Headscratchers: Comics In General
- There are a lot of complaints of Character Derailment in comics. Why don't comics publishers have a "character bible," listing character traits and personalities to avoid these issues and the subsequent complaints from fans?
- Because even then understanding the traits doesn't mean you understand what the character is about. The reason they don't bother making the Character Bibles is that long running comics like Detective Comics or Action Comics have to be fluid to change with the metalic age they have deemed it is.
- Plus, a lot of these characters have been around for upwards of seventy years and have been subject to the whims of countless writers; there's so much inconsistency about that sorting it all out would be a nightmare, and the end product would probably end up being as long as the actual Bible. Besides which, there can be a tendency for some fans to use 'Character Derailment' as interchangeable with 'the character did something I didn't like'.
- Then why don't comic book editors have a new writer read back issues featuring the characters to get a feel for these characters? For example, Black Canary has been written since the 1990s as one of the top martial artists in the DCU (per Birds of Prey). There's no excuse for her Chickification in the Green Arrow and Black Canary series.
- I can't speak for Black Canary specifically, being neither familiar with the character nor the series she's appearing in, but speaking generally to be fair, even going back to just the 1990s is still a hell of a lot of back-issues to go through for even one particular character, never mind an entire range of characters (who, as well as their own books, are also guesting in others, appearing in Crisis Crossovers, etc); more than anyone facing deadlines and other similar writing issues or multiple writing commitments realistically might have time to go through. And in a situation where a writer is taking over a series at short notice due to unanticipated events (illness, death, etc) there might be even less time for all this. Of course, they still could (and probably should) read particular arcs and such, but then the problem of what arcs to choose and previous inconsistency among them, even if they're all highly rated, still comes in, coupled with what they and their editors think is appropriate / right for the character (and, of course, what the readers might think as well).
- Yeah, all a character bible would do is prevent complaints from fans who favor whichever interpretation it chooses to run with. All those fans of other interpretations of the character? They're still going to be shouting Character Derailment.
- As it happens, there was a Batman bible for a long time, during Denny O'Neil's run as Batman editor. It was a huge binder and one writer once said (partially in jest perhaps) that the majority of it was devoted to detailing what the writers would *not* be allowed to do. And sure enough, there will still plenty of complaints from fans who disagreed with aspects of its interpretation of Batman. Two of the bigger points of contention were its insistence that Batman is abstinent and never has sex and its insistence that he is only an urban legend among the general population, that no proof of his existence exists.
- While I agree with the above tropers that a character bible probably wouldn't do much to stop complaints of Character Derailment, I still think character bibles would be very useful in other respects. Such as in preventing continuity problems. For instance, according to the Chaotic Good page Green Arrow has two different backstories Depending on the Writer. Sometimes he lost his fortune due to his own incompetence, other times it was stolen by corrupt business partners. There's lots of other little things like that. Killer Croc: Is he just a very large man with scaly skin or a half-man/half-crocodile creatures? Wonder Woman: Just how skimpy is her costume supposed to be and is her chest emblem a stylized W, an eagle, or some blending of the two? I can't think of any others off the top of my head but you get the point. Things like this wouldn't happen so much if writers and artists got together and decided on one particular backstory and appearance for the characters. They can still make changes when necessary, they just have to address them in the book and maybe make a note in the character bible about the change.
- Although some of these things are just down to the artist's whim, really; the others are maybe more of a problem of consistency, but while Wonder Woman's costume might change slightly from artist to artist but it's hardly a huge leap of logic to handwave it with the explanation that she might have more than one costume with variations on a theme, so it's probably not something they feel they need to worry about too much.
- A character Bible would be insanely useful, honestly, though a more ideal solution would be to insist writers only use characters they either like or are comfortable writing. The Black Canary example above, is a reason for his. IIRC, Judd Winick has publicly stated he doesn't really like her, but was forced to use her if he was writing Green Arrow, which is why she was so chickified. Similarly, Frank Miller's various Batman work always has Superman being beaten and tossed around as well as insulted and treated badly, on the grounds he simply doesn't care for him, or when Grant Morison completely ignored all of Magneto's development since the Silver Age to make him 'an old terrorist twat' who rounds people up into concentration camps despite being a holocaust survivor himself, or how he turned Talia Al Ghul from a mostly sympathetic character into a cold uncarring Big Bad who casually puts a hit on her own ten year old son. A lot of the worse examples of character derailment tend to stem from writers not liking the character and treating them as such. It wold solve a lot of problems if they don't have to write them.
- But this gets into the issue of practicality; in an ideal world, yeah, a writer would only work with characters they were interested in, but given the demands of a Shared Universe with hundreds and hundreds of characters and bucketloads of continuity and interactions between those characters that has to be addressed, this is nothing but a pipe-dream; you're always going to have to deal with characters you might not particularly care for.
- Most likely, the decision-makers don't care. They look at the sales figures for "Awesome Dude" when Joe Schmo was writing it, and if they're better than average, they say "Get that Schmo fellow back, or someone like him". Some hapless flunky gets to guess what "Schmo-like" even means - maybe he guesses wrong. The thousand readers who hated Schmo's take on the book stop buying it, and a thousand devout Schmo fans replace them. Many buy the book even though they hate it, because they don't want gaps in their collection or they love the art or whatever. Then Schmo decides he's an "artiste" and can do whatever crazy thing he wants. And the businessmen say "sales are strong, keep it up". It's not about characters, it's about money, and half the paying audience thinks whatever you hate is totally awesome.... same reason there's still no sequel to "The Incredibles" but that awful "Saw" franchise just keeps going and going.
- The whole idea of Crisis Crossovers and the idea that all characters in all comics from the same company exist in the same world. Don't get me wrong, some of the Crisis Crossover comics are wonderful, but it seems as though they should take place in an AU. On the DC end, it bothers me to no end that Jim Gordon lives in the same universe as Superman. I mean, if separated from the DCU, I can't even see Jim believing in aliens, yet he lives in a world where one flies around Metropolis saving people. It's equally hard to reconcile Superman's nigh-invulnerability with the fact he's always having his butt handed to him by Batman because of whatever mind control plot is happening. On the Marvel end, it doesn't make any sense for the mutants to be persecuted by the same world that accepts and admires the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Each comic creates its own world and has its own tone and storylines; it seems like a huge stretch to cram all the worlds together into one just because they're owned by the same company.
