Graphic novels and comics have been enjoyed by young and old for over seventy
years. The medium has begun to see substantial changes in the new digital age. As the
kids of the 50s and 60s grew older, they continued to hold the interest in comics and
graphic novels so the characters grew with them. In some ways, the characters and
storylines took a step back to the 30s and 40s at a time when a lot of the characters
were dark and violent; the villains word on the sociopathic and the hero's code wasn't
always black and white.
Comics in this day and age appear to have much more intricate storylines. Plot lines
and subplots have become more intricate and exciting as they interconnect between
various comics series. This new level of sophistication have drawn the attention of
Hollywood as more graphic novels are snapped up an adapted for motion pictures.
Comics and non-comics fans alike are constantly turning to the movie adaptations
with eager anticipation.
For years I have railed against the absolute ignorance of writers, directors and
designers who felt they knew how to adapt comics to the screen. For some it is a
matter of technology; it was not easy translating the unique fantasy and storytelling
medium to celluloid. Comic books in the twenty-first century allows readers to read
and conceptualize the story, then watch the big screen to see if the writer and director
had the same perception as you did. As a comic book artist who have also worked in
film and television, I felt like a snob as I criticized the obvious mistakes made by
producers, directors and writers over the years.
Over the last decade, we've watched heroes fall or lose their moral compass. They are
usually killed for the enormous ratings potential but of course, in the comics universe
that isn't always final. The realism sought by the writers and artists are a testimony to
the alteration that have taken place. If a character dies, you feel their death. You are
frustrated by the injustice of their death Revenge on the villain is sought but is
tempered by the wisdom of the prevailing heroes. Like any police officer or firefighter,
these heroes understood the risk they were undertaking; the writers understood those
risks as well and continue to play them out to the bitter end. The tragic nature of the
storylines often pull you into the scenarios while giving you a feeling of being there
for the sad event. Continuity of storyline also contributed to a sense of realism as
characters became ill, got married, had children or lost loved ones.
The costumes changed as well, the garish colors of tight spandex began to give way to
the paramilitary tones and designs.
Comic book characters rarely age and when they do it's to incorporate a unique plot
device. If a costume change comes about, it is usually to fulfill a plot line or as a
means of adding new life to a series. Apart from the most popular and enduring
characters in the genre, many heroes and villains have made the costume change as a
way of generating interest in their books. Maybe an update was needed because some
of his or hers costume or hairstyle looked out of place, or do not reflect, today's styles
or trends. In fact, it is difficult to recognize some of the classic characters if you're just
reentering the comic book market after a decade or two.
After many decades, comics and graphic novels have reentered the mainstream
consciousness. Updating the look and storylines of comic book characters keeps the
industry fresh and exciting while attracting new readers. I continue to read comics for
those very reasons and will probably continue for decades to come. In the good old
days we sat outside the candy store every Wednesday afternoon and read our books
before taking them home; today I read them from my computer and even my smart
phone. The material is every bit as captivating now that I'm an adult as they were back
in the day of Bazooka bubblegum and Keds sneakers. The content and looks may
have changed but the messages are still the same.