Comics in the 2000s

David Carrier’s The Aesthetics of Comics (2000) was the first extended treatment of comics from a philosophical perspective, and yet, finding ourselves in the year 2018, we are somehow no closer to an agreed-upon definition of the comics medium, with numerous attempted descriptions having fallen prey to ridicule, disproof, and more retcons than your average Marvel title. Towards the close of the 20th century, the rise of new forms made defining comics a more complicated task, which is a really good thing from a reader’s perspective considering we saw more fructifying comic books (with many that should have died on the vine) being published than ever before. The decade of the 2000s will forever be remembered as the “Era of the Superhero” in popular culture, insofar as we saw a record number of comic-to-film adaptations, with improved, computer-generated technology making the fantastic worlds of superheroes tangible realities. Outside the quixotic imaginations of creators, never before was such astonishing, big-screen spectacle even remotely possible, and the resultant worldwide engrossment in comic book adaptations led to an economic boom with yearly revenue landing somewhere in the billions. The comic book industry responded to the hype by mirroring its filmic counterparts with “widescreen” comics, which were all but tailored for the big screen: oversize panels, prodigious set pieces, unclouded storylines, were part-and-parcel of a larger movement towards greater bankability. However, not everyone was keen to board the gravy train and plead fealty to the new commercial emperors. Vanguards like Alan Moore spoke of the purity of the comic book medium and refused to participate in its dilution at the hands of Hollywood’s impresarios, which occurred anyway, with nearly all of Moore’s essential works being adapted into major motion pictures, sans his permission. But he who laughs last, laughs most resoundingly, and Moore eventually got his revenge over his usurpers, with nearly all of the adaptations based on his original material tanking critically and commercially, casting an unprofitable cloud over all of his licensable properties; while back in the quaint land of comics, Moore teamed with J.H. Williams III to construct one of the most groundbreaking, literary, and visually ornate titles of the era with Promethea. There would be no further challenges to the throne. “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”