REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #96 - December 2011 [spoilers]

Adrian J. McClure mrfantastic7 at
Tue Jan 31 13:48:50 PST 2012

On Jan 23, 7:16 pm, Saxon Brenton <saxonbren... at> wrote:
> So, instead of gravitas you'll just have to put up with semi-random babbling.

But that exemplifies the spirit of the LNH rather well, doesn't it? Of
course, the actual anniversary is in April, and you can come up with
something suitably impressive then.

>      The twentieth anniversary of the Legion of Net.Heroes will be in
> April 2012.

Which is a little over 10 years since I started writing for RACC. Boy
do I feel old.

>  For those of you who were here, you'll recall that the
> fifteenth anniversary was marked by the 'Infinite Leadership Crisis'
> Event, where the LNH writers got together to publish a story a day with
> the theme of a different LNH character holding the leadership position.

And the storyline that started with that, which began shortly after I
stopped writing for RACC for a long time, has been going on for almost
five years. Now I feel REALLY old.

> The obvious comparison is to the reboot that
> DC Comics gave their shared universe last year with their 'The New 52',
> and the LNH reboot likewise includes starting a new continuity such
> that it's easier for new readers to grasp what's going on.

I've always felt like the whole idea of "accessibility to new readers"
as it comes up in comics discussions is a red herring. Because the
thing is, a lot of the people who might be reading superhero comics
but aren't are reading epic fantasy. I don't think having a huge,
complicated history is a turn-off to the kind of readers who would be
drawn to nerdy things--in fact I think it would be a draw.

The thesis that it's primarily the accumulation of backstory that
drives away new readers certainly doesn't match with my own
experience. I got into X-Men in the mid-90s, at the absolute height of
its convoluity. For me, the vast and complex backstory didn't turn me
off, it made me want to know more, creating another world to inhabit.
Granted, I was never exactly a typical kid, being the child of
academics who grew up to be a medievalist, but I wasn't the only one.
This was the peak of the X-Men's popularity. Maybe kids are more
willing to just roll with the confusion rather than having to have a
story all figured out before they engage with it, I dont' know.

But at the end of the day, I don't think the inaccessibilty of
contemporary superhero comics is primarily about the excessively
complicated backstory. Good superhero comics can engage with vast and
complex histories in ways that engage the reader and make them
actively involved rather then shutting them out, and which use them as
a springboard for creativity rather than repeating the same stories
over and over again. On the other hand, the new 52 has been successful
in stealing away readers from Marvel, at least for a time, but not in
drawing in people who wouldn't otherwise have read superhero comics.
(Which is not to say there aren't some worthwhile books in there,
though I've been disappointed by Action Comics.) It's other problems
that are making so many contemporary superhero comics feel closed off
to anyone who's not already involved with the material, and even many
of those who are: the disappearance of supporting casts in solo books
and what Mightygodking calls "don't know shit" characters in team
books; the refusal to draw inspiration from the outside world and even
from newer forms of popular culture; the rejection of thought
balloons, which limits opportunities for exposition and
characterization; the lack of diversity among both creators and
characters; the refusal to explore what the stories mean in terms of
lived human experience and evoke any emotional resonance outside of a
detached sense of "cool."

And the thing is, the classic LNH has always been this way even at the
beginning. It started off with a somewhat confusing chaotic
roleplaying cascade dogpile thing that had references to past stories
that didn't actually exist.  In LNH20 we've also started in medias
res, and it's had a lot of epic fantasy influence, in terms of genre
tropes (the whole Ava.LAN storyline), but also in terms of the way the
gradually unfolding past is a major part of the story.


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