john byrne: 'hipness' in comix sux0rz
Ace comic writer/artist John Byrne (X-Men, Fantastic Four, Superman, She-Hulk) ponders the over-use of pop culture references in modern comics, noting that it's quite different from the approach taken by the classic early Marvel comics (DC doesn't count because it doesn't pretend to be set in the "real world").
The result of the approach Stan [Lee] and the other guys used is to render those stories timeless. Sure, the dialog might be a bit hokey occasionally, and the monsters and other plot devices somewhat hoary -- but a civilian today could pick up an FF, or a Spider-Man, or an X-Men and not have to worry about understanding the popular culture of the time. It's there -- but it's there almost subliminally, as background noise.
Look at it from another direction: comedy. The Marx Brothers movies are considered comedy classics, even as they race toward being 70 years old. I'm not a big fan of the Marx Brothers, I admit, yet I can watch one of their movies and not find myself going "Huh?" at Groucho's one-liners. His comments are funny, not hip and topical. How many comedy films made in the last 10 years can make the same claim? Some people think the Austin Powers movies are hilarious. Will they be 70 years from now? Or will the audience of 2072 wonder what the heck the characters are talking about (while still laughing at the hijinks of Chico and Harpo)?
And now -- comics. Today, when I flip through the latest books I see so many topical references I cannot help but wonder what a reader of even a year from now will make of the fare. There are writers who seem so tragically hip they can't seem to get through a book without trawling in as many heavy-handed (and often inappropriate) references as they can.
Why? My guess: it's easier than writing good stories. Keep the readers entertained with a kind of cultural Where's Waldo? and many of them will, alas, come away thinking their money was well spent -- even when the "stories" go on for forty issues, largely because they are so full of extraneous fluff.
In related news, an independent comic writer speculated that '80s pop culture nostalgia is behind the recent revival of the medium.
(via Blog of a Bookslut)