30 Day Television Challenge: Day Twenty-six

Current Obsession: X-Men


(A point of clarity before I continue: when I italicize X-Men it means I’m talking about the 90s cartoon, when I don’t italicize X-Men it means I’m talking about the universe, print, film, TV, etc.)

I must admit, I’ve never watched X-Men start to finish. It was one of my favorites growing up, but I saw the episodes piecemeal in whatever order YTV or Fox Kids decided to show them. That’s the beauty of Netflix: you can watch entire shows whenever you decide to park your ass on the couch.

X-Men is Marvel’s most socially conscious series. Its examination of the outsider’s experience adds another layer to the standard “Who Am I” arc of most comic books. Mutants in X-Men must find out who they are in a world that hates them.

The dialectic between the ostracized and the sovereign regime is something X-Men explores quite well. It doesn’t take the easy way out and simply victimize all the characters. Magneto, for example, isn’t justified in his quest for revenge, though he is sympathetic.

What I like about X-Men in particular is that it’s actually a show with extended plot lines that are developed across the length of a season. Most 90s cartoons were very Saturday morning, with each episode standing on its own. Alternatively, X-Men sustains several threads throughout a season. Consider The Dark Phoenix saga of the 3rd season compared to the woefully underwhelming Symbiote Saga (“The Alien Costume”) of Spider-Man.

XMENTITLE(as a kid, Gambit was my favorite)

I find it interesting and unfortunate that comic books have moved away from TV. In the 90s, comic books really thrived on TV. The 90s were a golden era of comic books TV series: X-Men, Batman: TAS, Spider-Man. Even Lois & Clark was really popular.

Now, though, comics are more interested in film than TV, or even print for that matter. I suppose the obvious answer is that there’s more money in blockbuster movies, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. Comic book movies permeate the zeitgeist in a way comic books in print never have.

Sure, younger readers loved comic books back in the day, and now adults (read: nerds, hipsters) have become the main demographic, but these are small drops in the bucket. Comic book movies cut across all demographics. Everyone loves The Dark Knight and The Avengers, most of whom have probably never read a comic book in their life.

Comic books have assumed the cinematic apex because they are the modern mythical archetypes, and film is the new mega medium. The blockbuster is now the supreme cultural event. Harry Potter became a true monolith when it transitioned into film.

Comic book heroes belong on film because they are our new gods. They are the latest instantiation of the monomyth. Comic books have moved into film because TV and print don’t have the same status as film. The cinema is our Greek amphitheater. That’s where comic characters belong.

(Best intro ever?)



~ by braddunne on March 17, 2013.

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