Robot 6

Quote of the Day #2 | Mark Waid on the grimness of superhero comics

“The grimness is just absurd. It’s ‘how do we out-grim each other, how do we out-violence each other.’ Don’t get me wrong. I’m not offended because I want comics to be like they were when I was a kid. I don’t care. I don’t want comics to be like they were when I was a kid because I still have my comics. If I need that I’ll go look at those. What I need is for comics to not cheapen out and just do what they think a bunch of bloodthirsty 15-year-old fans want. Stop trying to gross us out with blood and violence. It’s just cheap. It’s bad storytelling. I’m not offended on a moral or ethical level, I’m just offended on a creativity level. There are other ways to create tension and drama than to have somebody stabbed through the back with a sword.”

Daredevil writer Mark Waid, addressing the grim tone of many superhero comics in a Q&A with Paste magazine that touches upon a range of topics, including The Indestructible Hulk.

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51 Comments

“There are other ways to create tension and drama than to have somebody stabbed through the back with a sword.”

True dat.

I wish I could go back in time and put Mark Waid in charge of DC before they brutally killed off Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and the Elongated Man. With most of my favorite characters dead or unrecognizable after the new 52 relaunch, I walked away from DC after 25 years of collecting. It’s been more than a year since I’ve read a DC comic. I’m still sad that I’ve lost something that I once loved so much. But the books just weren’t for me any more. I don’t begrudge anyone who likes the company’s new direction. I can only hope that the next revamp will be more in line with my sensibilities and I will gladly jump back on board the DC bandwagon.

I think Waid wrote the story in which the Elongated Man was “brutally killed.”

Right, that’s it — it’s not violence that’s the problem, it’s violence for its own sake. It’s cheap shock value.

And it’s a lack of variety.

Christianizcool

August 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm

“There are other ways to create tension and drama than to have somebody stabbed through the back with a sword.”

~somewhat spoilers ahead~

This immediately made me think of Earth-2 #1 when Wonder Woman gets stabbed through the back with a sword.

This made me immediately think of Yost/Kyle run on X-Force. For heaven’s sake, the variants for the opening arc simply added blood and guts to the covers.

http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20081109142421/marveldatabase/images/5/55/X-Force_Vol_3_5.jpg

http://images.wikia.com/marveldatabase/images/b/b6/X-Force_Vol_3_5_Variant_Bloody.jpg

DarthRadarOReilly

August 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm

@Christian

Naw, it’s a Geoff Johns dig

PS – hasn’t this “too much violence in comics” dead horse already been flogged

Waid’s FF was brutal.

While Marvel has its gore-porn moments, they can’t compete with DC. Certain books can get away with it, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, but even then it has a point, it’s story specific. Seeing the lack of creative effort in dealing with killing people in comics just by showing how gory it is just takes away from it’s over all impact. Prime example would be Aquaman. But that’s Johns for you. I remember when Johns was able to be creative back in the day, he swapped some Villain for the mother of Atomsmasher who was going to die on a plane, but the Mother lived, Villain died, good stuff. Arms torn off, flesh melting, all that stuff, nah, doesn’t sit well with me. But that’s me. Other just wrap themselves in the gore. They love every bit of it.

Ever since Identity Crisis DC has had a mad on for the over the top brutilization for their fictional characters, maybe one day the adolescent hyper-violent fan fiction will end. One far far farrrrrrrr off day.

oursentenceisup

August 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm

For the record, Waid didn’t write Identity Crisis–Brad Meltzer did.

But it wasn’t Identity Crisis where Ralph got killed, it was 52.

It’s amazing how well balanced 52 turned out to be, given how different the sensibilities of those writers have proven to be.

oursentenceisup

August 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm

“But it wasn’t Identity Crisis where Ralph got killed, it was 52.

It’s amazing how well balanced 52 turned out to be, given how different the sensibilities of those writers have proven to be.”

Good call. With all the ‘brutally killed’ being thrown around, I kept thinking Sue. There’s really only one “brutal killing’ I can even think of in 52…I was actually pretty happy with how the Ralph thing worked out, ghost detectives and all. And agreed…Geoff Johns doesn’t really seem to fit on a series with Morrison/Waid now.

