Wednesday, September 27, 2023


EDITOR'S NOTE: This blogpost was written months ago. It hasn't been posted until now because personal events have taken up and upended much of my current time. I allude to some of them that were going on at the time in this article. I also reference other personal events that occurred to me; none of this is done directly, and I don't plan on posting or commenting on any additional context. All I'll say is that, me and my family are still struggling and have a long road ahead, and that I started a GoFundMe, in order to supplement for recent losses and to pay for any/all doctors/legal and any other fees in the immediate and it's still going and will continue to until all is settled, and any little bit can help, so if you can donate, please do so, if not, at least share the GoFundMe with others. Thank you and on with the article I originally intended. 


I-ehhhhhhh...? Huh...? 

Umm...- (Sigh)

I don't really know how to start this one. It's not that I don't have to something to say, I do, but...- 

(Scratches head)

So, I read a comic book.... 

Alright that sentence is already gonna make a bunch of people who know me heads turn like Scooby-Doo discovering something, but... (Sigh)

Alright, let's start at the beginning. This started a few months ago.... I was on Facebook and a friend of mine mentioned the movie "Shazam". (Actually, I think he mentioned the sequel that came out earlier this year, but I,- doesn't matter.) Anyway, I don't know if anybody caught my review of that film at the time, but I really hated that film. It made my worst list, and-, anyway, I really found myself unnerved by it, and expressed it. It felt like something I should say, 'cause, I don't know, apparently I was one of the few who really despised this film and particularly find myself dumbfounded by the praise for it. And I particularly found it out-of-place within the DCU, or is it the DCEU? I don't know, anyway, considering how goofy and old-fashioned the film was, I found it particularly out-of-place with the rest of those movies which, good or bad, usually had a much more darker look and tone to them. 

That criticism caught the attention of another fellow critic, one I admire, and she recommended to me a comic book that told a darker variation on Shazam's origin story. What followed next, was, well, basically me being an idiot. 

I mean, I didn't realize that, I was being an idiot at the time, of course. Honestly I was, still coming down from remembering how much I despised that film, and some other personal things I was dealing with..., so I wasn't in the right state of mind. And in that incorrect state of mind, to me, while I didn't want to read the book, at least not right away, I decided to try to understand some things about comic books and comic book fandom/culture that I didn't understand. That's all I was trying to figure out, and when I didn't get an answer that made sense to me, I became confused and disgruntled, and... like, I said, I was being an idiot. There's no me, backing out, of this, on my end, I was an idiot and I've taken responsibility for that, and I'm trying not to be from now on. 

So, I guess, as my penance, I decided to read the comic she recommended to me. Which is rare for me, because....- Okay, I've talked more-or-less about my experiences with comics several times over the years. Several times, here's one of my earliest articles about comics. I've said other things over the years, too, so I'll try to wrap it up as succinctly as possible here. 

AGE 6ish:
(Watching that "Simpsons" episode where Bart, Milhouse and Martin share a comic book)
That's pretty funny. It'd be hilarious if that kind of thing existed.

AGE 10ish: Boy this Batman cartoon is pretty good. I wonder why the movies suck though; they should really stop making films about these characters from, what are these? Comic books? Didn't those things like die, 60 years ago or something?

AGE 16ish: Wait, people still make comic books?! That's a thing? I thought that was a plot device for TV shows? Well, I mean, there can't be anybody who actually reads those things, right? We got television now, why would we?!

AGE 17ish: Why are they making a Spider-Man film; it was always such a terrible cartoon. I'm sure it'll flop; we have way too many of these comic book movies already. What are there like, I don't know like, what, couple hundred people who care about these things? Seems like a weird group to focus on. 

AGE 21ish: WAIT! There's COMIC BOOK STORES are a real thing!? WHY!? 

AGE 28ish: I guess I'm glad they finally made good Batman movies now, but c'mon, people! I don't know why everybody cares about these things. Now, "Iron Man" gets a film?! Christ! Well, at least this won't lead to anything long-term in the industry! And has anybody noticed that the people who liked these things are just mostly just fucking terrible! We really shouldn't be listening to fans like this, y'know!

CURRENT AGE: These people- they, just-, I swear I didn't think comic books were a real thing, how have they just taken over everything!!!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!

