been substantially altered - why should Batman or Spider-Man or Green Lantern or Jughead?

As a creator, I'll admit, it would be a gas to have Peter Parker grow old. There are a million issues of young, vital Spider-Man - why not let him age? On the other hand, a young, vital Spider-Man will forever be the character in cartoons and movies and shouldn't that be the same guy from the comics and wouldn't it be great if my grandchildren could read about a young vital Spider-Man too? Why should they be deprived?

Swiping is cheating. Swiping is harmless and fun! Plagiarism is illegal, immoral and wrong. Bah! It's cute and funny and, besides, there are no original ideas, right? It's an homage - those being plagiarized should feel honored, flattered even.

There are two sides to every argument and too often I can see them both.

Take any subject I've ranted about in the past - I can write a pretty convincing argument from the other side. Often folks will get fired up and drop me a line and nine times out of ten, I'll agree with them.

What does that mean? That I have no convictions or is it just that so many issues aren't simply black and white?

I'm convinced it's the latter, but people want simple answers. They want to believe that the explanation as to the existence of everything can be found in one book or they buy that the President has to be decisive and stick to his guns even if he cherry-picked the intelligence and he's been proven dead wrong.

I was in the book store and I saw a couple books over the weekend. One was "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought" by John Gibson and the other was "How the Republicans Stole Christmas: The Republican Party's Declared Monopoly on Religion and What Democrats Can Do to Take it Back" by Bill Press - and I knew just from the titles that both authors were going to be omitting details and glossing over facts that didn't support the argument they were making. I knew it. Few people will make the effort to fairly and accurately present both sides of an issue.

But that's not something that's going to get anybody all fired up. People want to argue - they want to take sides.

And I'll get into it with the best of them.

But sometimes - I've gotta admit - my heart's just not in it. There are artists whose work I can't stand, but nine times out of ten I can see why you might like their work. There are writers whose work I think is overrated, amateurish, sloppy and hackneyed, but I can understand why you might feel otherwise.

We've all got different tastes.

As a Publisher I can't let my taste be what guides my company. Sure, I'll make a lot of the calls, but I need to listen to what other people have to say and more than listen, I have to hear.

And I do.

Carefully considering your options is not a bad thing. Listening to what others have to say is also not a bad thing. Give me a wishy-washy politician that weighs his options and makes his (or her) decisions based on all the available information over one that shoots from the hip, misses more often than not and tells you he's hit the bulls eye every time.

Sigh.

I've had Presidents past and present show up in "Savage Dragon." Bill Clinton showed up in "Savage Dragon" #41 and George W. Bush showed up in #119 (and that's an impostor he's slugging on the cover, by the way - not the real guy) and writing their dialogue was no picnic.

You see - as much as I might like to make these guys out to be one way or the other, I didn't think it was fair to put words in their mouths that reflected my views of who they were and the values that I felt they had. I didn't even feel that it was fair to use their own words! They don't repeat themselves endlessly in casual conversation (to some extent at least - at least they don't repeat their infamous gaffs over and over) and I thought it would be unfair to put words in their mouths which they'd be unlikely to utter. So, I did my best to play things pretty straight. I had some fun with the impostor posing as Bush, I'll admit, but when he showed up, I backed off.

It's hard to know who to believe sometimes.

It's especially hard when you can see both sides.

I'd say that I don't believe in absolutes, but even then I can think of a few exceptions to that.

New comics come out and there are folks that think they're great - that comics have never been better and that we're living through a Renaissance like nothing that's come before and I can see why they might feel that way. Others bellyache to no end about how crappy everything is and how these new creators are ruining everything and I can see their point.

People will praise the new crop of writers for the engaging dialogue that plays out at a natural pace. Others will bitch about all the pingpong dialogue that fills the pages and doesn't progress the stories. I can see both sides.

I've heard those that prefer comic books over trades and those that like trades more than single issues. There are people that prefer bun huggers over briefs. I'm a brief man, myself but if you want clinging white undies hugging your buns - who am I to tell you otherwise?

I enjoy the discussion. I'm interested in getting to the bottom of things and hashing things out. I'll fall into conversations about why there are fewer female readers than male readers of certain kinds of comics or try to determine why there aren't more successful books with black lead characters or female characters.

If there are problems, I'm keen on figuring out a solution. A big part of my day is spent trying to solve problems and find solutions. Often there are a number of possibilities that present themselves. I like alternate realities and What If type stories. I'm curious to find out about the path not taken - What If Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four? What would have happened? What If Superman married Lana Lang instead of Lois?

I'm just trying to sort things out.

And there'll be times I'll spit out something you don't agree with and you know what? That's just fine. I don't necessarily agree with it either. I may just be running it up the flagpole to see if anybody salutes. I may be just trying it on for size. I might very well just sit down a week or two later and write a column that takes to polar opposite viewpoint just to see how that feels.

Or not.

Try not to get too bent out of shape. It's just one fan's opinion - feel free to disagree - and I'll do the same.

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