Thursday, October 05, 2006

What's Wrong With Heroes?

I hope to get to reviews of some comics later tonight, but pet issues have cropped up. Kiki the dog went to the vet tonight and I have to take Grayson the cat to the vet tomorrow. This is just a little preamble before I get to a thought that I have ruminating in my head.

It seems that we have gone from the Silver Age where the heroes were almost perfect, to a time when heroes had their own personal issues, to anti-heroes and now I'm seeing the rise in popularity of non-heroes and even evil people.

Looking at just this week's books and we can see Boys #3, Ant-Man #1 and Criminal #1. Add to that mix the Punisher series and Wolverine and we can see a rise in popularity of people who are actually bad people. As an adult reader I find a lot of this material interesting and often entertaining, but it is a trend which I'm not happy to see. Add to that the new Showtime TV series where the star is a serial killer and two other TV shows where the criminal is the star (Smith and one other I can't remember) and it seems as though the bad guy is now the good guy. Prison Break even has a little of that element. except the good guys who are running from the law where framed by the government or something.

Wolverine under Millar was especially brutal, where Wolverine was just turned into an insane killing machine and I hear (as I did not finish reading the series) that he killed tons of people, both good and bad. Not much of an anti-hero now. Ant-Man appears to be a lousy Shield agent who is using the costume and powers for private gain. The Boys are a group of hired freaks whose job is apparently to take down the super heroes. During the course of this series we will apparently see that the "good guys" are apparently perverted twists who deserve to be taken out. Garth Ennis (who is a good writer) apparently hates super heroes and is using this book to portrayal them as twisted and sick individuals, so when his group of twisted sick individuals kill them or whatever for the government we won't mind. Criminal is a little bit different because it is a creator owed book that is highlighting the bad guy and showing us his side of the story. While I like Brubaker I think 100 Bullets is covering this territory in better fashion.

I guess I wouldn't mind all of this if it wasn't for this feeling that we are making the bad guys the heroes in way too many forms of popular culture (and I haven't even touched on video games). Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't always follow the rules, but I don't take actions that will hurt other people or demean them in any fashion (I'm sure I have missed on that on occasion, but you get the point).

I'm not one to try and tell everyone what the right thing to do is, but I think if our popular culture is glamorizing the bad people it has to make an impression on people and maybe immune them to violence or something.

Bottom Line I get concerned when the ideals of Superman (truth, justice and the America way) or Spider-Man (with great powers comes great responsibilities) are almost mocked and we cheer and laugh when the Punisher kills someone. Two great Marvel icons Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic are now being made over into bad guys. In Boys number 3 a JLA/Avengers type group male members were shown to be forcing a young female hero to perform an act for them to be allowed into the group. Obviously the Boys will take them down one day, but I feel like maybe it is over the line.

This type of material is okay, if at the same time we weren't always trying to tear down our heroes. I really hated the way some people have tried to paint the founding fathers as evil white men or something else ridiculous.

We need heroes and ideals. We may not always be able to hold up to the ideal all the time, but if we strive to reach the ideal we are doing good. It's okay to not be as good as your ideal, but I don't need to always see their feet of clay. Now in real life, I have no problem letting me know what is behind some of these bozos that are our elected officials, but in fiction I want the heroes to still be heroes.

Perhaps naive or a little pollyanna, but there it is.


  1. Did you ever read STARMAN by James Robinson?

    Easily the greatest modern hero superhero written in the last decade and a half.

    Most of it is collected in trade.

    I highly recommend it.

    JACK KNIGHT could totally be me...

  2. Starman is a great read. Robinson gets how to keep people heroic and still modernize. Robinson is one of the best writers out there. Jack Knight you - nah!

  3. It's not naive to want such things, in fact I concur. In fact just yesterday André and I were in the video game store because André wanted to pick up yet another $2 sports game to kill time on our PS2. As I looked around I found myself with the same problem I always face in the game store these days - blood, gore, zombies, naked women and really big guns. Now there's nothing wrong with games like this to an extent - but why does it seem like a majority of games have some anti-hero/bad guy shooting aliens or undead? I mean, cmon, what happened to ACTUAL Zelda games (all the Windwalker stuff was lame and seemed made for 5 year olds only)? At least Twilight Princess will be out soon, but that's one in thousands! It seems hard to find a game where you get to be the hero for real - as in you're an actual good guy. Eventually I found Kindom of Hearts, which while it seems focused towards a younger age group has an all ages feel to it with an actual hero.