I'm skipping over a bunch of other incidents there, but as far as I'm concern, this whole, thing, it's just severe dropshock for me. People explain to me how much and how important and relevant comic books and comic book characters have been to their lives whole lives and-, I,- I just, I feel like I'm talking to aliens; this was literally, so not a thing in my life, for so long, that it just will never compute to me that it was thing for anybody, and I genuinely can't fathom how in the hell it is. I had no friends who read them, no family members who read them, there weren't comic book stores around when I young....- When I heard about comic books, I think the closest thing I thought they were were sticker books. Does anybody remember them? You collected stickers of, like I don't know, some Disney property and you bought the pictures that you stuck in the books? I knew what comics were, I read the funny pages growing up; my comic heroes weren't Stan Lee or Bob Kane or Alan Moore or anybody of that ilk, they were Charles Shultz and Jim Davis and Gary Larson; and I thought that that's what they evolved to. Comic books were a thing in a past, they were kids thing, eventually some of the bigger names and characters caught on, but they weren't moneymakers and superheroes were kinda not great storytelling to begin with, so eventually it evolved into strips in the paper.  

I guess the best I can explain it to, is like those reaction videos on Youtube that a lot of younger people or foreigners make to pop music that's been around for decades and they're like stunned at like, how great so much of it is, and you just yell at the computer, "Yes, "Piano Man", is an amazing song, how did you not know that 'til your 20s! That's what I feel like everyone is to me when they talk about something with comics. Except, most of the time, I look at the group who are obsessed with comics and comic book culture and fandom and how they've taken over the world, and yes, I don't like most of what I see. I do see the appeal and the good parts of it, but mostly I see how awful most of it is. 

To be fair, I think that's just what fandom is in general, it's mostly awful and terrible and I still highly believe that being a "fan" is not a good thing. It's not inherently a comic book thing, being fans of anything is not good in my view. It's just frustrating that for my purposes, being someone who's found film and television to be the inspiring art of my time period, and not realizing that comics had such widespread appeal until long after my formative years, and have taken control and over so much of my industry that it's become my instinctual reaction to them is much more adversarial than I probably should be. I don't think the medium is the problem. I mean, most movies and TV shows, are storyboarded, that's just comics in another form too. 

And I've read a few comics in the past before. I did eventually read "Watchmen" which I love. I read "Ghost World", which I liked a lot. Yes, they're movies that I liked first and went back to read the comics, but y'know, that's why I read them. I never begrudged the medium; I had issues with the trends towards superheroes among other stuff that the medium propagates. I have other issues involved here, but-, here's what I'm building towards. I've never actually, read, like, a real, regular superhero comic, before. I've heard a lot about them. I do try to keep up with the goings-on in the genre, partly 'cause I just have to with film and television being so thoroughly dominated by it now, I know a decent amount of some of the main points of reference and history regarding some of the bigger characters and names and stories. But, superhero stories, um, I like some, I don't like most, and I'm apparently really picky. And apparently, if I don't like something about a character, there's several other versions and variations of the character which I can look and find one until I like it, which....


Which is what brings me back to this comic book. This darker version of Shazam! It was not something I was looking forward to, considering how much I really hated my introduction to this character, but to reiterate, I was an idiot. So,.... 

I read it. It's called "Kingdom Come" by Mark Wald & Alex Ross. It's from 1996; I actually had heard of this comic, even before it was recommended to me. It's one that popped on a lot of all-time lists for the best comics. It's apparently influential and important within the genre and community. And-eh, so yeah, I decided to read it. 

So, one of the things I was told was that, if I was more involved with the culture, I would understand more why it's more acceptable to have such varying multiple versions of some of these characters, which was one of my questions. And I didn't like that answer. I did eventually find an answer to that that made sense to me, and that answer was licensing. See comics are cheap to make, but they were also cheap to sell in the old days and so, they had to make things that would sell much more than original and unique work. So, when a superhero or other character caught on, the companies would own the copyright and licensing of those characters and they would beat those characters to the ground. And they still do that essentially, so while I would like to blame fans for wanting to keep seeing these same characters over-and-over again, and true, I'm sure the market was there, but-eh, I tend to now think this is more of an issue with the industry than it is, the fandom. You go into Marvel or DC, and give them an original idea, they'll ask you to mold it to fit with one of their superhero franchises. That why we have spider-verses full of Spider-Man, whether that's a good idea or not. (It's not) Even "Watchmen" which felt to me like it was an original world and universe, both the film version and the original book was apparently inspired by something called Charleton Comics and many of the characters and their depictions coincided with those characters and a lot of references to them just went over my head.  

