Monday, March 17, 2008

New Ideas & Changes in Superhero Comics?

Sometimes I'm online and see so-called comic book fans talking about "new and innovative ideas" when speaking about superheroes. (Now, I say "so-called" because I really don't think buying 90% superhero comics should make you a comic book fan, but more on that some other time.) I find this strange since, by now, I would imagine anyone reading superhero comics for a prolonged period of time to notice there is and probably won't be any real new and innovative ideas.

Think about it for a second, all superhero comics use the original DC stories as a template. DC crafted the first real superheroes and started the basic formulas. Since then it's all be different takes on said formulas. Introducing a new character, slapping on a different personality and powers may make him different but he(or she) still owes their existence to Superman. Just as every basic storyline now has been done to death. Sidekicks replacing their mentors? Time travel? Space stories? None of what you read in mainstream superhero comics has been innovative or new. Not saying there aren't great stories, but this are great versions of formula stories.

Of course, I'm sure someones pointing out Marvels work in 60s and yeah, that was innovative-more contemporary and real world situations. Then of course the 80s with certain creators doing more literary, psychological, or more mature superhero comics int he mainstream. But what that is decades in between and I'd argue that after Watchmen and DKR there's not really much that can move forward with mainstream superhero comics. The writers of this generation were greatly influenced by those writers and you can see it in lots of comics now.

As for applying changes to iconic characters, please... thats not happening. Any time a book or character finds its niche the companies are not going to stray too far away from that. Take Grant Morrison's New X-Men, he took the formula and applied certain changes. Mostly minor(costume, relationships, community, counter-culture, etc.) but introduced so many of these ideas that there were avenues Marvel could have followed up on. Instead they put them back in costumes, retcon several ideas, and went back to the tried and true X-Men even though Morrison never actually strayed away from the concept-it just seemed like he did to readers who weren't paying enough attention.

But back to the point. Changes to Superman? Spider-Man? You can effect the supporting cast and things like that but you can never mess so much with these types of characters because they're bread winners for their companies. Introducing new superheroes is a joke because it seems most comic fans are more interested in familiarity that they won't give it a chance. Unless you slap Jim Lee or Brian Bendis on a book but hey-you can't do that for all new characters can you?

Superheroes are cyclical. The cycle through phases but in the end changes are minor and nothing to move the property away from what made it popular. As for the attempts for trying to make the books more thought out and accepting in mainstream culture, I'd say that's not going to happen. Superheroes appeal to a young reader. The idea of costumed characters with powers fighting villains is just appealing to youngsters. Plus the lack of accessibility of comics, the way media translates properties into TV/movies, and this stigma that's still with them-superhero comics are not going to change. There's not going to be innovative ideas and the changes you see now will probably be gone ten years from now. Which will make newer fans who complain about older readers and their stories become the ones on the opposite of the argument in the future.

Pfff... what was I talking about again?

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Humans have been telling stories for a long time so everything's been done to a degree. But mixing and combining old ideas, in my opinion, does make new ones. It will keep comics fresh and interesting. As for characters like Batman and estabalished characters there will always be new readers who want to read new Batman stories even if they are not that new or original.