- Why would Jim Gordon not be able to exist in a world with Superman? Should everyone have superpowers? The idea of a normal person in the DCU is too far fetched? Honestly, I think it's refreshing to see the average joe getting the limelight every now and then. In fact, I once had an idea for a comedy miniseries about a guy living in New York, dealing with his relationship in a typical dramatic-comedy premise with the only difference being that he existed in the Marvel universe and the reader would occasionally catch a glimpse of some huge superhero crisis going on in the background.
- In the DCU, Batman can kick Superman's butt because of a mutual understanding that someone has to be able to do so in case Superman loses it, combine with the fact that Batman is always ready for the worst.
- Besides, the writers are on Batman's side.
- I'm afraid you've misunderstood the mutant issue in Marvel comics. The thing about mutants is not that they have superpowers, it's that they are considered the evolutionary replacements for homo sapiens. That's why people in the 616 universe hate them. Also, the main reason the Fantastic Four are accepted is partly because they've regularly saved the entire world all by themselves and partly they're spectacularly rich and can afford a generous PR campaign to protect their public image. Spider-Man isn't accepted by the 616 universe at all.
- Only no one would think in terms of 'being the evolutionary replacement' since nobody but evolutionary scientists think that way (never mind half the country does not believe in evolution anyway; even though it is true) and that this is NOT accurately portrayed in the comics... ever. Mainly since it makes no sense.
- Modern evolutionary scientists don't think that way. The idea of an 'evolutionary replacement' is nonsense; evolution is not a directed process. The idea of "orthogenesis," or straight-line evolutionary progress, was scientifically discredited long ago. What passes for "evolution" in most comics (X-Men included) has more in common with pre-WWII racist and eugenic pseudoscience than anything else.
- I think it's pretty obvious he was talking about modern scientist IN THE COMIC UNIVERSE, they always try to look for a scientific way to explain superpowers and things like that even when in the end it's still wouldn't work.
- Of course everyone else in the 616 universe thinks that way. That's what prominent scientists and reactionaries like Bolivar Trask in the 616 universe said about mutants and that's what the media reported over and over again during the first wave of "mutant hysteria" when the X-Men first appeared. As for scientific inaccuracy, remember these are comic books we're talking about here...
- There are people in our world who think vaccines cause autism, simply because a celebrity told them so. Why should the average 616 citizen care any more about the realities of science than people in our world who choose to disbelieve Global Warming for political reasons?
- The evolution thing wasn't part of the original worries in the comics. The worries were that you have individuals who could develop superpowers at any minute but who look just like us, with no warning as to who it could happen to. Don't forget, even in the early ages of the comics you had a kid who could shoot lasers from his eyes but not control them, someone who could freeze anything as soon as look at it (and reach his hand out), and a telekinetic teenager who could rearrange desks and probably could your organs. Now imagine them activating powers on accident in the middle of a classroom. The government agents out to kill them all were evil, but the parents had reasons to be worried if you took the time to think about it (which is a classic case of Unfortunate Implications since mutants are supposed to be a racial allegory).
- "The evolution thing wasn't part of the original worries in the comics." Yes it was. In the original X-Men comics from the 1960s that was the explanation for mutation, and that was why all mutants were universally hated rather than just the ones with highly dangerous and/or uncontrollable superpowers. The fact that lots of mutants had extremely dangerous powers helped encourage the hatred, but the root cause of it was the "evolutionary replacement" thing.
- It's racism. It's not *supposed* to make sense. Asking why people only hate the heroes who are mutants is like asking an anti-Semite why he only hates Jews and not other kinds of white folk.
- Actually if you really asked an anti-semite why he specifically hates Jews (though it should be pointed out that most anti-semites tend to be racist against lots of other people besides) he'll probably give you a whole list of reasons. The reasons he gives will certainly be based on stereotypes, lies, and twisted half-truths but it's not like he'll stare at you blankly with nothing to say.
- Surely the point is that an equivalent anti-mutant would think the same of their chosen reasons to hate mutants, no matter how nonsensical, hypocritical and based on stereotypes lies and twisted half-truths,. "They're gonna replace humanity!" is nonsense from an evolutionary standpoint just as "they're gonna take all our jobs and women!" is nonsense from a racial standpoint, but the point is that it's an irrational form of prejudice and people will clutch at any straw to justify it, no matter how stupid it makes them sound.
- Pointing at Mr. Fantastic and Wolverine and asking an anti-mutant bigot why they hate someone who was born with powers but not someone who was born powerless and gained powers later in life would be like pointing to a black person and a white person with an extremely dark tan and asking a racist why they hate someone who was born dark-skinned but not someone who was born light-skinned whose skin became dark later in life. They'd look at you like you were the one who wasn't making sense. And no one ever really asks that question in real life because we understand that racists don't literally hate skin color, they have some misguided idea that there's a fundamental difference between different races; likewise anti-mutant bigots don't hate powers, they believe there's a fundamental difference between mutants and non-mutants. A "normal" human getting powers doesn't make them a big bad mutant any more than tinting someone's skin makes them black.
- I believe that Spider-Man is a very polarizing character in universe. Some people love him and think he's a great hero, all the more because he doesn't quite get the kind of recognition the Fantastic Four are used to; some other believe he is a menace, if not an outright criminal, as is being advertised by the Daily Bugle. But yeah, at best, he's accepted as a hero by 50% of the general public, while the other half think he is a danger, possibly working with the criminals he's seen fighting.
- Spidey has his supporters but I'd say 50% approval is a vast overstatement.
- That's just another problem. Why don't high-profile heroes like the FF ever publically side with Spidey? It'd make his comic more boring, that's why..
