Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.
The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to the list…
This week’s question comes from Robert Smith and is as follows:-
“Are Superhero Universes (espeically DC & Marvel) over populated with heroes with similar powers? What makes super(man)’guy’ special if there is another guy (or gal) with similar powers?”
So Here We Go!!
Kev F Sutherland:
All comics are over-populated with superheroes with similar powers! I am constantly under whelmed by the lack of imagination in, especially, US publishing.
Is the best we can do to rehash and revamp characters and concepts that are older than our grandparents?
In 1961, for Stan Lee et al to revive the superhero genre and invent a whole raft of exciting new characters was great.
For the biggest news of the current century to be those same old characters, and the even older ones from DC, to be given new mini series or, delight of delights, a starchy coffee table book painted by Alex ‘Mr Interesting’ Ross, is stultifying.
There have been times when the greatest, most original ideas were coming out of comic books. Right now they’re coming from Cartoon Network and the comic field is a parody of itself, aimed at an increasingly old increasingly decreasing audience. I’m sure our time will come again, but not if Infinite Crisis, Secret Wars and Albion are the best we can come up with.
Superheroes are so last century, the lot of them.
Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.
Personality has been more and more influential when developing characters and even the powers the superhero possesses. There are many types of characters that run fast, but to me, one of the most identifiable is Dash from the Incredibles as his personality simply busted out and he was someone you could relate with. While there have been many big beefy superheroes, the thoughts and understandings conjured when one says Hulk vs. Thor vs. Strong Guy, are quite unique. At the base of it, their powers are very similar, but with regards to who the character is, they are completely unique.
Sean Patrick O’Reilly is Editor-in-Chief of Arcana Studios, and the writer of their book, Kade.
To be honest, I have never been big on Superheroes. The reason is what you’ve just mentioned; they are all so similar with different names. It would be nice to come up with stories that looked at Superheroes from a totally different perspective. A good example would be Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker’s INVINCIBLE comic book.
Daley Osiyemi creator of Brodie’s Law and co-founder of Pulp Theatre Entertainment where he works as producer and creator on various new media and comic projects. Writer and producer of online animated comic series None But Us, developed a character to help promote broadband and is currently working on a graphic novel and a film idea.
This argument has been with us for decades, and I don’t feel that it’s entirely justified. The problem isn’t “we have too many characters with the same powers to make them interesting”, the problem is we have too many lazy people who don’t care enough to make the characters interesting in and of themselves. Now, I realize that when I point a finger three are pointing back at me. I’ve done my share of lazy work. But the idea is that we should ALL be striving to improve our work.
Did Supergirl make Superman redundant? Or did she make Superman more interesting and layered, suddenly having a young cousin to help raise? I’d argue the latter. The problem was when writers got bored with her, or worse yet began taking her from one version to the next in an attempt to put their own mark on her. She got stale really fast then.
Make the character interesting, then the story will be interesting. Think about it, are we real humans any different? There’s probably millions of left-handed, Calvinist, cartoonists in the world, but I am still unique to my friends and family (and I might add, of intrinsic worth according to God in spite of my failings).
James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the “missing” Paul Gulacy T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.
To answer the question I say this: Pretty much all the good powers have already been taken (like almost all the good names have been taken). If you can come up with a new power then great- go forth! But stories are not about powers, they’re about CHARACTERS. Everything has been done before… to paraphrase a Nas lyric: ‘No idea’s original and there’s nothing new under the sun… it’s not what you do but how it’s done.’ Getting in touch with the characters and their voice is the best part of telling a story. Then the way you tell the story is your contribution- no one has lived your life and see things the way you do. So with that combination if you put creativity, heart, and soul into the creation you’ll come up with something greater than the sum of the parts.
Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics, creator of Vampires Unlimited, the Metamutoids, ChiSai, and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies while the publisher of Myriad from Approbation and writer/creator of Blood, Shells, & Roses coming soon from Arcana Studios!
I don’t think powers have anything to do with it. Captain Marvel and Superman have more or less identical powers but they’re completely different characters (or at least they are when they’re written halfway competently). I think the problem is more to do not so much with interchangeable powers, but interchangeable personalities. I’d like to read about some heroes who like a laugh occasionally.
