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Thread: SEB-standard: Week 14 - The SUPER HERO Dilemma

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    SEB-standard: Week 14 - The SUPER HERO Dilemma

    The internet is filled with angry comic fans. They’re everywhere and they are seldom happy. With anything. At all. Hit any of the forums, you’ll find page-after-page of post-after-post of comic fans telling what’s wrong with their “favorite” comics. Heck, we all know I’ve done it. [Spidey’s current ‘status quo’, anyone?]
    So what is all the bitching about? Well, in simplest terms, everybody wants ‘their’ comics written their way. Like Marvel or DC are BURGER KING, and you can just pull up to a drive thru window and order.
    “I’d like the Bruce Wayne Batman; the Peter/M.J. combo; and a Hulk.”
    “Red or Original Green?”
    “Original, please.”
    “Anything else with that?”
    “Yeah, let me get a side of Avengers, hold the Wolverine.”

    But, it doesn’t work that way. That’s the great thing, and often the highly frustrating thing, about comics. Different writers and artists offer different takes on all your favorites. Your least favorite character is someone else’s cherished favorite, and so on.

    So, what, really is the problem. Well, there is change and then there is CHANGE. Character growth, forward progression, and, yes, sometimes backward progression, are part of a healthy and warranted evolution for a character. The problem is, too many creators and/or editors change characters for the wrong reasons. When you stop adding to a character to further the character and start trying to leave YOUR mark on that character, you’ve changed it for ill. You’ve broken the natural line and served yourself.

    I’m not saying there shouldn’t be change. That’s ridiculous, of course characters should change. But, these characters do not belong to any one creator. They belong to all the creators, and, even more so, they belong to the fans. If you’re going to write Spider-man, then write Spider-Man. If you’re going to write Captain Marvel, then write Captain Marvel. These characters should act within certain parameters. They have established personas. Should every writer be a slave to continuity? Hells no, but they should use 40 -70 years of character history as a blue-print for the character. IMHO.

    Another thing you read fanboys complaining about is “EVENT FATIGUE”. Some have it, some don’t. Grant Morrison himself just disavowed it in an interview on NEWSARAMA. Naturally, this got the fans grumbling even louder. I have event fatigue. I understand what it means. It’s a rough pace to read. An EVENT is a giant happening, often crossing over to many titles. This can costly. If you have a main event mini, running 6 to 12 issues at $3.99 a pop, you’re already dropping $24-$48, right there. Then add the cross over issues of regular titles. On top of that, the new trend is to have ancillary mini-series that run parallel (and often include key plot points) to buy as well. Plus, the main purpose of the event is to make some change or undo some previous change, or both. This has characters moving in a single primary direction, and not doing their own thing. The characters need time to be themselves and develop. They can’t be full throttle all the time.

    In EVENT mode, you lose that more intimate feeling. The hero isn’t able to ‘let his/her hair down and kick back. You lose those done-in-one stories that often have the more memorable moments. You even lose those two or three issue storylines that add that certain something to a character’s mythos. Plus, in a way, it can almost trivialize the character, making him/her a simple cog in a wheel, rather than the star and focus of the drama.

    So, how do we find that lost fashion of comic? Where do we go when we want a well written, self-contained, character developing, super hero story?
    Independents.

    “Wait,” the readers of SEB-Standard cry, (All three of them) “we know independents do great Sci/Fi, fantasy, horror, slice of life, and totally bizarre comics, but super heroes? Really?”
    “Yes. Really.”

    Independent comics and their companies have come a long way in the Super Hero arena. They’ve done this by necessity as much as by design. Nature abhors a vacuum. So do most dogs, but that is neither here nor there. Creators, established and fledgling, are also fans. Hence, they too can suffer EVENT FATIGUE, and they can too can be frustrated by out-of-character character changes. Some, bitch on the internet (more often in blogs then in posts). Others, take to the smaller press to try a different approach.