- That's the thing, they HAVE tried. Johnny Storm is frequently seen with Spider-Man, they are good friends. Its just a testimony to the general stupidity and short memory of the 616 civilian population. Same goes for the X-Men. They may risk their lives day in and out trying to protect people, but at the end of the day everyone is still going to hate them.
- Spider-Man's problem is that his identity is secret, while that of the FF is out in the Open. The X-men are a bit of a different problem, some of their ID's are public, but some not. And that itself has been an issue with the Mutant (and Superhuman) Registration Act. Also Spider-Man is popular in Boston. So maybe it's just New Yorkers who hate him.
- The sliding time scale of comics probably doesn't help either. Remember, the X-Men might have been around for upwards of thirty years from our perspective, which seems like a long time for people to be constantly hating on them, but from the perspective of the average Marvel Universe citizen they've probably been around maybe a decade at tops. That's still a fairly short time, and no matter what might have been released about them attitudes might not have changed drastically in that time. It's been almost ten years since 9/11, and people still blame the Jews or all the Muslims or what have you for it; attitudes can be slow to change.
- Individual cases aside, I'm with you on this. Shoeing crossovers and random cameos in where they are neither needed nor especially appropriate is just unnecessary, and in some of the more gratuitous cases, jarring. It's also a bit unfair on the writers, because it means that their works can't truly stand alone, and have to be welded into a universe that may clash with the vision they had for their series.
- An interesting point, but Commissioner Gordon must exist in the same world as Superman or else the Justice League would be missing its two primary members. In fact, they're one state over from each other (Gotham City being in New Jersey and Metropolis in Delaware). It doesn't hurt Gordon's character: he might, if your interpretation is correct, still be the kind of guy who wouldn't believe in aliens were the proof not so conspicuous. His personality remains the same.
- The shared universe is the entire point of Marvel and DC. If writers want their stories to stand alone then they have every opportunity to write creator owned work, but many writers like the unique form of collaboration that the shared universe provides.
- The DCU wasn't supposed to be a shared universe until the Justice Society of America turned it into one, but the Marvel Universe started out almost running off the bat once Spidey got popular in the 1960s with a Retcon for the pre-60s Timely/Atlas comics. There's less of an excuse for Marvel, but bear in mind, the FF don't always get the love. Some 616 residents thought Galactus was a big hoax.
- Why is it that some superheroes have big elaborate training facilities (ex: Teen Titans and the X-Men) but some guys like Spider-Man and Superman don't seem to need any kind of regular practice with their powers. They seem just as effective as other superheroes who train regularly, so what's the point of all that extra work? I could understand someone like Batman who has to stay in shape all the time since he doesn't have powers, but for the others you'd think with all of the crime that happens on a daily basis, that it would be more than enough to make up for the exercise.
- It's entirely possible that the ones with the big training facilities and such are called in less often but on bigger issues, and therefore have more need for exercise but less opportunity to get it from field work.
- Where the hell would Superman exercise? He'd probably have to take tips from Goku.
- Actually, those examples provide a possible answer: training facilities make more sense for superheroes that work in teams like the Teen Titans or X-Men. It's not so much for practice with powers as for developing teamwork strategies.
- Spider-Man does get regular practice. Like Batman and some other heroes, he's shown to regularly patrol the city for crimes to stop. One might say he trains "on the job".
- The Titans are financed by Bruce Wayne. IIRC, Xavier is wealthy enough to finance the Institute on his own.
- The Titans are Teens. Xavier's always had young, overpowered/undertrained youngsters around. Better to master your craft in an underground training facility than downtown San Fran.
- What's the difference between the Ages of comics? Do the quality and tone of the stories really change all that much from era to era? The Golden Age of Comic Books is supposed to be light and soft, The Silver Age of Comic Books is a somewhere in between Golden and Bronze (in comparison to tone), The Bronze Age of Comic Books is where they started introducing drugs and actual death, The Dark Age of Comic Books is um - darker than all the rest before (isn't this the same thing as the Bronze Age?), and The Modern Age of Comic Books is... well I have no clue. Basically I understand that comics became more mature and intelligent as they went on but I don't know what each era was like to really understand the difference between them.
- "What's the difference between the Ages of comics?" Oh Lord. Such a simple question, yet such a complicated answer. The short version is yes, the quality and tone of the stories do change significantly from Age to Age. For a more detailed answer I suggest you read the respective TV Tropes pages for each Age (as well as the page for The Interregnum, the period in between the Golden and Silver Ages). Those give a pretty good summary of the history and themes of each Comic Book Age. However I should point out that you've got the Golden and Silver Ages mixed up. The Silver Age was the "light and soft" era. The Golden Age, while not as dark as the Bronze Age or the Dark Age, was a lot more graphic than most people today give it credit for. For instance, the Golden Age Superman once beat a robber to death, snapped the neck of a wife-beater, and threatened to collapse an apartment building owned by slum lord *with him inside* if he didn't improve living conditions for his tenants. Hell, in the early days of the Golden Age Batman used to carry a gun! (Now that's a Mind Screw if ever there was one.)
- Trying to separate out "ages" post-1970 or so is an exercise in futility. The Golden Age and Silver Age originally referred to the sales boom each caused by the upswing in superhero titles.
- Which is why I don't like starting the "Bronze Age" in 1970. I prefer late in the decade, after the DC Implosion, when the X-Men and New Teen Titans brought DC and Marvel back from the brink. Tonally, stuff like Green Lantern/Green Arrow and the Spider-Man drug issues may be nothing like the Superdickery and Rainbow Batmen of the early Silver Age, but it's still ultimately one period in comics history (and Marvel arguably bridges the gap).
- Not really. Comics died hard in the '70s, and it wasn't until 1977/1978 (releases of Star Wars and its comic adaptation and Superman) that things started to pick up again. Most of the kitschy 70's stuff (like the above two, Claremont's here-there-and-everywhere storytelling on X-Men, and crossover titles like The Tomb of Dracula) was an attempt by the companies to abandon the Fleeting Demographic model of past days and hold onto older fans.
- The Modern Age is basically "everything after the Dark Age"; it doesn't really have any zeitgeist that we can tell.
