Here's an interesting article on modern-day superhero comics from the Boston Phoenix by Douglas Wolk from a few months back. Lots of sensible observations, mainly about the way that the readership of comics has aged and grown more sophisticated over the years, leading to the rise of the "super reader"--the kind who gets all the inside jokes and external references in every issue of, say, Superman. Superhero comics now cater to these readers, which means you have to know all kinds of backstory in order to follow a storyline. (Wolk theorizes that this explains the recent popularity of translated manga among American kids: stories that stand alone, no baggage you're expected to know from the outset, etc.)
In a sidenote, he mentions a book I don't know but want to check out: Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips’s Sleeper, which he describes this way: "superhero joins the villains’ team as a double agent and becomes so morally compromised that he no longer knows what side he’s on." My favorite theme! Anybody know this one?
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