    Independent Super Hero titles have certain freedoms that the big companies don’t. New characters don’t come with expectations, demands, and continuity from an extremely vocal and highly judgmental fanbase. They are often creator owned, and therefore, also dodge the bullet of editorial control. And, again as they are creator owned, they tend to be written and drawn with more passion and feeling. The creators and the readers are able to connect with these characters on levels you just can’t reach with the others. To the creators, the characters are their babies, or an extension of themselves. To the readers, these characters were created for them and them alone. They are in on the ground floor of a character’s birth. A character who was created to fill a niche that they had been searching all of comicdom for.

    Ask someone who has been reading INVINCIBLE from issue #1. They’ll tell you, it’s Robert Kirkman’s creation, but it’s THEIR comic. They feel a sense of pride and ownership for that book.

    Readers can be in on the ground floor and watch a universe, or just a supporting cast, come to life. And there are a variety of types to choose from.

    Giffen and Dematteis continue to lovingly satirize the genre with the final installment of their HERO2 minis from BOOM! STUDIOS. BOOM!, along with EIC and super hero veteran, Mark Waid, are also introducing IRREDEEMABLE, a look at a world’s greatest hero becoming the world’s greatest villain; CAPED, a glimpse at the Super Hero world through the eyes of one’s assistant; and most recently, THE INCREDIBLES featuring the Disney/Pixar movie characters that are a better version of the Fantastic Four than the Fantastic Four. [yeah. I went there.]

    AVATAR and DYNAMITE have Brits Ellis and Ennis (respectively) doing their super hero deconstruction titles like BLACK SUMMER, NO HEROES, ANNA MERCURY, and THE BOYS.

    DYNAMITE also have Alex Ross’ revival of just about every Golden Age Super Hero to fall into public domain in PROJECT: SUPERPOWERS and it’s many spin-offs.

    Go smaller press. NIFTY comics has some great traditional hero fare in their title THE CADRE.
    British publisher ORANG UTAN COMICS has a great book in their YOUNG GODS, another traditional super hero team, the kind you can’t find at the big two anymore.
    Even our own beloved dispenser of how-to-do-what-you’ll-never-be-able-to-do-cecause-the-comic-world-is-changing-and-you-don’t-want-it-enough,-you-say-you-do,but-we-both-know-you-don’t!! brand of wisdom, Steven Forbes has co-written a great new Super hero mini-series FALLEN JUSTICE for RED HANDED. In fact, Forby’s co-writer, Cary Kelly, is also doing some writing for the upcoming installments of THE CADRE, so it all comes together. (Yes, boys, I WILL get around to reviewing the remain issues of FALLEN JUSTICE, I swear.)

    DABEL BORTHERS PUBLISHING has done a wonderful 9if slow) job of working with GEORGE R. R. MARTIN to bring WILDCARDS to comics. (If you’re not familiar with the WILDCARDS novels, get over to amazon.com and pick ‘em up. Now, man! Go!!) They’ve also put out a rather neat little book in C.E. MURPHY’S TAKE A CHANCE. The tale of a female hero, without powers, operating in a powerless world. That is, until almost EVERYONE in the world (except her) gets powers. A world full of supers with only one hero. Great concept, cool book.

    And, while they aren’t Super Hero books, in the strictest sense of the words, TERRY MOORE’S ECHO, DEVIL’s DUE PUBLISHING’S books HACK/SLASH and MERCY SPARX, along with BOOM! STUDIOS’ mystic thief with a heart of gold, Lucifer in HEXED (Michael A. Nelson’s FALL OF CTHULHU spinoff that is and isn’t part of that universe)are all close enough to appeal to the Super Hero fans. And they are among some of the best comics out there.

    So, don’t waste your time bitching in forums. Grin, bear it, and go find some independent Super hero books. You’ll thank me in the morning.


    That’s what SHE said!
    Last edited by SebastianPiccione; Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 01:56 AM.
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



  2. StevenForbes Guest

    Nice column, Seb.

    And I'm only a "doomsayer" because there are too many pie-in-the-sky would-be creators out there, and there are few people willing to tell them the truth.