- This troper really, really, REALLY wishes some fans would stop referring to "comics" when they're actually talking about corporate superhero comics. I realize that Marvel and DC drive much of the commerce of the North American industry and have done for a long time, but that's no reason to equate a medium with a genre in conversation. It does both a disservice.
- Let's be fair, though; I'd be willing to wager that if you asked most non-comics readers what comes to mind when the word 'comics' is mentioned, the answer in the majority of responses would be some variation on 'superheroes'. And it's not an entirely unreasonable association to make, either, since superheroes essentially do dominate the medium; yes, there's more than just superheroes to comics, but for a long time (and still to a large extent today, I'd argue) if you were to walk in your standard comic shop and look around, most of the available content would have revolved around superheroes in some way. Not an ideal situation, true, but this is a pretty big windmill we're tilting at, here. And, well, 'corporate superhero comics' are still comics; what else are you supposed to call them?
- Non-comics readers, yes, but comics readers should know better. Ignorance is no longer an excuse these days. And I'd rather they say superheroes when they're actually talking about superheroes.
- It's not just ignorance, though; as noted above, something that happens in or relates to a 'corporate superhero comic' is still happening in or relating to a comic. It's a shorthand.
- Yeah, seriously, look at a listing of comic books, and the vast, vast majority of titles are going to be superhero or superhero related. Or is it that you just think "corporate" is inherently a bad thing?
- The vast majority thing applies only to North America. Almost everywhere else in the world superhero comics are in the minority, and if you look at worldwide comic book sales, superhero comics are marginal compared to big sellers such as Tintin. It's pretty irritating for a non-American comic enthusiast to read articles that talk about "comics" in general (like "The best comic artists of all time"), when actually they mean comics published in the United States.
- I'm willing to bet, though, that most of these articles are from sources based within the United States. In which case, it's hardly surprising that they'd be operating under the assumption that most of their readers would also be as well, and would use terms accordingly.
- Besides which, comic books are too complicated and expensive for many independent artists, and corporations big ventures will go for flashy superheroes because recreation sells. Same deal for video games. It's also a culture thing, so even if comic book artistry becomes viable on a more personal level, those interested in comics will probably have grown up on superheroes and find those more fun to write.
- No, familiarity sells. The average fan knows what to expect from Batman. He doesn't know what to expect from a Chris Ware book. Marvel and DC count on that - but there's a whole other world that grew up on comics other than superheroes.
- With respect, though, so what? Marvel and DC might be formulaic, but that doesn't mean they lose the right to be called 'comics'.
- That's splitting hairs, really. It's akin to a manga fan getting mad when someone calls them comics.
- As said above, it's convenient shorthand. That's why you said what you did, instead of saying:
This person who has been known to edit the Televsion Tropes
online database (commonly referred to as a "wiki", named after the first such piece of software the Wiki Wiki Web
) expresses the desire that people who read and engage in the graphically sequential narrative medium would stop using the term "comics" in such a way that it implies that all graphically sequential narrative work is in fact of the superhero genre and furthermore that such "comics" are only produced by the corporations known as DC Comics (formerly known as National Allied Publications) and Marvel Publishing, Inc (commonly known as Marvel Comics, formerly known as Timely Publications). I, meaning the person who is currently typing this entry into the online database software, realize that the combined market share of DC Comics and Marvel Publishing, Inc, comprises 80% of the graphically sequential narrative medium and that this is especially true on the landmass commonly known as North America, though the distinction is rather arbitrary as North America and South America are a connected landmass in the sense that no ocean divides them, but this still does not provide an adequate reason - though, since "comics" is not a physical feature or fact but a social construct and therefore my opposition is also a social construct of my own making and do not wish to imply otherwise - to say that the two distinct social constructs are in fact equivalent. It does both a disservice, though I, still meaning the person who is entering this piece of written work into the online database known as Television Tropes
, do not want anyone to misinterpret what I am saying and misread my work to imply that the graphically sequential narrative medium or the genre of such known as "superhero" are living, breathing entities and would actually be displeased by such disservice - I was merely using poetic anthropomorphism.
- They comprise 80% of the market only in North America. In other parts of the world other types of comics are more popular, and on a global scale the sales of superhero comics are a small fraction of the overall sales of comic books. Since Television Tropes isn't limited to North America, for those of us located elsewhere the way some people equate "comics" with "superheroes comics" feels odd and misleading. It's like someone talking about "movies" when they actually mean just "big budget Hollywood movies".
- People do use "movies" when they just mean "big budget Hollywood movies" — as in "Fancy going to the movies tonight?" For many people (at least in the English-speaking West), this is probably more likely to mean the latest mainstream blockbuster at a multiplex than the latest obscure arthouse independent movie. It's still an accurate use of the term though; like 'comics', it's just a shorthand so you don't have to waste time pedantically going "Do you fancy going to see the latest mainstream big budget blockbuster movie released by a major studio based in Hollywood as opposed to a feature released by a smaller, independent distributor tonight?"
- Yeah, well, the vast majority of tropers are (presumably) from America and Canada. So of course we use the term "comics" as shorthand for "superhero comics". And realistically, this isn't going to change any time soon. Even if it's true that superhero comics are a minority outside North America (not calling you a liar, I'd just like to see an official citation) that doesn't change the fact that most of us on tv tropes are from North America, and therefore we use North American shorthand in most cases. So complaining about it isn't going to accomplish anything.
- Even if superheroes are less popular in non-American markets (and I'm willing to bet that in many western and especially English-speaking markets such as the United Kingdom and Australia, superheroes — and American superheroes especially — still form a fairly significant part of the market, even if it isn't a dominant part, thus minimizing any potential confusion when someone refers to 'comics' in a 'those things with superheroes in' way), none of this changes the fact that superhero comics are still comics. They don't stop being comics just because people in other countries and cultures prefer reading comics about other things, and those comics don't reserve the right to solely be referred to as 'comics' just because superhero comics have superheroes in them and are corporate owned (which, frankly, adds a layer of snobbery over the pre-existing layer of pedantry). It might not be an all-encompassing use of the term, but it is an accurate one.