Well said, Mr. Waid — I have to agree. I love grim and violent stories, but I don’t want every story I read to be grim and violent on a regular basis. There needs to be balance with characterization and good storytelling.

Having said that…

@Mikey — The Yost/Kyle run on X-Force was great. The grim and violent tone of that series was sort of necessary since it dealt with a black ops team of killers. It was balanced enough to not just be gratuitous, but its dark aspects certainly lent itself to the concept. But X-Force is one thing — I don’t need to see that sort of stuff happening in books like Justice League or The Avengers all the time.

It bears repeating at this point that there are currently at least 5 monthly Batman comics and not a one suitable for children.

I like Dark Batman just fine, but I’d like to see more Funny Batman — stuff like the Adam West TV series, or The Brave and the Bold, or Lego Batman. All great takes!

“BUT WAID’S HAD PEOPLE STABBED IN THE BACK WITH SWORDS, TOO!” There, internet, I saved you the trouble. In a fruitless attempt at preventive maintenance, I’ll likewise stipulate that over a 25-year career, I’ve had characters do some pretty violent things now and again, myself. I would, however, at least like to believe that I don’t use that tool to gratuitous excess. YMMV. When you hear me complaining about Swords Through The Back these days, that’s just my shorthand way of saying that it’s a trope I now find overdone across the medium–a too-easy go-to. Writing evil and writing violence are, if you’re clever and do it right, can be two entirely different sets of visuals.

Also, to the issue of ‘I think Waid wrote the story in which the Elongated Man was “brutally killed.’”–for the record, no, the entire back half of that one sequence (52 Week 42?) was the one sequence in the entire series that was actually written not by any of the 52 writers; I haven’t the time or inclination to get into the whole backstory right now, but after handing in numerous last-second rewrites on “Ralph’s End,” all of which were 180 degrees from what we’d been telling our bosses all along what we were building to and all of which still allowed Ralph to die with, apparently, too much intelligence and dignity, I gave up. I told the editor I couldn’t do what was being asked, and the other three 52 writers (to their credit) stood in solidarity with me and wouldn’t touch those pages either.

Those sorts of changes are, of course, absolutely the full prerogative of editorial to make. No argument. Their sandbox, etc. If you’re freelancing for any company, they can change the work however they please, their right. I just wish our four names weren’t on a comic that, in large part, none of us actually wrote.

It’s just like the Horror genre… I love a good macabre tale, but give me more suspense than blood and gore anytime. Sure, blood and gore is effective when done right, but that torture-porn stuff is not just over the top, but actually pretty boring.

DarthRadarOReilly

August 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm

@Thad

I’ll do you one better. There are 52 DC monthly comics, and almost none of them are suitable for children. Ditto for most of Marvel’s stuff

But, as another comic pro loves to say – anything can be done well. The problem with the current ridiculous grim-and-gritty trend is it is mostly lazy writing. They think they can throw in a dash of grim-and-gritty, and suddenly that makes for a better comic book. Instead of writing good, thoughtful stories

It’s become a lazy and hackneyed technique that is overused.

Thank you, Mr. Waid for the backround re : editorial interference with “52″. I would really like to see such books overprinted with an “E” stamp, or something over the creator’s credits. A “we’ve pissed about with the story” warning. We thought you guys wrote that stuff! :)

This topic (editorial tinkering) is really gaining momentum recently. It’s depressing. Why can’t editorial depts either trust the talent they hire OR give up the ghost & knock it out themselves? At least give us the opportunity to praise/crit their input?

I disagree. Sure, there’s more to creativity than violence, but in a world of comic book vigilantism, violence should feel very real. Like amateur dental work with a crowbar.

Tell the whole story – the domestic tragedy and career fallout – and it isn’t merely glamorizing violence.

@Mark Waid
Someone should make a headline out of it: ‘Mark Waid admits to having had people stabbed in the back.’
You, sir, are a real life villain!!