    I'm sad that so many aspects of our culture seem to cheer on the Punisher or Ninja assasin type while neglecting the other side of the story. Not that I don't enjoy a good anti-hero or ninja, but damn, why is it overkill?

  4. The other thing that worked in STARMAN was the generational hero thing. Robinson GOT IT.

    No one else has gotten as close, save for maybe Mark Waid during his best years on THE FLASH.

    And I totally look like JACK KNIGHT now that I am rocking the goatee again.

    You've lost your mind. ;)

  5. This topic brings up my biggest complaint about comic books nowadays--the fans. The fans are to blame for all the woes including the death of every comic that contains any humor(SheHulk, NextWave, Plastic Man, etc.) and the cheering on of brutal characters. It's the fans who want violence and brutality and dark humor. It's the fans who cheer on books like The Boys. Just today, I heard some guys talking at the shop and they said what they really wanted was a book with a cool fight scene where someone's skull got ripped out. That's what they feel makes good comics. Sure, there are still a few old school fans out there, like many of the posters here, but most fans are guys in their 20's looking for humor like they see in Family Guy or South Park or Jackass the Movie part 2. Sad state of the comic marketplace but I am sure glad there are no kids reading comics anymore so they cannot be influenced by these poor role models that pass for superheroes.

  6. To be fair I like THE BOYS. But I know what it is going into it.

    The characters that are dark should be dark. The characters that aren't shouldn't be that way.

    We don't need a new PLASTIC MAN comic called PLASTIC MAN: BAD IN RUBBER with the tagline "He's back, he's bouncy, and he's PISSED!"

    INVINCIBLE is a good one.

    I don't mind the dark books. But not everything has to be dark and brooding and serious. The problem with something like CIVIL WAR is that it has tainted every other book that tied into it, save for maybe SHE-HULK.

  7. That's the problem. The fans of today have eliminated nearly everything except for dark, violent, anti-hero superheroes. They turn their backs on quality books like Sleeper and Human Target which have the messed up, non-heroic lead characters and the violence that they say they want cuz the characters aren't wearing spandex. They only want to read superhero comics. They won't give books like Rocketo, MouseGuard or Goon a second look. It's like going into Baskin Robbins and there's only one flavor--violent, dark, moody superheroes who are always either pissed off or depressed. Greg Rucka said that every society gets the heroes it deserves. Are we really only worthy of these superhero rejects?

  8. Shawn - The boys is shock jock comics. Really so far has the book really had anything to say. Sure it has it fun by making the super-heroes dark and twisted, but Superman forcing Mary Marvel to go down on him. I don't know. Let's see if Ennis can make a point like he did in Preacher as oppossed to just seeing how far he can push the envelope. Darrick Robertson is doing great artwork for the book.

    Jeff - I hope Rucka is wrong, because it does not bode well. I agree with your points and furthermore it seems like violent and sex is what some fans take as mature as oppossed to more adult themes like Human Target.

  9. I do admit there needs to be more fun comics. And at the same time, they don't sell very well do they?

    In the superhero genre alone, NEXTWAVE sells in the 45,000 range. (Ellis' Ultimate books, which are nowhere near as good, sell better)

    And Slott's books don't sell alot. Though they are fun books.

    Ah well.

  10. Actually, according to the best estimates found, NextWave only sells around 25,000. You probably got the 45,000 from Ellis who always exaggerates his sales. Diamond is the major provider in the US and they say 25K. Maybe it's 45 thou worldwide. Right now, anything that sells under 25K gets the ax from Marvel. NextWave is already cancelled(though they call it an end of season one) and SheHulk is next on the chopping block. Sad times for humor titles.

  11. Your wrong.

    Nextwave, from the outset, was only ever 12-issues. Ellis said that when it started. The only thing making it more is if people demand it. He never expected more than 12.

    I believe 45,000 was the first issue. It hovers around 24,000 or more.

    SHE HULK is up to 27,000.

    There are titles that do less than that.


  12. You know maybe all of this talks about us as an audience. They obviously make these books because that's mostly what people like to read about. Not everyone, but the vast majority.

    It happens in movies and books too.

    The audience turns up for it and so they make more.

  13. My nephew talked with Ellis at a comic convention over the summer. Ellis told him that the 12 issue thing was Marvel's idea, not his. They prefer this "end of season one" thing to actually calling a book cancelled. It's their way of doing DC's "series of miniseries so we don't have to commit" thing. Ellis said that he had hoped for higher sales so that he could take the series further than 12. Don't kid yourself, this book was axed. SheHulk is next to go. I have it on good authority that if sales don't pick up quick, the book is a goner.