- ^Yeah, this complaint sounds rather silly in retrospect. It's like if a group of people are discussing Star Wars and one person says "Well, in the books..." but then someone else pipes up "Excuse me, but there are a lot more books than just the science fiction novels set in the Star Wars universe. You should be more specific." The Star Wars books are still books, even if they aren't all books in the world. Demanding that they be specifically referred to as "Star Wars books" at all times is just annoying, brainless pedantry.
- That example would make sense if the discussion was in a Star Wars specific message board or something. But this wiki isn't limited to superhero comics, it has loads and loads of pages for other types of comics, and plenty of users who read other than superhero comics too, or don't read superhero comics at all. So the proper version of your example would be someone going to a message board where people talk about literature in general, and start a thread called "Why are there so many Jedis in books?". Even if many people there would get what sort of books he's talking about, it'd still be a weird way of talking about a whole medium, as well confusing to people who don't know anything about Star Wars.
- But that is probably because the book publishing industry is several magnitudes larger than the comic publishing industry, and thus encompasses a heck of a lot more things to talk about, of which the Star Wars books form a comparative drop in the ocean. And even then, it's still technically an accurate use of the term (if a potentially more confusing one in this case); the Star Wars books are still books, so while the question in this example is not entirely clear to someone not familiar with Jedis, it is still referring to a series of books. In any case, the Star Wars books do not dominate the publishing industry to nearly the same degree that superhero comics dominate the comics industry in many parts of the western world at least (particular America and those areas with comics industries that draw heavily on the American comics industry for content / inspiration) and, even in many places where they do not, are still closely associated with the comics medium as a whole, so the equivalent question "why are there so many superheroes in comics?" makes a lot more sense because it is an accurate reflection of the state of affairs in many people's experience (not to mention that asking "why are there so many superheroes in superhero comics", as well as being needlessly pedantic, is also redundant; since superheroes are the whole point of superhero comics, no one would ask why there were so many in that particular genre anyway). Plus, like it or not, superhero comics are still comics; it is still an accurate, if limiting, use of the term.
- What really bugs me is, ok they are series that have been running for decades, so it's somewhat understandable that they be brought back to life, but it's like they're not even trying anymore. Captain America was shot and died, they confirmed he died, they buried his body, Bucky took the torch, people changed and did things because of his death, Thor talked to his spirit a year after his death(!), now it turns out that the Red Skull orchestrated it so that the bullet sends him in and out of space and time or some crap like that. Let's take aside all that is wrong with that (the buried body, confirmation of death etc.), isn't it extremely overly complicated to go through all that, instead of just shooting him with a normal bullet so he would had died by the law of bullets kill. Why are they even surprised anymore, since even Bucky was brought back. Oh look, Supes died, I hope he gets resurrected for poker night. Even if I can come to accept this, the problem is not that Captain America was brought back, it's HOW they brought him back. Couldn't they have just made a situation where they needed a reason to revive Cap? Or a villain could had revived him to use him for something? It's like I stated before, they're not even trying anymore.
- This is just speculation on my part, but when I read the story I got the impression that Cap's death was intended to be permanent and they didn't have a plan in mind to revive him. When Cap's death turned out to be not as popular with the readers as they expected (most likely due to the puss-out way in which he died) they had to bring him back and they had to do it quick to avoid losing readers in the interim. Contrast this with The Death of Superman which was obviously written from start to finish under the assumption that he would be brought back to life. They had a lot of time to plan and didn't have to scramble to find a reason to resurrect the character.
- A fact is that Red Skull had received a coronal device from Dr. Doom in Captain America #23, two issues before Cap's supposed death.
- This troper has always been confused by the universal acceptance of Thou Shall Not Kill in comics, in its two aspects. One, why are people so offended by the idea of a superhero who kills? Why does it have to be thought of as "dark", or "edgy"? No other medium gets this. Look at any modern action movie, the hero kills mooks left and right, and that's fun. When we see The Bride slice through dozens of bodyguards, it's awesome. But a hero who kills is needlessly edgy? It seems weird. Also, why is it that all heroes adhere to this code by default? For some it makes sense. Superman's often called The Big Blue Boyscout for a reason, Captain Marvel's really a child, the death of his parents left Batman a raging ball of mental problems, these ideas make sense. But what about John Stewart, who was a marine? He was fine killing with a gun, but not a magic ring? While I'm not particularly familiar with their comics, the mythological figures Thor and Hercules were derived from killed all the time. Or what about Captain America? He got his powers through a Super Serum that he took so he could go kill Nazis. Yet now that he's the Captain as we know and love him, he doesn't kill the Red Skull, a Nazi considered more evil than Hitler? It just doesn't add up.
- Do remember that for Stewart up until the war with Sinestro's corps the Guardians had a lock-out feature in the rings retconned in so that you couldn't kill with the rings (obviously not so when the Guardians took off and back before the one crisis the remaining G Ls running things executed Sinestro with their rings and the power battery self-destructed due to it being programmed to do so if anyone of his race was killed with a ring). So the Guardians who gave out the rings who had the 'no killing allowed' restriction imposed on Stewart. As far as Captain America goes yes he killed people in the war but he was a soldier and not a civilian and the law doesn't have a 'if you served in the military you've a ticket to kill for the rest of your life even when you're out'. That said they did present his problems over killing an Ultimatum agent because he only had a gun available to him instead of his shield when the agent was spraying an audience quite unrealistically. Not only did he have way too much crushing guilt but suddenly everyone was acting as if he were a mad-dog killer like Punisher who casually gunned someone down instead of killing someone who was doing his best to murder as many people as possible in a large audience.
