All of these are taken from the first five (seven, in one case, but I forget which) pages of Scott Snyder’s most high profile work: American Vampire (with Rafael Albuquerque, Daniel Zezelj, and Dave McCaig, Detective Comics (with Jock, Francesco Francavilla, and David Baron), and Swamp Thing (with Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn). Snyder’s had fifty or so comics published thus far, but all of these hit in the last 18 (or so) months. American Vampire is 18 issues deep, his run on ‘Tec was 11 issues, and Swamp Thing just started.
Do you see what all of these have in common? “[Aged male mentor figure] used to say [anecdote relevant to the plot].” He switches it up in American Vampire 12 with “Someone once told me”, and he pulls out families and tv shows for another. The real twisty one is ‘Tec 875, where Harvey Bullock, the aged male mentor figure, talks about how kids these days just don’t get it and AM radios are a thing that exists and here’s how to survive in Gotham. Never a mother, interestingly. Always either dudes or groups that are traditionally led by dudes.
All of these are basically the same thing. Anecdotes to kick the story off and show what sort of things the issue’ll be dealing with. It isn’t a bad technique, exactly, but it’s in half of ‘Tec, a quarter of American Vampire, and the first issue of Swamp Thing. It’s substantial, and it’s noticeable, when what it really should be is invisible.
It’s like Garth Ennis and Ireland or (expletive)(facial feature), Brian K Vaughan and stupid trivia, Chris Claremont and BDSM, Brian Bendis and his style of dialogue, Greg Rucka and characters like Sasha Bordeaux/Rene Montoya/Tara Chace/Dex Parios/what’s her name, the lady cop from Adventures of Superman/Elektra/maybe the newlywed widow from Punisher I dunno/the marshal from Wolverine/etc, Mark Millar and really specific numbers and/or really out of place diminutives, Frank Miller and hardboiled/Dirty Harry-style heroes, Warren Ellis and his hard-drinking British dude or lady who takes no guff off anyone and comes up with clever insults while moblogging all the way up and down the Web 2.0, Alan Moore and rape, Nick Spencer and writing terrible comics, Grant Morrison and dead cats, Frank Cho and impeccably drawn but super out of place boobs/butts, Ed Brubaker and women being arm candy for troubled dudes, Peter Milligan and identity issues/questions, and Bruce Jones using “______ THIS!” as a response entirely too often. It’s a tic, and once you notice it, you can’t not notice it, and it yanks you out of the story. It’s the FedEx arrow.
I don’t know how I noticed it, or how whoever told me noticed it (it was my man Luis, as a matter of fact), and his editors didn’t, but man. I opened Swamp Thing 1 and immediately rolled my eyes.
It sucks, because Snyder is a pretty good comics writer (American Vampire is definitely ill), but this is just so… lazy. Like “How to setup history and foreshadow a resolution to a cliffhanger for dummies” lazy. If this was some wack writer who kept trotting this out, I wouldn’t care, because I wouldn’t be buying his comics.
edit: from Amy K, here’s an example from Severed, Snyder’s creator-owned book, where a kid doesn’t have a father to tell him stuff like “Don’t take wooden nickels” and horrible things presumably happen to him as a result of taking a gang of wooden nickels off some demon-possessed hobo or something: