Not everything dies.
The resurgence of the comic industry, defying the dark prophecies of strident supporters cloaked in false pretenses serves as proof. Through a combined gambit of incessant complaining and apocalyptic dismaying, a throng of dissenters stumbled over themselves to declare our resting place dead and buried. All for the privilege of declaring that their proclamations were correct. That gluttony and irresponsibility had finally destroyed us. The human being strives for the confirmation of its opinions, willing to weather the complete destruction of its surroundings for the opportunity to say, “I told you so.” The industry wheezed, and the bystanders felt a smile creep into the corners of their mouths, a precursor to the sentence they ached to emit, and then…
The ashes fell away in waves as the creature lumbered forward into the light of pop culture, reloaded for battle and ready for war. The beast chuckles to itself, strangely invigorated creatively and spiritually, at how easily they gave up on it. As if a gratuitous spin-off or a polybag could stop her. The encounter has left the beast inoculated against attacks of a similar nature, leaving the unfaithful with only one avenue…the creation of an even more dangerous method of delivery.
The misguided have suggested that the creature’s over-reliance on the participation of the costumed adventurer has turned cancerous. That the superhero is not the path among which the majority should travel, but that its influence is in fact blinding us to the reality that destruction is eminent. A Jedi mind trick of epic proportions that re-directs one’s attention when the truth cycles into view, leaving only a select few that have managed to shrug off the attack, able to relate the awful truth. These outspoken critics will save us from ourselves, not because of an altruistic impulse to lead the blind across the intersection…but to say, “I told you so.”
The beast sighs to itself. They can’t destroy the superhero. They shouldn’t destroy the superhero. Don’t they realize how this whole thing works??
Don’t worry girl…I’ll explain it to them.
What the hell is everybody’s problem with superheroes anyway?
The man in tights is looked upon by some as the bastard stepchild of the industry, deserving an existence of basement dwelling with minimal sustenance and stale air. Why? Because the power fantasies of radiation imbued miscreants and their secret identities is a realm best left to children and invalids? Because the concept of grown men and women bounding through cities in spandex is hopelessly inane and outdated? Perhaps it’s because their proliferation chokes everything else into nothingness, and conveys misconceptions regarding the industry and the people that dwell here? Is the superhero so embarrassing that we can’t tell “norms” what it is we enjoy spending our paychecks on?
Every facet of the entertainment industry, from comic books to television enjoys this train of rabid discussion amongst its followers when the natural progression falls into place. Any medium of expression cannot survive without one form swelling to dominate all others. Music has pop. Movies have summer blockbusters. Television has the white sit-com. And we have the superhero. A singular train of thought that is financially viable, appeals to the largest number of consumers, and consequently gives rise to a vocal minority that proclaims the sky is falling and everyone’s doing it all wrong.
However, as we all know…financially successful often does not equal creatively diverse. The nature of the beast has dictated this frequently alarming cycle, shoveling people their entertainment in only one flavor, the one they’ve grown attached to, thereby threatening the distant possibility of proper representation. To burn everything to the ground, leaving a clean slate to build upon serves nothing. The idea that such a cleansing should even occur is ridiculous and defeats the point.
Why in the hell are so many people willing to sacrifice the face in order to save the neck? Do you honestly believe that euthanizing the superhero will usher into being some unseen promised land that will make us better and instantly elevate our street credibility? The superhero is a tool. And tools are only as effective as the people using them. Throwing away one’s shiniest tool in order to sample another in the corner defies everything we know about human nature. People build impenetrable comfort zones for themselves, which can’t be penetrated by disastrous prophecy and the knowledge that things should look differently.
Imagine a world in which there is no pop music, summer blockbuster, or sit-com? Would the industries they foster exist in a better condition than before? Hell no. People like pop music, popcorn flicks, and Friends. The only thing people love doing more than saying, “I told you so,” is reflexively shitting on some facet of the sphere they feed time and interest into. It’s vogue to dismiss superheroes nowadays. It’s cool to hate what’s “popular,” relegating it to some disposable form of entertainment that brainless lemmings will follow from place to place.
Someone told me recently that people don’t like to think…and I’m afraid he’s right. They don’t like to think and they dislike being shocked by the unannounced arrival of the new. If there is in fact a Jedi mind trick in play blinding us to the reality that we’re killing ourselves, then why can’t we use the same tactic to subtly change the way the game works? It’s happening already if you haven’t noticed, subject matters are expanding, however slowly, and variety is creeping into the industry’s corners. It’s not just superheroes anymore, and that’s a good thing. Don’t get it twisted.
Perfection is elusive, as always, and change doesn’t occur overnight. People are also impatient and pessimistic by nature, believing if the change doesn’t come hard and doesn’t come now, then it won’t at all. Leading the masses to water and allowing them to slowly immerse themselves is going to prove more lasting than flinging them into the pond without warning. We have the technology to improve the face of things, but abandoning potential strengths is irresponsible and unreasonable.
Good stories are never disposable…especially if there are strong visuals to accompany it.
This is why people will not accept the sudden castration of the man in tights. The medium relies heavily on visuals, not to discount the input of the worthy scribe of course, but these aren’t novels. They aren’t Shakespherian plays. They aren’t movies. Comics are static images conveying a sense of motion that is in fact counterfeit. Accomplished storytelling masquerading as fluid movement. If the images are not dynamic in some way, the attention-span of the audience will progressively dissolve into nothingness.
This is where the skillful use of our most valuable tool comes into play. The thing that the industry does best is its conveyance of great beings in fantastic surroundings. Heroes gliding through a vast metropolis or the vastness of space. Ordinary men and women blessed with powers and abilities beyond those of normal men, yet plagued with the mundane concerns that we all share. Wide-screen theatrics where the stakes are nothing less than the fate of the world, and powerful figures are standing to save it. This is why you can’t kill the superhero, because in this medium nothing beats the charge that a reader receives out of watching a grown superman propelled into a building that’s seventy stories up.
To kill the superhero, you would only have to prevent him from being an interesting and exciting visual. And with the stable of artists working in the industry, forget that shit. Ain’t happening. Superheroes and the legacy of archetypal elements they inspire is what comes to mind when someone on the street hears the word “comic book.” Beings of incredible power balancing their responsibility with their humanity are something that it’s ridiculous to view as an embarrassment. Superheroes are what comics do best.
Turning the stage into something that frowns upon superheroes isn’t the solution. There should be less of them yes, but why discard a powerful weapon? It doesn’t matter how many other genres are represented on our shelves, the imagery that is represented in modern works of comic fiction featuring superheroes or superhero-like elements is unmatched. Subject matter should experience further explorations, but until you the industry can create a great number of romance, crime, or humor comics as visually fantastic as an exploding cityscape littered with the bodies of dead heroes, people will be entertaining this circular argument until the balloon pops.
You can’t beat the superhero…you can only hope to contain it.