- First of all, it's just tradition. The No Killing rule was set up in the days of the Comics Code to appease Moral Guardians. Since then it's become customary for heroes not to kill, to the point where those who do are considered Darker and Edgier. The film genre never really had the same tradition so main characters who kill in movies is more commonplace. Second, a lot of readers (me included) feel that superheroes should strive to be heroes in every sense of the word, and part of that means no lethal force. That doesn't mean we can't tolerate "heroes" who kill, but we prefer them as the minority rather than the norm. Third, I would argue that a strict Thou Shalt Not Kill code among superheroes is the only way the government would tolerate their existence in the first place. These people are, literally, vigilantes. Refusing to kill shows respect for the rule of law, which governments appreciate, which is why people like Superman are allowed to operate without any real oversight. It also encourages superheroes to police themselves, since one superhero who chooses to kill endangers the existence of all superheroes across the country and the world. If superheroes tolerated killers within their ranks governments would force them to disband and retire.
- The No Killing thing actually predates the Comics Code by some time (Batman stopped killing his opponents even accidentally within a year of his debut). Five minutes reading the average issue of "Punisher" should tell you why this is a good idea.
- That's just Batman. It wasn't an industry-wide tradition until the inception of the Comics Code.
- Of course is not the same killing with a gun than killing with a green lantern ring. With a gun the only way you have to stop someone attacking you is shoot him, with a high probability of lethal consecuences. But a Green Lantern ring allows you infinite possibilities to stop an attacker non-lethaly. That's why I have no problem with a soldier or a cop shooting an enemy dead, but don't consider, for example, Captain Atom burning a criminal to a crisp with his energy blasts acceptable except in the most extreme circunstances. Anyone defending justice should avoid lethal force wherever possible, and a powerful hero has a lot more non-lethal options at his disposal. This and the reasons given by the two above commenters should give you a pretty good idea of why the super-heroes don't go normally killing criminals left and right, althoug I concede that the extremes some of them sometimes go to avoid killing, even in cases when it seems the only reasonable course of action, may be ridiculous on occasions, but I see it as a consequence of the "comics are for children" mentality prevalent until not so long ago. And by the way, The Bride is an assassin seeking revenge on his former comrades, her aventures could be fun, but I'll never call her a "heroine".
- Personally, I would be more inclined to accept Thou Shalt Not Kill if there was a reason to believe that alternate methods routinely worked. Unfortunately, given the frequent Joker Immunity in the medium, ideas like effective incarceration or genuine redemption are limited. (So is killing them, for that matter.) As a result, I tend to either focus on comics where Thou Shalt Not Kill also applies to the villains, or not read comics at all. I just find too much cognitive dissonance in the idea of unrepentant murderers in a Cardboard Prison being treated as acceptable.
- The fact that prisons in the Comic Book World are made of cardboard is hardly the fault of the superheroes. It's the fault of the civilian authorities who refuse to build better prisons or apply the death penalty more often to especially murderous supervillains like the Joker. Superheroes regularly using lethal force against villains won't change that. If anything it would only do more harm than good. As I speculated above, I believe that an unspoken Thou Shalt Not Kill rule among the hero community is the only reason society would continue to tolerate their existence. If a hero killed a dangerous supervillain it might seem perfectly justified to us, the readers, but to civilians in the 616 or DC universe it wouldn't be seen the same way. They don't have our omniscient reader knowledge. To them it would appear that superheroes have just up and decided to declare themselves judge, jury, and executioner. While one could argue that civilians wouldn't have a problem with this since the superheroes are only doing what the government already does for them anyway, remember that superheroes are not accountable to the people. If a police officer shoots an unarmed suspect during a bust he has superiors that can hold him accountable. He can be suspended, have his badge and gun taken away, or even be locked up and put on trial himself. If Batman finally snaps and starts killing criminals, who holds him accountable? No one, except maybe other superheroes. But then who holds them accountable? What if the other superheroes decided to rally around him because they think his killing of criminals was justified? How would the public stop them when they aren't accountable to the people in any way? The answer is, they couldn't. In the end society would refuse to tolerate any individuals who take the law into their own hands without any sort of accountability holding them back. The people would demand that all superheroes be hunted down and taken into custody by the state. Frankly the fact that superheroes have been tolerated this long at all is a minor miracle. After all, they are essentially a paramilitary group with godlike powers who are literally getting into shootouts and brawling in the streets about once a week (and that's a conservative estimate). The ONLY thing that has kept the entire superhero community from being declared a public menace is the fact that the vast majority of heroes have purposely chosen not to use lethal force and (usually) refuse to tolerate heroes who do. It's generated a tenuous and unspoken truce between the hero community and the general public. So long as they adhere to Thou Shalt Not Kill, we allow them to exist.
- Another problem with this approach is, ultimately, that it relies on the characters having knowledge that, unless they have knowledge of the fourth wall, there's no possible way they could have. Classic example; Batman taking the Joker back to Arkham. The reader, of course, can scoff that Batman's a fool, this'll do no good, the Joker'll never get cured, why doesn't he just do the right thing and kill him, and so on and so on and so on. Except the reader knows that for all the issues of Cardboard Prisons and Comic Book Deaths — and incidentally, why do the people who bemoan this seem to think that in a universe where Death Is Cheap and easier to get out of than Arkham at times, the Joker would somehow stay dead even if Batman did give up and kill him? — ultimately the real reason that the Joker will never be cured is because he's a hugely popular and iconic character that DC Comics would be foolish to discard forever; he's iconic and instantly recognizable, he shifts loads of merchandise, he transfers across media, he's considered one of the greatest villains ever... it wouldn't be profitable for them to get rid of him in such a way that precluded him ever returning. Problem is, in-universe Batman himself doesn't have this information. Because he's bound by the Fourth Wall. For all he knows with the information he has on hand, given enough time and sufficiently secure facilities (which, true, raises the question of "Why Arkham" given that it is demonstrably not the latter, but then, he didn't sentence the Joker to be held there), the Joker can be cured, or at least rehabilitated so that he's not longer a threat to society. He can be cynical of this occurring based on past experience, sure, but he's not a psychiatrist and has no way of knowing for sure, and it's not his place to decide otherwise (for the reasons noted in the comment above).
- Wouldn't Death Is Cheap make killing people more acceptable?