Mark Waid a villain?? Of course he is! I heard he’s Irredeemable! Hi-yo

A Concerned Citizen

August 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm

@Dare to bare Devil

You make an excellent point. That’s one of the big reasons why stories like Watchmen and Batman: Year One became so influential and are still held up as high points of the medium.

The problem is that not many writers are capable of doing that. For every Morrison, Moore, Waid, Snyder, Brubaker, etc. there are like 20 Judd Winicks and J.T. Krul’s.

Completely agree. I would love to read more comics with my four sons ( all under ten years of age ), but I can’t. I love that comics have grown up WITH me, while at the same time lamenting that they’ve left KIDS behind (at least ones whose parents are doing their jobs). I can still share the old stuff with ‘em, though…!!! :-)

@Mike T.
I think it’s a Ruse. I heard he’s Incorruptible too, and that’s good, right?

WOW! Mark Waid whining about DC?! Who would have ever expected that, huh?

Very interesting point of view.
Some creators equate gore and violence with maturity… and that’s a mistake

Dear creators: think a little more critically about your ideas – never underestimate your audience.

Waids saying something that needed to be said.

There simply does not need to be horror movie levels of gore and violence in a mainstream superhero book or the excess of grimdark in general. I’m not saying I want a world where Batman can’t punch anybody but what happened to *action*? Why narrow the potential audience for superhero comics down to wanna be Sith Lords who despise joy and fans who want the material itself to (over) compensate for their own embarrassment of liking something fantastic and colorful even though they aren’t kids anymore?

For that matter why are any of us embarrassed at all?

Why do we not own our love of the heroic, fantastic, and colorful and better yet we do we want to take it away from kids when what we should be doing is sharing it! I don’t mean through stuff like a bland kiddy line but I mean through superhero comics that can appeal both to the young and to the teenager or adult who still enjoys using their imagination.

@Flavio
where did he mentions DC in that statement?
i think he meant it to all comic company

Agree with Mr. Waid, most writers are either lazy or just not creative enough and resort to cheap storytelling.
Mr. Waid: You should be writing Superman!

el_caifan

The problem with the gore and violence in modern superhero comics, beyond the lack of creativity like Waid says, is that it’s so out of place. The line was crossed with me once and for all when I was flipping through that Siege comic where Sentry rips Ares in half in gory detail. That was a scene that would have been pushing it in most horror titles. What purpose does that sort of thing serve? What does that have to do with the heroic ideal?

Critics will argue that superhero violence is irresponsible since it’s often devoid of consequence. The point missed with this is that superheroes used to not be about “violence”–they used the veneer of action/adventure to present ideals (not only fighting villains but societal corruption) of self-sacrifice and altruism in an entertaining format. Delving inside the conventions of the genre, most heroes are so skilled that they can indeed incapacitate a group of thugs without the gory injuries that would most likely occur in the REAL WORLD. Even as a kid I understood this.

Siegel, Shuster, Kane, Finger, Kirby, etc, weren’t literally saying that we should dress up in crazy outfits and go punch bad guys in the face. Superheroes, at their best, are a metaphor for implementing REAL societal change from the inside out.

Tell it like it is, Mark! I, too, am disgusted and bored at the violence of today’s comics. Bored with “grim” heroes. Give me heroes who act heroic.

Give me editors who let the writers write.

I hope there is a hell for editors who interfere with their own writers and screw up their stories.
That these editors are punished by being forced to read their own comics for all eternity!

The problem isn’t violence, it’s uncreative violence. Waid nailed it.

When Elektra was stabbed with her sai from behind, it was a shocking moment. It was an image that is constantly referenced and still endures. A lot of writers want to recapture the shock and impact, but it is so overdone that the surprise stab comes across as laughable. it’s been relegated to “last page shock panel” status. I could go on about how sick I am of the last page almost always being a character’s arrival, death, etc… but that’s a whole other rant.

X-force was done well, because the violence fit the book. Irredeemable was one of my favorite comics while it was in publication. The Plutonian had a dark and screwed up history – but it much of it was creative and unique (the rest a homage providing a dark mirror to comic staples).

