A post from my old Marvel blog concerning the frequent fan impulse to label certain stories as “filler”.
I keep seeing the term “filler” applied to more and more individual comic books and stories in the chatter around the internet, and I have to say that I neither like it nor agree with the sentiments expressed by it. “It’s pretty much filler” seems to be applied indiscriminately to any issue or storyline that isn’t absolutely world-shattering in its impact.
This seems like a strange sentiment to be so prevalent at the same time that many of the same people are crying out “enough!” when it comes to event books–like there’s no way to win. But more importantly, I think that “filler” has become the new “decompressed storytelling”–the new buzzword term that gets thrown at any book the reader in question doesn’t like, regardless of how well it actually describes the book.
It’s symptomatic of the fact that comics can be an expensive hobby, so people want to feel like they’re getting the maximum bang for their buck. But take this feeling to an extreme, and you start to miss the forest for the trees.
There may be times when a particular story is genuinely “filler” (or “Oreo middle” as we think of it around here.) Hopefully that doesn’t happen often. But a story that’s just a story isn’t filler. It may not be the greatest comic book event ever, but its got the blood, sweat and tears of a lot of dedicated people behind it. And its purpose is simply to entertain you for awhile–there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
What ever happened to the days when a story could simply be a story?
4 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – Filler”
For me “filler” isn’t so much being a one-shot as a sense nobody aspired to do anything more than fill the pages. Which is a subjective judgment, but I often get the feeling (most of editor Jack Schiff’s SF output in the Silver Age, for instance)
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IIRC “filler” became a buzzword of sorts during the time that Marvel was overwhelmed by having Only One Editor and dozens of titles at the same time. After Marvel restructured (and whether I think he handled the talent well or not, I credit Jim Shooter with that.) those obvious fillers (which included some superb restructuring of reprints) mostly went away. But the word “filler” stuck around and, like many words in American English, seems to be taken as something it’s not.
Don’t get me started on etymology.
“Filler” should be applied to any comics story that isn’t fulfilling, that doesn’t “fill” the reader so to speak. The “Demon” issue of Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Byrne, or BYRNE/…claremont… If one listens to John), the revamp of Deadshot issue from Englehart/Rogers Batman run, the Turk-as-Stilt-Man issue in Miller’s Daredevil, even Bob Harras’s (the best thing Harras did at Marvel) Under Siege coda featuring Jarvis, surely no one sane could call THOSE filler? What about “We Were Only Foolin'” (so.?) from Claremont’s New Mutants, Steve Gerber’s Dreaded Deadline Doom issue of Howard the Duck, the Guy Gardner takes Ice to a Porno cinema and encounters Black Hand (before Geoff Johns turned him into a thanatophiliac necrophiliac psychopath) Justice League of America issue, or Alan Moore’s Pog homage? On the other hand plenty of entire runs now seem like filler, ones in which the intention of the run is spelt out from the beginning then run into the ground over years but as long as the hype shouts “THIS MATTERS!” legions of goofballs will eat it up. (On the other other hand – if you are a mutant – there are perfectly good modern runs with some great issues which are treated as if they are Mein Kampf Zwei by different kinds of goofballs!)
Good point. The Deadshot issue was literally filler, to pad out the run so the Joker wouldn’t show in Detective when he was also appearing in Batman. But it didn’t feel like that at the time.