- The problem with the "If superheroes started to kill villains en masse, society would turn against them and the authorities would hunt them down" argument is, while it makes perfect sense, it's not how no-killing rule is presented in the comics. It's not 'If we start to kill people will turn against us, it's 'Killing is wrong', period, in any circumstances'. The heroes not only don't kill the villains, they often go that extra mile to save them, even though they aren't legally bound to, or prevent less scrupulous guys from killing them. Granted, even if they didn't, the villains would likely still come back, but at least it wouldn't be the heroes' fault.
- Which is more disturbing, Dirty Harry, or Superman who freely kills anyone he deems a villain? Superhero comics are able to maintain it because Superheroes act on a whole other level than humans. If you've read Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Mark Millar, or any number of other writers, it becomes increasingly apparent why superheroes have Thou Shall Not Kill policy. Many of them are unstable as is, and can go completely off the rails if they kill someone (as it is an emotionally scarring event, you have to remember that these are Super HUMANS, not trained soldiers). Though really, a lot of characters, especially in the DCU, break their own codes. Superman killing Brainiac anyone?
- Those characters go off the rails because their writers want them to go off the rails, so they can come up with convoluted explanations as to why they won't kill off villains the writers' editors won't let them touch anyways.
- There's an interesting comment in a similar discussion to this on the Kingdom Come Headscratchers page where someone makes the observation that, in many ways, demanding that superheroes punish the criminals as well as catch them is reflective of a certain kind of abdication of responsibility or even selfish laziness on the part of the regular people; the superhero is supposed to assist regular the regular authorities and law and order, not replace it entirely. They're already essentially doing a large part of the regular authorities jobs for them by solving crime and catching criminals, acting as one man-or-woman disaster relief and so forth; it's not entirely unreasonable to ask or expect that the regular authorities meet them half-way and shoulder some of the responsibility.
- An while we're talking about authority... being judge, jury and executioner is the definition of a vigilante, and there's a reason why actual vigilantes and mob lynchings are frowned upon... the courts are there to make sure there's an actual fair trial etc.
- The main reason why vigilantes and mob lynchings are frowned upon in real life is that they tend to come down on unproven suspects or people with bad publicity. Meanwhile, many supervillain actions are things that would justify lethal force from the police if they were at all effectual, particularly considering that superheroes tend to stop the villains in the middle of doing their acts. Let's put it this way: none of the passengers on Flight 93 were accused of being judge, jury and executioner.
- Even for the police, though, lethal force is a last resort in cases where the suspect cannot or will not be subdued any other way — they won't just go in guns blazing if they happen up someone committing a criminal act, they will order the criminal to surrender first and, usually, try to talk them down if a stand-off results. Even if the criminal turns and flees, even if the criminal is a repeat offender, even if the criminal takes a hostage, that doesn't give them the right to use lethal force; it's only justified in situations where either they, another officer or a civilian is directly being threatened with death by the criminal and there's no other way to prevent innocent casualties. In most cases, if it's available the police will always go for the option where they take the criminal alive, and can even get in serious trouble if they don't. Of course, most supervillains aren't exactly unwilling to risk innocent life and limb in their actions — but the key point here is that most superheroes are equally capable of subduing the villain without necessarily killing them as well. As for Flight 93, there's a few things there as well; the passengers were risking and ultimately sacrificing their own lives, not other people's, they ended up dying as well, and it turned out being one of the situations where there was no other way. If, however, the passengers had managed to bring down Flight 93 safely with no loss of life and then killed the hijackers, then even though the hijackers were demonstrably in the middle of something bad then the law would still frown on that (or probably should, at least).
- Tl;dr: Military =/= police. Just look at the debates on the death penalty in real life.
- There are however cases where killing the criminal can be the only way to save innocent lives. Take Maximum Carnage for example - heroes spends so much time driving point how they can't kill Carnage, how it will make them as bad as him, while they cannot stop him otherwise. Spider-Man and Captain America have blood of dozens of innocents on their hands just because they wanted to have moral higher ground. I'm not against no-kill policy, but maybye superheroes shouldn't hold to it so fanatically?
- I'm not familiar with that particular example, but I'm not sure I'd agree with the assertion that "Spider-Man and Captain America have blood on their hands", at least not entirely; there's only one person who'd doing all the killing, after all, and that's Carnage. True, Carnage is a psychotically insane serial killer bonded to a powerful alien symbiote, but I don't necessarily hold that that completely absolves him of responsibility for his crimes and allows him or anyone to transfer the blame to the superheroes, whether they baulk at killing him or not. Plus, while I agree that not every situation is a Thou Shalt Not Kill one, it does often seem to be forgotten that this isn't just a fictional trope we're dealing with, but a very powerful real-life influence on people's behaviour; most people would tend to agree that killing someone is wrong and that those who kill are wrong, and while we might argue that it's necessary in extreme situations, even in these extreme situations it can ultimately harder to fire the killing shot than many might think, because it's not how many people have been wired and programmed to behave. We can go back and forth all day, but I suspect that many people — including many who argue against the Thou Shalt Not Kill position — might find it difficult to pull the trigger as well.
- To me, it becomes a slippery slope of what hero does. The first day, you're saving the villain from his evil scheme backfiring and causing him harm. The next, you decide to not step in and prevent this. The day after that, you actively cause the scheme to hurt the villain. Somewhere down the line, you're the one killing villains. Later, you're at the point where anytime someone does something you don't agree with, you kill them. The heroes want to stay heroes. So they take extra precautions to go that extra mile to not become the monsters that they hunt.
- What's up with the weird word emphasis in so many comics? Linkara harps on this a lot, but even before he pointed it out I noticed it. If you say all the bolded words with the emphasis suggested by bolding, half the time you end up talking like William Shatner.
- This troper thought that way too - and Fridge Brilliance just hit. They have those odd emphasis (emphasees?) because that's that particular character's speech pattern. The writers can't show that like they can show accents, so they use bolding and italics. (Also, it would be hilarious to see William Shatner's speech patterend into a comic, hehe.)
- Also, in general, I think the emphasis is not intended to be read that loudly or emphasized. Try it with very subtle emphasis and you'll see that these are the words that you would generally slightly emphasize anyways. It's just that the letterists and writers like to indicate exactly which word should be emphasized. (For example, take "The brown dog ate the black cat." It could be "The brown dog ate the black cat" indicating the kind of dog, "The brown dog ate the black cat" indicating disbelief, "The brown dog... etc.)