Mark Waid is right! I wish Marvel did more comics like Daredevil, you can still have your stabby-killy Wolverine books (Even though I miss the Wolvrine that existed during Claremont’s X-Men run which was nothing like this one) but there’s still room for heroes to act like heroes. Of course, I’ve never been convinced that the top brass at Marvel truly like heroic characters.

I agree with Marc about 20 years of collecting comics off and on I recently gave up and sold off my entire collection I felt like I was reading a trimmed down version of Saw in every book everything is shock value for shock values sake no story no character development. The only book that I consistently read is The Walking Dead and I read this before the hype started, Why must every thing be about death in comics? I used to read comics for the pure enjoyment of seeing characters that I grew up with take down the bad guys the over the top villains like the Joker, or the sandman. I read the 1st issue of Batman Inc and was just not interested in anything from DC reboot after that. DC and Marvel now put characters in books just to throw them out in the most violent and horrific ways possible. I have tried to get fellow friends to pick up issues for there children and have given up. There is just nothing out there in Mainstream books for children to read unless it is 30 years of continuity behind it and a character dies in every issue in the most disgusting ways.

DarthRadarOReilly

August 25, 2012 at 9:05 am

@Robert White

But it was kewl when Sentry ripped Ares in half

(not really, of course)

DarthRadarOReilly

August 25, 2012 at 9:10 am

Naw, even X-Force was annoying and gimmick-y. “Let’s take a bunch of ‘dark’ characters and put them in a ‘dark’ book – making them do things that are gritty and sometimes even out of character”

The storytelling wasn’t that good. It was gritty for gritty’s sake. (much like that awful show Hell on Wheels).

I think in the first issue Wolverine punched Cyclops right in the face. Because, you know, Wolverine is hardcore and dark

I don’t want comics to be like they were when I was a kid because I still have my comics. If I need that I’ll go look at those.

Erm, didn’t Waid just sell off all his comics to fund Thrillbent…?

@MarkWaid I completely see where you are coming from on this one. In the past several years, we have seen a lot of unnecessary deaths and none of them more upsetting to me than Ryan Choi (The Atom) . What an absolutely senseless killing in a comic book. It felt like nothing more than shock factor.

In recent weeks while in a comic book shop, I was talking to friends about a book that is currently being published. They asked me what I thought. I told them that I liked it but the plot really seems to be moving slowly to which they responded ” but that last issue was so violent and some dude got his head smashed! What more do you want?!?!”

I respect my friends opinions but at the same time, I felt like the story was dragging. It felt as though the writer was going for shock factor and I wanted more than that.

There are some amazing gems of comic books out there like the recent release of Batman #12. The art was emotional and the action took a back seat to the story.

Some of my favorite books over the past decade or so have been Hourman by Tom Peyer and Rags Morales. That book was so amazingly well done with great stories and a wonderful cast.
Your Impluse series was a personal favorite as well. Max Mercury is such a terrific character and to see him guiding Bart was such a joy every month.
Chuck Dixon’s Robin series … actually just about anything by Chuck Dixon. The man can write adventure. Peter David’s Young Justice series was so much fun. We got young heroes on grand adventures. It was the type of stuff you would have imagined as a child while playing with your friends in a treehouse.
Jeff Lemire’s recent Superboy series (pre reboot) had some wonderfully light hearted elements with Kon El and Bart racing for charity and being beaten by Krypto. It made you smile.
J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman run ‘Grounded’ was a lovely departure from a lot of the grim comic book stories of late .
I also can’t forget James Robinson’s ‘Leave it to Chance’

The point being, I get it. I enjoy a grim story from time to time but within reason. I also want comic books to be fun as well and in recent years the fun has been few and far between.

“I don’t want comics to be like they were when I was a kid because I still have my comics. If I need that I’ll go look at those. What I need is for comics to not cheapen out and just do what they think a bunch of bloodthirsty 15-year-old fans want. Stop trying to gross us out with blood and violence. It’s just cheap. It’s bad storytelling. I’m not offended on a moral or ethical level, I’m just offended on a creativity level.”

