Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Every comics fan, creator, critic and industry type has their own theory as to how to "save" comics and why the average person doesn't read them. I'm not going to get into that, but I want to point out something I found interesting: One of the most common factors to blame for the lack of interest in comics is continuity. Superhero comics are mired in years of continuity, shared universes are cumbersome because comics constantly reference other comics and previous issues. Marvel and DC both have tried continuity-lite or continuity-free comics to entice new readers.

Somehow (long story) I ended up with a free subscription to Lego magazine. Each issue comes with the latest issue of the Bionicle comic book, co-published with DC and featuring characters based on the popular Bionicle line of Lego toys. I got my first issue last week, Bionicle #22, and I thought I'd give it a read to see if it was any good. It is, after all, one of the few comic books that's actually very popular with kids. I found it totally incomprehensible. Why? It's mired in continuity. Even after reading the helpful recap of previous issues on the first page, I had almost no idea what was going on. There are numerous footnotes referring the reader to other Bionicle comics and, at one point, to the Bionicle straight-to-DVD movie. Footnotes are almost unheard-of in mainstream comics anymore, as they are considered alienating. But in this case, for the average Bionicle reader who is most likely a rabid Bionicle fan, the footnotes make the reader feel connected and knowledgeable. And for a new reader like me, clearly no one cares if I know what's going on or not.

Was the comic any good? I have no idea. I got only a vague sense of what was happening. All the characters' names are made up words that sound very similar, and the plot of this issue involved almost all of them transforming into slightly different characters with slightly different names. But clearly a legion of kids think this is a good comic, and the dense continuity isn't turning them off; I'd be willing to bet they love it. Something to ponder. Meanwhile, I'll continue getting free issues of this comic, and maybe eventually I'll figure out what the hell it's about.

No comments: