The other night the hubby and I were talking about comics as we were getting ready to sleep, you know, as you do. I was just starting to read the Avengers Assemble collection Science Bros and the hubster commented that it’s okay as far as that kind of thing goes. What he meant was stuff that is made to entertain. And it got me thinking; why is it that we like to discount entertainment so easily? And I think it all comes down to Marvel vs DC.
Now wait, just hear me out. There’s a fundamental difference between Marvel and DC, especially these days. And nothing says it more clearly than these two videos:
on the one hand we have DC:
All gritty action and dark, brooding heroes. No one ever, ever gets a happy ending, even temporarily (I think that’s even an editorial guideline). Even Superman, the golden boy goody two shoes, apparently had a body count higher than all the Die Hard movies put together. I still haven’t seen the movie so who am I to judge?
Then we have Marvel:
They push the envelope of silly and yet somehow, because it’s them doing it, it works. They’re working hard to give us a good time, to make us cry and more importantly make us laugh.
Now, I’ve always been more of a Marvel girl myself, so I’m probably biased. But just because someone makes you laugh doesn’t mean that they can’t or won’t also make you cry or that they can’t tell a poignant story full of important themes. To be fair, I think if you can make someone laugh, you can probably drive the point home better. And yet we, as a society, tend to think that something is automatically less than when its primary objective is to entertain us. It’s the accusation so often leveled at genre fiction.
And yet we get storytelling like Terry Pratchett’s City Watch series in which an ordinary man filled with his own prejudices and problems goes out and deals with the moral grey and black areas and makes a case for compassion and doing the right thing because that’s the job that’s in front of you, despite often being low on compassion himself. And because he can make you laugh, Pratchett gets to punch myths in the face without being preachy. Lizardbrain myths like being ugly makes you evil. And while The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences is undoubtedly a great book, adapted into a great movie, it’s not something that people pick up for fun. It’s something most people read as a chore, if at all.
The impact of entertaining storytelling is huge, much bigger than we are willing to admit, most of the time. While I would never give up my DC Comics (seriously, you gotta read Batgirl!) or Tolstoys, it’s the Pratchetts and Marvels of the world that have mostly shaped me into the person I am. And I think that’s true for a lot of people. I’m not sure that’s actually a bad thing.