-Man, ever have one of those weekends where you read a bunch of stuff that makes you feel even dumber about the ways you choose to spend your free time?
I'm reminded of two recent posts by Tom Spurgeon: this (touching on the problems inherent in a community built on "superhero comic book ephemera") and this (some thoughts on the ascendancy of plot developments as the primary selling point in mainstream comics). I really think there is some relationship between a comics fandom which, either through publishers' manipulation or organic change, greatly values plot developments over actual aesthetic considerations. I might also lump in the tendency of fans to develop a strange sort of advocacy for certain characters, particularly minor or unpopular characters. I've harped on this subject a number of times myself--when the internal logic of comic stories, filtered through one's own expectations and prejudices, replace any discussion of the quality of writing (beyond plotting and characterization), art, or creator advocacy, you end up with a rather poor discourse.
I was planning on writing a little more, in a somewhat more pointed fashion, but I don't really wanted to get sucked into this. There are an awful lot of really, really thin-skinned people writing about comics (and I'm not referring to who you may think), which is one of the reasons I've moved away from blog criticism and towards whatever the hell it is I do here now. It's not that there are fewer bad blogs out there--if anything, it seems like the bad ones are getting worse, and inspiring other bloggers who pick up the same bad habits. But I don't really enjoy having to deal with many of these folks or their ardent followers, and I'm less and less interested in the stuff they tend to write about--upcoming summer crossovers, the latest cover controversy (been a while since the last one, hasn't it?) or whatever.
I will say that I'm not sure that the online obsession with plot development/character ownership is a true reflection of comics shop culture. I've participated in or overheard many shop conversations which go much deeper into actual aesthetics than much of what you hear online. Which is not to say that there's always a lot to be gained from such conversations--I wasted a good 15 minutes one day trying to make the case against Greg Land, of all people--but one at least gets the sense that people still read comics for reasons other than to provide themselves with ammunition for internet conversations about the shabby treatment their favorite C-list superhero is getting. Or, if they're slightly more sophisticated, to rail against those who make such complaints.
I'm not entirely sure why the internet inspires such dubious discourse, but I suspect there are two root causes. One is the nature of internet "news" sites, which mostly deliver hype for forthcoming releases* or "postmortems" of recent releases. Marvel and DC frankly benefit from this kind of hype cycle, since it allows them to keep readers' attention without having to deliver quality reading experiences. I guess it's to be expected that many blogs will follow the agenda set out by Newsarama, et. al. The other cause, I suspect, is that it's easier to discuss something like art or storytelling sequences in comics shops, where one can simply pick up a book off the shelf to illustrate one's points. On the internet, this requires scanning and uploading. Even those more interested in talking about art or storytelling rather than plot developments (like me) can find this somewhat tiresome; it certainly doesn't lend itself to casual discussions in the comments section of someone else's blog.
In any event, there are still plenty of good comic-focused blogs out there; I'm still subscribed to nearly 90. And there are certainly bloggers who manage to discuss superhero comics in a thoroughly intelligent manner. And those are the blogs which I still read.
*Admittedly, some of this comes in the form of preview pages. Maybe things have changed in months since I quit reading most superhero-oriented blogs, but the last I saw, much of this discussion revolved around trying to detect clues to future plot developments. You do see comments along the lines of "wow, that looks awesome" on Newsarama, but I don't see as much of this kind of reaction (or, better yet, elaborations on why something looks awesome) on blogs. Maybe I was just reading the wrong ones.