THANK YOU MARK WAID! This is exactly what I was trying to say (obviously unsuccessfully) a few years back, only to get responses telling me I should read kiddy comics like Marvel Adventures. Just because a comic has enough sex/violence to get a mature rating doesn’t mean it’s mature (good) literature. Many of the comics I read back in the 70′s and 80′s were better than most comics I’ve read in the last decade not due to nostalgia on my part, but to the talent of the writers back then.
I have nothing against sex and violence in a story (hell, I loved books like Marshall Law and Haywire when they came out, and still do), but they need to have purpose in the story rather than be there as gratuitous filler, or a crutch.

B, there’s another reason the Big Two’s comics were better “back then” — in the seventies there wasn’t near as much interference from the editors. The writers did the writing. The editors edited.

It should come as no surprise that I agree with everything that Waid said, since I have been saying pretty much the exact same thing for several years now on various message boards.

Instead of adding more books set in the current main MU or DCU continuity that are aimed at a shrinking audience of teens and adults, the Big 2 should replace any cancelled books with brand new books set in their own shared separate continuity that are aimed at a more all ages audience. And for the record when I say “MORE ALL AGES” audience, I’m talking about books with the same type of content level (in regards to sex,violence,and language) to books like G.I. JOE:A REAL AMERICAN HERO,TRIO,STAN LEE’S THE MIGHTY 7,THE NEW CRUSADERS, X-MEN:THE HIDDEN YEARS,BIG HERO 6,X-MEN FOREVER,X-FACTOR FOREVER,X-MEN FIRST CLASS,THE FAMILY DYNAMIC,KID KOSMOS,PAD’S original INCREDIBLE HULK run,CLAN DESTINE,and SPIDER-GIRL (and the other MC2 line of books).

@Blade X
My thoughts exactly.

@Mark Waid
THANK YOU!!! I have been waiting for a comic pro to say something like that for months now! What do you think about this as a possible antidote for today’s ‘grim’ comics, as applied to the comic book medium:
“If you stop GOING to bad movies, they’ll stop MAKING bad movies.”–Jay Sherman, The Critic season one, episode one “Eyes on the Prize”
Also, can’t wait to get your autograph at Emerald City Comic-Con next year! I actually tried to look for you at the 2011 convention (you were on the guest list), but had a really, really tough time. They (Brandon Jerwa and Eric Trautmann) said you were wearing a hat–but then again, who wasn’t at that thing!

Sorry, I meant The Critic, season one, episode six.

I’d like to add that violence in a book like Invincible doesn’t bother me as much as the same graphic violence in an issue put out by the Big Two. As much as I love Invincible, there’s no action figures or cartoons that would appeal to a child who would then buy the comic and see Mark break his arm rather graphically. There is a kid out there who talks mom and dad into buying them an Avengers comic or a Green Lantern comic who will be exposed to the violence graphic violence in there. We’re people getting killed in comics when I was a kid? Of course, but the creators tended to be more CREATIVE when showing the violence. The face of a person witnessing it, a red panel before the actual violent act, etc…

” I’m not offended on a moral or ethical level, I’m just offended on a creativity level.”

My favorite portion of that quotation.

It’s like the whole new Joker thing, you can just hear the thought process, “Let’s have his face torn of and reattached with a BELT! THAT’S EVEN MORE MATURE THAN THE NOLAN VERSION!” Please just write cool Joker stories. Thanks.

MARK WAID STABBED VON BACH IN THE BACK!

Get him!

http://majorspoilers.com/2007/06/16/retro-review-kingdom-come/

which is just me agreeing with @B: the above scene was a plot element, not a reason to turn it up to 11.

Duly noted, @Mark Waid. My “I think” was deliberate, but this clarification is nice. (And sad.) Christ, I hated Identity Crisis …

In a perfect world, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison would be running DC Comics.

I agree with Mark Waid, especially when it comes to what he knows best: super-hero storytelling.

Mark, PLEASE go back to DC and take over the Superman titles. Or even better, convince DC to restore the pre-Flashpoint DCU and let you have control of the Superman titles, Justice League, and other title you’d like to work on.

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