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Why Superheroes? (Part 2)


For the first part of this series, click here.

One of the most common complaints I hear from non-comic book people is that superheroes are boring. Two dimensional. Deep down, I know this isn’t true. There’re just too many good titles out there. But, to a straight who never digs that deep into the genre, I can see where they get this perspective. A lot of this genre feels like nothing more than a wrapper for incredible, over-the-top fight scenes, with the lines between the good guys and the bad guys drawn so clearly there’s no room for ambiguity. The hero’s mission is usually pretty clear, stop the villain.

Somehow, the fact that this happens in Manhattan makes the scene hit so much harder

Now, I dig a good fight scene as much as the next guy, especially if the next guy is someone who really likes fight scenes. In movies and comics, they can fill up most of the content and the audience doesn’t mind. They don’t translate well to text, however. Imagine reading a novelization of a Bruce Lee movie where the page count is mostly taken up with two or three thousand descriptions of flying back kicks. It starts to feel like violence porn.

Yeah, he’s a superhero, too

I want to point out that this isn’t a problem unique to colorful, spandex-wearing superheroes. It’s something you have to consider when you tell an action-oriented story. You do things differently according to the art form. Furthermore, two-dimensionality is a problem in all genres. James Bond is very different when you read Ian Fleming and compare him to his portrayal by Albert Broccoli. Fleming’s bond is a jaded civil servant while Broccoli’s is a cheerful warrior.

This takes me to my next thought. When we say “Superhero” we’re usually talking about someone with powers beyond that of a normal human. They can fly, bounce bullets off their preposterously over-developed chests, punch through a cinderblock wall and perform any number of amazing feats. When I break it down, however, the archetype fits for almost any protagonist or antagonist in action stories. Could you pull off the sorts of things Bond, Jack Reacher or Harry Potter can do? Of course not. They’re superheroes. They just don’t wear wacky costumes.

So, to answer the titular question, why did I choose to write stories in the superhero genre? I like action-adventure stories, and I like mysteries. I like a challenge. I like creating villains with grand, audacious schemes, and I like clever heroes who have to thwart them in unique ways.

But mostly, I just think people who can fly around and save the day are pretty cool. I guess Reuben and I have that in common.

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