Ever since I started reading comics back in high school, I was always fascinated with the two big publishers: Marvel and DC. I was a late bloomer and had a lot to catch up on at the time. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Countdown and 52, Kingdom Come, Batman stories like Death in the Family and Long Halloween, Tower of Babel, Demon in a Bottle, Civil War, World War Hulk, and so many more arcs and stories were being thrown at me all at once, but I read them all. DC and Marvel had two different identities and worlds that were so defining that you just wanted to keep reading and immerse yourself each week. After the ungodly amount of hours of reading the back issues and stories, I was finally caught up enough for the weekly comic pick-up each Wednesday. This was in 2009. ‘Blackest Night’ was about to begin and I was ready, or so I thought.
I have been a DC fanatic my whole life. Batman, Superman, Justice League movies and TV shows were my staple entertainment. I had so many DC action figures, I could have been buried underneath them and lost forever. I loved reading trivia and spending hours on Wikipedia finding new villains or heroes that haven’t been seen in years, but for some reason picking up these issues of the main story started to weigh on me. This run had everything to make it a staple series for everyone to remember and recommend. With Geoff Johns at the helm and the best artists behind him to turn his words into art on each panel, people went crazy for it. But… Why didn’t I obsess over it? I gave up on Marvel a year before with ‘Secret Invasion,’ but my love for DC dwindling was harder for me to accept. I read the first four issues of ‘Blackest Night’ and felt nothing. I would go back and pick up ‘Detective Comics’ and read more back-issues, but with ‘Blackest Night’ everywhere and taking over ‘Detective Comics’ in a lot of ways, I cut DC cold-turkey.
After a few months of not picking up my weekly pulls from Dragon’s Lair in Austin, TX, my bank account was full of money and I was able to focus on a lot of other things, such as school and whatnot. However, I felt really lost. A world I submerged myself into for years seemed like a foggy distant memory. I began to remember stories that never happened or that I wished had happened, as a lot of fans do, but I still didn’t want to go back and pick up issues. I would walk by or go into shops with friends and look at the covers, scoff, and wait by the door or look at posters, Warhammer, and all the other stuff. I was insulted by ‘Blackest Night’ for no reason. It was one day that my friend Jason recommended two book series for me: ‘Fables’ by Bill Willingham and ‘Bone’ by Jeff Smith. After reading one volume of ‘Fables’ and a couple pages of the ‘Bone’ compendium Jason lended me, my love for comics was rejuvenated.
‘Fables’ and ‘Bone’ were my gateway drug. It turned from Jack of Fables to Jesse Custer to Scott Pilgrim to Kick-Ass to Rick Grimes to The Spirit to Tony Chu to John Constantine and so many more I want to name. These were my new super heroes. Of course, my love and memories of Batman and others were always in the back of my mind, but I had movies, shows, and the old books to fall back on. I didn’t need to keep reading the same recycled stories and have my characters diluted to give the spotlight to other characters I didn’t care about. I finally found a realm where the characters I like get the spotlight they deserve and everything is creative and kept me at the edge of my seat. There are hundreds of different universes out there in independent comics with the brilliant minds of Garth Ennis, Mark Millar, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, and Richard Starkings that have now surpassed everything Marvel and DC have done. It has taken years and years to create history and to create continuity, whereas these independent comics succeed in a couple volumes.
The point of this article isn’t to sway anyone from DC and Marvel, I still pick up some runs. Waid’s ‘Daredevil’ run is phenomenal and Snyder’s Batman arcs are pretty great, but it has been 6 years and I am still stuck on comics like Saga, Hellboy, Chew, Rat Queens, Powers, Locke and Key, and many others. They may have not been around since the 1940’s, but the worlds created in each independent comic book series is something different and gets a whole story done in less volumes than ‘The Big Two.’ It is a relief that I don’t have to read so many old issues and new issues to understand a very mediocre arc for either Marvel and DC that was basically done 20 years before, but with a little twist. Whatever your needs are for storytelling, there is an independent comic book series waiting for you. Go and support your local comic book store and support these amazing artists trying to tell amazing stories.
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