    I think Indy's are going to get a big boost here, once they switch over to Haven distribution. Eventually, Haven is going to raise their standards and go the way of Diamond, but that day is a few years in coming. They get an exclusive contract or two with a company like Devil's Due or Dynamite, and you'll start to see the playing field change.

    I also suspect there will be more superhero webcomics in the near future. I hope to bring a couple of projects to that table before the end of the year. Like I said in B&N, the floodgates of crap will be opened.

    The conventional wisdom says that Marvel/DC rule the superhero roost, but I think that's going to change. As long as they continue to price themselves out of buyability, comic readers are going to look for replacements. A webcomic that does supers and then collects them for sale will be the place to go. I'm thinking three years. In five, look for Marvel/DC to start offering more and more comics on the web, and then collecting them to sell (again). However, I think they'll have loosened the kung-fu grip they have on the superhero market by that time, and more superhero universes will rise.

    The economic downturn will help the superhero genre in particular and creators in general in the long-term. We just have to ride it out.

    Again, good column.



  3. Join Date
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    Thanks, man.

    And, I know (and agree) why you "doomsay" when you do.
    I just like thowing my Forby-admiration/demonization lines in each column.

    It's my version of the little spider Todd McFarlane used to hide in his Spidey covers!


    And, yeah, as for as the Diamond change-over goes; at first i thought it was the end of all us little guys and our dreams. The more i think about it though, I'm starting to see this as the cleansing brush fire, from which better and stranger life will grow.

    Oh, shit! What if I think that 'cause I've become one of those pie-in-the-sky would be creator types!!??

    Nah, I'm too cynical and self-doubting for that!
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



  4. StevenForbes Guest

    Cleansing brushfire is a good metaphor, and more than likely apt.

    However, don't forget about the floodgates of crap. Picture one of the "writters" on DW getting together with an "artist" (or 5th grader, whichever has more talent) to do a webcomic. Now, picture that as almost the norm. Yeah. It's like Mary Shelly and Picasso getting together to do a comic. It sounds interesting until you really stop to think about it.



  5. DavidPaul Guest

    Dude, that was a very good article for your column. I would like to address the issue of change in characters. For many characters there really is no reason for change, other than a writer wanting to leave his mark. However, I believe the good mark of a writer is to honor what has come before. I know many new writers are trying to do that, and believe they are, but the effort is falling short. It's become a little too ambitious. There are some successes. If we look at the history of the character of Superman we can see he has come a long way from his roots. Originally he couldn't fly. Can you imagine that? But the failures outweigh the successes. Remember all the Spider Clones...? *shivers* Let me point you to what's good in honoring a character with little to no change. Captain Jean Luc Picard. At the end of the series, even with all he had been through personally, he was still very much the same man from episode one. Some might say he was somewhat softer but I disagree. Just because we are able to see a softer side to a character does not make for change in personality. Just because he has learned to bend the rules does not make him a different person. Case in point: Greg Pak's Hulk is not Peter David's Hulk. Skarr, Son of Hulk... Really? And don't get me started on the Red Hulk! Too ambitious. How many times does poor Rick Jones have to be killed off? Too ambitious. ... Where was I? Oh, yeah! Change in good characters and a good formula is unnecessary. Don't fix what ain't broken.



  6. spyhawk824 Guest

    I completely agree plus what's going on with the big two right now isn't impressing me so I'm sticking with my Invincible, ExMachina, and Top cow Stuff and on Sebastians recomend wanna check out giffen and dematais at Boom always loved their JLA stuff...



  7. spyhawk824 Guest

    I completely agree plus what's going on with the big two right now isn't impressing me so I'm sticking with my Invincible, ExMachina, and Top cow Stuff and on Sebastians recomend wanna check out giffen and dematais at Boom always loved their JLA stuff...



  8. Join Date
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    David - You make some good points, especially the Picard analogy.

    Neil - Thanks, man! And the hero2 books are great!

    Neil - Thanks, man! And the hero2 books are great!

    :cool:
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



  9. spyhawk824 Guest

    you gotta quick summary?... and sorry I was studdering earlier... LMAO



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