Roger Langridge is the creator of Fred the Clown, the collected edition of which can be obtained from Fantagraphics Books. His latest project, Fin Fang Four, will be out from Marvel in October.
What makes the superperson special even if and usually when there are other people with similar powers is their character. Who the person is affects what they do with the powers, the same way it does for normal people. Take the Atom for example. As a physicist, the Atom tends to use his powers in ways that express that background, manipulating his mass to float up ventilation shafts, or transmitting himself to various places via telephone lines. Now Antman usually shrinks down to the size of an ant, and that’s all. Antman would never think of sending himself anywhere using phone lines.
Powers can be the same, but it’s character, personality, that makes the difference.
Vince Moore is the editor for DarkStorm Studios, a comics company started by Kevin Grevioux of Underworld fame.
Craig Johnson Writes:
In relation to Marvel and DC, yes, absolutely, but there are only as many heroes as the fan base will support – Marvel’s explosion of mutants is frankly irritating as all heck (although this is rumoured to be dealt with by the end of House of M) and DC have just as many it seems: both companies seem to believe that if you throw enough shit at the wall, some of it is bound to stick. However, some superhero universes are nigh-on perfect – for example, that in the fine Invincible series from Image; or Noble Causes (also from Image). Essentially where you have a restricted independent creator-controlled series and universe, it seems to me that not only is the universe tighter, but the stories better, more interesting, and more emotionally involving.
Craig Johnson is my Editor and 2nd in Command here at SBC – and he hates Superman for reasons I don’t understand or care about.
Aren’t superpowers just cheating on the plot?
Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!
Dez Skinn Writes:
No commercial company would consider the purism of retaining originality. Of course DC is overpopulated.
Like soap, cigarettes and booze, it prefers to attempt market domination by becoming its own competition rather than leaving room for others to dominate. Of course, they try the same gambit, so we have an overcrowded little industry.
Superman is as good as his creative team. We’ve seen fallow periods more often than rich ones. But, like Batman, Spider-Man and other contemporaneous US icons, the initial concept was strong enough to it to survive pedantry until the next creative high.
Dez Skinn is the editor of Comics International and organiser of the Brighton Comic Expo CHECK IT OUT http://www.comicexpo.biz
This is a two part question, so I will answer it in two parts. Part one…yes, all universes in general are overpopulated by characters with similar powers, but to say that gives validation to the Superman/Shazam! lawsuit, which never made sense to me…which leads me to my next answer.
Part two, what makes Superman special? Well, Clark Kent. What makes Shazam!/Captain Marvel special? Billy Batson. I suppose the easiest way to answer this is to say that in each book, there are able creators doing their best to make sure we don’t get them confused…and giving us drama at the same time. I am often shocked at how much I can remember of old storylines from Uncanny X-Men. But therein lies the answer…I can distinguish between Wolverine and a knock off because I take the effort to.
Vito Delsante’s creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Jim Muniz, is now in development with Image Comics and will hit stands late this year. “Batman Adventures Vol 2: Shadows and Masks” (DC Comics) is out now! His work can also be seen in Reflux Comics #3 and in X-Men Unlimited #5.
Are there too many superheroes?
Mmm… I dunno. I don’t think there is “too many” Superheroes, BUT I do think some of the universes they live are over populated – definitely. I love the idea that Superman is special – before he appeared there have never been a “super” hero in the world.
“A Man That Can Fly” – wow, amazing!
Not just another guy who can fly. I think I could easily cut down the DC Universe to about 10 main heroes, a couple of sidekicks and that about it.
Marvel I hear are cutting down their world at the end of ‘House of M’ by reducing the number of mutants – this can only be a good thing as it seems that mutants almost equal the number of Humans in the Marvel World at the moment (almost – it seems that way).
Oh well, I must dash – I have to get back to writing my superhero comic… heh.
See you next week when we ask:
What is the most exciting thing happening in comics at the moment? New Talent? New Ideas? What has got you excited?
From SBC Reader Harry Donaldson.
Remember if you have a question email me at the link on the top of the pages and mark your email “Question For The Panel”.
“The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great isn’t it – James”
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