Columns

Split Panel Compass #1: Pathway Inside the Screen

Steve DammThe Sentry for Steve

by Steve Damm aka “The Sentry”


Welcome to the first issue of SPLIT PANEL COMPASS, a new column exclusive to The CBU in which we learn how a disillusioned comic book fan finally found his way back home.

Time often desensitizes and detaches more than it heals. It creates distances that never close.

After six years of not buying comics, or reading them for anything more than my sometimes profession of comics journalism, I had given up on ever returning to comics.

copyofaction900You see, I am one of THOSE guys. One of those continuity-loving, classic characterization-demanding purists that so many modern fans bristle at. As an avid reader from 1976 to 2011 I often went to cons – even subscribed to comics for years pre-internet due to no LCS – but by the time Action Comics #900 came out I was weary of the way my classic characters were being treated and it was the beginning of the end.

Marvel at this time was complicit as well with horrid events like AvX and it seemed both of my comic book universes (the ones I invested years in) had become unsatisfying. With the creation of the New 52 (of which I reviewed the first 6 of 8 series, then I was done. I only read for work or a once in a while whim to check in on the character I felt reflects the status of the whole industry – SUPERMAN).

As Superman goes, so goes the rest of comics – if he’s well characterized (classic), telling amazing feats and inspiring his supporting cast, then it is a sign of the whole industry as far as creative output. You see, Superman is the hardest character in comics to do well. It’s not even close. I stayed away for six long years.

51bh3gk8fwl-_sx319_bo1204203200_But a few months back I bought the first Superman Rebirth trade paperback based on the claims of Superman’s glorious return and have been reading every Superman (and Action Comics) Rebirth issue I can get my hands on since.

How did this happen? How did I reach a place of willingness to retry what had disappointed me so often? The answer is not what you’d think . . .

. . . So, let’s get this monkey smoking!

It amazes me that some of the most rigid of purists, when faced with a different medium for their heroes, hold them to different standards and let’s be clear – I never do with Superman – but with many other forms it comes naturally not to hold them to the comics continuity. Television has expanded my mind enough to allow me to embrace comics again. Let me explain.

It seems that with no expectations (save the characters be recognizable) the long-decompressed medium of one-hour television series offers a chance to be thrilled again like I was so many years ago. Obviously, themes and scripts that work for TV likely wouldn’t work in comics. For me, this freedom let me open my mind to look past the “that’s not the way it happened”, and the “his costume is the wrong color”. It was an unwitting gateway drug back to comics.

For the last six years, serial superhero television and movies have replaced what I loved about comics. Shows from the “Arrowverse”, Marvel Netflix universe and many of the feature films have given me what was what I was missing from my comics reading experience: the ability to enjoy what I was given and not long for how I thought it should be. It was a long, slow organic transformation that brought me back to comics, not some epiphany out of singing clouds. I literally came to the place where comics could satisfy me again by season after season of great stories using my favorite characters used in new ways. Because of Supergirl on TV I was willing to experience Superman again because Supergirl re-opened the awe and wonder of comics to me in another visual medium. supergirl-radioBut there is another factor to my return to comics as well, which is when I read Rebirth I was given on a golden plate everything I was lacking the six years prior: a good, kind Superman, one continuity and a tone of hope and futuristic magnificence. So, if television allowed me to come back, perhaps it is the quality of Superman again that will let me stay (for now. Baby steps).

Do I still hate a murdering Superman and X-Men I can barely recognize? Do I hate it when comics history is spit all over and disregarded? Do I hate mega events that don’t ever do anything or worse make everything worse? You bet I do and will still scream passionately about them when I see them (looking at you Man of Steel), but I think I can play the longer game with the books again. At the very least I am enjoying Superman again.

Tell the monkey to crush his butt.


A CBU co-founder, Steve is known professionally as DAMM and is a Colorado native resident. He has loved comics for 40 years, but currently prefers the live-action and animated medium for his superheroes fix. His passion for all things superheroes is only surpassed by his love of coffee and cigarettes.

Categories: Columns, Split Panel Compass

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