And-eh, after reading "Kingdom Come", I'm definitely thinking there's stuff that went over my head here. I hesitate to call this bad, 'cause I don't think it is, but I do feel like I'm not getting what I'm supposed to be getting here. 

Well, the-eh... um...- 


You know, I finished the book a few days ago and I've been trying to figure out what to say on it, and I'm a little stuck to be honest. Okay, so.... I guess I'll start with the Shazam stuff, since, that was the catalyst for this whole thing, and yes, there is-, well, I wouldn't call it a different origin of him, per se...,? Actually, scratch that, I better start off with the book itself.

Okay, so, "Kingdom Come" is a miniseries, a short-run elseworld novel. So, it doesn't take place in any particular continuity or universe, basically these are ways for creators to explore some of those most famous license characters and put them in these other alternative worlds and explore other ideas. Basically it's that "What If..." show, which I haven't seen yet admittedly, but I get the idea. (I guess "Watchmen" could also technically qualify as this too....? Maybe? I don't really know.) It's also not about Shazam, he's actually just a minor character in this story.  It takes place, in the near future, but it's a world where...-, basically Superman confronts a philosophical question about his existence, and it's an interesting one. It talks about whether or not, the presence of Superman, as well the several dozens of other superhero characters out there in this world, is actually holding back humans evolutionary advancement. 

Honestly, I've always kinda wondered about stuff like that myself, especially with this universes where there are several superheroes around. Like, I watch those "Avengers" movies and personally I always wondered what the regular person trying to go through his day was like in those films. Like, how this superhero shit must be annoying to be constantly getting in his way. Like he's taking the bus, and suddenly superheroes are fighting on the bus. Or the Fingersnap of Doom happens and now half his co-workers are gone and now he's got to do all their jobs 'cause the office is short-staffed. Or perhaps, my favorite, scenario, the superhero stuff goes on in the extreme background, and he's oblivious to all of it, and he's just like, having real trouble finding the right carpet design all day, so he's going from carpet store to carpet store or something like that. Seriously, why hasn't anybody done like, an "American Splendor" type comic that takes place in the MCU, but like none of that shit matters; I think I would enjoy that. 

That's not the direction, "Kingdom Come" goes though. It, instead imagines a future where Superman has retreated to his childhood home, and began living off the grid raising a farm and basically ignoring his superpowers as other superheroes similarly follow suit. I guess it's supposed to sorta be like "The Incredibles" in that way, but...- I- I don't quite get this apocalyptic future that they're explaining. I kinda get Superman becoming temporarily a recluse, especially after, apparently everybody from the Daily Planet being killed in an attack by the Joker, which means his love interest is now Wonder Woman, who's also going through an identity crisis feeling like her actions haven't promoted the Amazonian ideals enough. Batman's become particularly angry with Superman and more of a cave-dweller mad scientist recluse than normal. 

See, I was kinda hoping with an Elseworld story I wouldn't have to know all the traditional beats and background characters to understand the story, but I kinda feel like I did need to know a lot of this. It also doesn't helps that when humanity on their own, can't fully handle themselves and things get really dire and when Superman finally snaps out of it and reforms the Justice League that, we also find out that he's a fucking narcissistic messiah-like idiot himself! 

Yeah, he stops most of the superhuman villains that are out for no good, but he's puts them all inside this huge self-built prison in Kansas called the Gulag; Kansas was a desolate wasteland after an atomic attack years earlier...- again, I couldn't fully follow this, but he doesn't want to kill any of them, so, he uses the prison as a corrections facility essentially. Like he's trying to teach these guy to become good and use their powers for the good of humanity, and that goes about as well as you think and leads to possibly the apocalypse, which is also being foretold throughout this whole story.... The narrator is a priest who sees visions and there's this dark figure named Spectre who's showing these images of a horrific future, but he only passes judgement and can't help.... I'm assuming that this makes sense to a lot of people, all this.... I-, (Sigh) yeah, I don't really get any of this. 

