Opinion: timeless comic book storylines are always the best

Why they’re the kind of comic books we like.

Last week, I purchased the collected edition of the excellent Superman: Kryptonite, written by Darwyn Cooke with art by Tim Sale. It’s a nice Golden Age-inspired storyline set earlier on in the career of the Man Of Steel – originally published in the Superman: Confidential anthology series, which was sadly canceled by DC after just 18 issues, it’s exactly the kind of out-of-continuity superhero story I respond to as a reader. There’s a great foreword by Darwyn Cooke which highlights the criteria any story he works on needs to meet his satisfaction, touching on the point that he prefers to create comic books that stand the test of time in some way, that can’t be date stamped and forgotten so easily.

Shouldn’t every comic book be timeless? Shouldn’t there be more stories like The Dark Knight Returns, rather than crossovers like Battle For The Cowl? I think it’s fairly obvious which we’ll still be talking about in a decade. Of course, publishers have commercial obligations, and at the end of the day, something like 52 or Civil War will always sell more than a low-key arc like Kryptonite, even if by its self-contained nature it leads to better storytelling. I have nothing against the idea of events comics, if they’re done well – I just think smaller storylines resonate with the readership and, more importantly, are fondly remembered by readers in the long run.

Finding a balance here should be important to publishers. The first arc of DC’s Batman and Robin, for example, is an undeniably superb Batman story that’ll be as much fun in ten years as it is today, and that’s set right in the midst of DC continuity. Geoff Johns’ run on The Flash is another fine example of this.

So, I have no particular problem with event comics – if they’re done well, fantastic. I just think writers and artists should always look to extend the lifespan of these storylines beyond the months they’re on shelves in comic stores, like any great book. If it’s possible – and in many potential cases it is – it should be done.