Let's just say that, if you gave me this premise this would not be where I would take it, nor where I would want to take it. I don't think of Superman as being so single-mindedly dense or tunnel-visioned; I think he would've taken into consideration some of the possibilities of his effect on humankind, and perhaps, y'know, wouldn't fly around the world to pull a cat out of a tree or something and only really come for the truly big disastrous moments that require Superman. And it wouldn't be like, a miniseries, but it also wouldn't have all these other superhero characters, 'cause I think that defeats the point of that idea. This is why I think all the "Avengers" films suck, the whole point of a superhero is that they're superhuman, and if everybody's a superhero, than an idea like, are superheroes preventing human advancement, loses all it's power and luster. If there's already so many damn superheroes than, humanity has clearly already started advancing, plus...- 


You know what, I won't go over all my problems with multiple superheroes coming together-, unless the story begins with a bunch of superheroes already in a world, I don't like crossing superhero characters over into each other. I get why they do it, but I don't get why is it popular, like, at all. I have no fucking clue. It's another thing I'm not against in theory; television did that all the time, but y'know, what's the harm of, I don't know, having a character from "Mad About You" show up on "Friends"? It's not losing the whole conceit of the idea of either of those shows. (Although, in hindsight, I don't really get how Mork started in the '50s on "Happy Days", but when he went to live on Earth, he flashed forward to modern day in the '70s to live, and then would occasionally travel back to the fifties.... Okay, that one was just Robin Williams can get away with anything) When it's superheroes it kinda just defeats the purpose. Like, I know there's examples in mythology, especially Greek and Roman mythology looking out over the humans and whatnot, but like, even at the time, those stories were understood as not complete narratives of gods existing and controlling the world, they were fragmented and scattered tales used as explanations for why things happened. The soap opera between the gods was about how it affected the humans, when I see gods fighting and arguing amongst themselves, especially in these superhero stories, it's almost like, the protecting of the humans, or even just their relationship with the humans really doesn't matter. It loses that extra context that makes the mythological ideals that superheroes are inspired from work. 

Anyway, that's how I generally feel with stories like these, and there are exceptions; I'm generalizing here, but another reason I'm reading stuff like this is that I'm hoping to find the exception that makes me understand why this is appealing. I'm trying to understand, which is why I'm very frustrated that I don't really get all this. I think it's supposed to be, like a tale about, how superheroes are great, not in the world that the book takes place in necessarily, but as a metaphor for the greatness and importance of comics and superheroes overall. Which, for that, it's... (Shrugs) Eh.... maybe if this Superman wasn't such an idiot. 

Sorry, I can't get past that, you really thought locking the supervillains in a prison of your design in to go through a conversion therapy was gonna work?! I know this was 1996, but seriously what the fuck!? Is this just me on this one? Am I interpreting this wrong? I feel like that's...- this is why Superman's better with Lois Lane than Diana. There, I said it. I love Diana, I love Wonder Woman, she's probably my favorite of the DC superhero, but she doesn't belong with Superman, even if Lois is out of the picture. Lois keeps him from doing stupid shit like this.  

Okay, if you guys know the text and want to tell me what I'm missing and why, than, please, comment sections are all yours, I'm not gonna say anything or dispute anything you want to argue or explain, please go ahead. I clearly, don't relate to this story. If I was supposed to be convinced, I wasn't, but if it was reaffirmation for the choir who already likes superheroes, than eh, I think it was, um,... okay? I don't know I'm fairly lost by this whole thing. I'm just gonna talk about the Shazam part now. That was the part that I was originally recommended this story for. 

So, the darker, "Origin" of Shazam? Well, I won't give away the ending, but I wouldn't call this an origin, necessarily... I guess it hypothetically could be; I would argue that in this universe, it isn't an origin of him, but let's say it is, for the sake of this article, um-, it's definitely darker than the movie.... So, in this world, Lex Luthor has created a liberation front to protect the supervillains, under the guise of protecting humanity, and Billy Batson, is brainwashed by him, and Luthor plans to use him in order to help the villains break out of the really stupid prison that Superman created and have the supervillains go to war with the superheroes, probably causing destruction, and Superman has to break him out of that spell. It is, very dark and I did say that I didn't care for the Billy Batson narrative in "Shazam" because of how goofy and light it was, compared to the tones of all the other DC movies until then. I don't know if I like this one better though.... 

Like, I think it's a better story; I like the idea of a character who was once a hero, but-, and I think it's a little too goofy the way it's explained and used in the book, but the fact that Shazam, is part human and part god in his powers, in the source of his powers, that the idea of him, living in a world where he decides to suppress his more superpower side to him, and that leaves the human side dominant and more vulnerable to evil influence, that is interesting in of itself. I don't know if I like it in the context of this story, I think as a standalone idea, that would be a compelling narrative and that could be something that would appeal me to the character. So, I guess I like it better than the DCEU origin story, as a story, that we got, but honestly, as much as I hate that film, I think I would prefer the film's origin to this one. 

Yeah, I'll be honest, I think I'd appreciate the arc of the movie more knowing this other narrative, but I still don't think it really works...- Although, honestly, I think I just hate this character. Or maybe more precise, I just don't like this character in the DCU, maybe in another world, I'd like it more....

After thinking about it more, yeah, I think this character just gets on my nerves. He's literally, the child superhero in the film. Another thing I'm not necessarily against in theory, like "Kick-Ass" mostly worked for me, but I'm against it here, 'cause of how it's worked. Honestly, the character that Billy Batson most reminds me of, in hindsight, in the movie anyway, is Ash from "Pokemon". 

I wrote about "Pokemon" as well, not too long ago, and my personal experiences with that franchise, and spoilers, I think a lot less of "Pokemon" than I think of comics and superheroes to be honest, but I especially hate the Ash character, and I kinda hate Billy Batson for the same reasons. They're basically the awkward, uncoordinated, average, unimpressive kids who are put in the spot of superhero, chosen for that position to be the best, even though there's probably better and more well-knowledgeable and qualified people for the role out there. It's to make it relatable to the target audience, sure, but that always just felt like I was being talked down to. Like, instead of the best and the brightest, I'm being told that, any idiot can be special, and that only goes so far with me. To me, it would be like, imagine if Jar Jar Binks was actually the lead perspective character in "The Phantom Menace" how bad that would be. That's kinda how I think of Ash, and Billy Batson's is not that bad, but he's kinda in the same boat for me. 

Now, I do think an adult version who had the same backstory of the character, is a little better, but I also expect him to be, an adult who's not a surrogate for a childlike protagonist. So, ehh.... is that what I get with Shazam in "Kingdom Come"? Umm,... well, I don't really know; he's literally brainwashed through most of the story. In the end, I guess he makes a very adult decision, but I could see him making the same decision as a more childlike version of him too. I don't know, I guess this is a decent dark story for Shazam, but I think as an origin story itself, it's-, well, I don't think it's an origin story to begin with, but even if it was, somehow, I don't think I like it more than the one I got in "Shazam". Yeah, I think it's too much of an overcorrection in that regard. 

I don't know what I would want in it's place though. Like, it's a weird thing that there's all these versions of the all these superhero characters in comic books, so that, ideally I could look for some version of the character I like, however, if I think too far outside certain core aspects of these characters, then I might as well just be asking for a different character completely. Like, if I create a Batman who's parents weren't murdered when he was young, and in fact were still alive, and living a happy well-to-do life, you know how many people would be after me? If I don't like that part that everybody associates with that character, than, there's really not much anybody can do. 

So, what did I learn or gain from this experiment? 

Um, well I read one more comic book, that's good-ish. I guess...? I don't know if it's any good. Um, I don't like Billy Batson, sorry, he's just not a character I want around. I hate Superman a little more than I thought I did. I really don't like him and Wonder Woman together. 

Mostly though, I just found myself, frustrated with the comic book industry. Not the fans so much this time, but the industry itself. Mainly because I came out of the comic not being more inspired by superheroes or feeling that their presence was beneficial or essential, but instead, I found myself saddened that so much of the comic book world focuses so prevalently on superheroes as opposed to other stories and genres that I think would be much more interesting and appealing. There definitely are stuff other than superheroes, but I wish we heard more about them and see them portrayed much more prevalently across the rest of media, it would encourage people like me be more interested if those stories were more prevalent and promoted more. If it was a story I like or cared about I would probably enjoy reading these more and appreciate the appeal.