- On the covers of the comic books of The Spirit, why does Will Eisner's signature look like the Walt Disney signature/logo?
- Because neither one of them are the actual signatures of Walt or Eisner. Walt's real signature can be seen here and Eisner's real signature can be seen here◊ in the top-right corner. The Walt Disney logo and the signature seen on the cover of The Spirit are both stylized versions of the real thing, only made more legible and recognizable to consumers. It's just an amusing coincidence that both use a remarkably similar style.
Though for the record, I'm told that Eisner's came first. As far as I know, the earliest appearance of Eisner's iconic signature was on the cover of WOW, What a Magazine! in 1936. Compare that to this poster◊ for Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which was printed in 1937.
- So did kids stop reading comics because they got darker, or did comics get darker because kids stopped reading them?
- A thousand scientists studying for a thousand years could not possibly answer that question.
- The second, well, kind of. Marvel and DC pushed out most newsstand distribution in favor of the higher-margin "direct market" throughout the '70s and '80s. This pretty much eradicated the "casual" readership who might buy a comic every now and then, or the kid who bought it because the cover looked neat. So they've spent the last thirty years or so selling to the jaded, Genre Savvy, continuity-conscious "comic book guy" crowd, and the dark stuff was just another way to try and top themselves.
- A big part of it has to do with the increasing number of comic book writers who grew up as comic book fans. Once upon a time, it was just understood that comics were only for kids. But when someone who grew up loving comics goes on to become a comic book writers, they often start writing the kind of stories they'd want to read now, as an adult, instead of the kind they would have wanted to read back when they were kids. They can also get defensive about loving something percieved as "for kids," so they overcompensate by making stories as "adult" as they can. It also may be worth noting that there have always been dark comics, it's just that people tend to ignore the older dark comics and the newer light ones because it's natural to overlook evidence that contradicts the idea that "things were better then."
- As much as I like Marvel Comics (X-Men and Spider-Man: The Animated Series were two of my favorite shows growing up :) ), there's one aspect of them I can't help but be confused by. One minute, the ordinary people are like "The Fantastic Four are mutated superheroes! They're the coolest people ever!" and the next minute they're like "The X-Men are mutated superheroes! They are an insult to humanity and must be destroyed!" It's Hypocritical Humor without the humor.
- The difference is that the Fantastic Four got their powers artificially, and mutants got them naturally. The Four are enhanced humans, and thus relatable and "I could be like that, so they don't scare me", whereas mutants are another breed, another species by some accounts, and thus, as a separate group, rouse tribal instinct.
- Even then, it doesn't hold up. The FF are probably the only group of "enhanced humans" in the Marvel Universe that have gone public about how they got their powers.
- And the X-Men are the only group of superheroes known to be mutants.
- Bigotry isn't logical. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it's the truth. Why does a particular racist person or group of racists hate black people but not Irish-Americans? They're both different from the racist's background, they're both descended from people who were not native to the Americas. Well, it's because the way Irish-Americans are different is, to the racist, less offensive than the way black people are different. The ways that both groups are different are, from an objective standpoint, largely meaningless, but the racist mind hates things that are other and will latch on to whatever it sees as being the most other as an object of it's hate and bias, usually filtered through the culture they grew up in. So, the simple answer is that augmented humans aren't different enough from normal humans to offend a bigot, but mutants are.
However, if you want to get more in depth as to WHY mutants offend people but other augments don't, it still makes sense.
First of all, not every augmented human is loved. Spider-Man's PR is generally very mixed. A lot of people like him and a lot of people hate him. And a lot of dialogue suggests that many if not most people assume that he is a mutant because his origin story isn't common knowledge. Likewise, The Hulk is almost universally feared and Daredevil is considered to be shady and dangerous. So, there are a lot of augments who meet just as much fear and distrust as mutants.
Now look at the augments who are loved. Primarily the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. In the case of the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards and his family were well known in the scientific community and highly respected by the public long before they received powers. From the common person's perspective, it was a great man and his family who, through a fluke, received amazing powers. A true testament to the wonders of science. And The Avengers (at least the core team) are made up of: A scientist who intentionally gave himself and his wife powers, a scientist who built himself a powerful suit, a GOD (who's godhood is not universally believed in the MU, with most people who think he's human believing his power still comes from his hammer, i/e TECHNOLOGY), and a beloved war hero who was intentionally given powers by the government. They're exactly the kind of people who would be loved by the public, and they all have two very important things in common (except for Thor, but we're talking about the public perception of him here):
They all used to be normal people, and they received powers in controlled, artificial circumstances.
And these two things mitigate the main reason why people would be bigoted towards mutants. A sense of otherness. People don't hate mutants because they hate super powers on principal. That's not how bigotry works. They hate mutants because they're different, separate from the human race by some measure, because they're unknown and mysterious, and because that unknown represents a possible danger we're not prepared for. Augmented humans don't represent that because, not that long ago, they were exactly like everyone else. They're not something that's been apart from humanity since birth, they're humans that were altered through circumstances.
And there is less of an unseen, unknown threat element with augments. The majority of the super heroes I listed got their powers on purpose. They were people of great intelligence and will who chose to become super humans, often with the consent of the government. Many super heroes, in the Marvel universe at least, got their powers intentionally. And even those that didn't got them in very rare circumstances usually involving some kind of advanced technology. This technology can, through law, be controlled and regulated, kept as safe and as far from those who would misuse it as possible, and most cases of people getting powers unintentionally are usually chalked up to accidents that were beyond anyone's control to prevent.
But you can't control how a person is born. The X-Gene seems to be some freaky kind of recessive, showing up and then disappearing in family lines almost randomly. You don't know who's going to be born a mutant. The person wielding phenomenal cosmic power isn't a respected super scientist acting on behalf of Uncle Sam, and it isn't some poor schmuck who was caught in an incredibly rare accident that's usually prevented. It's an eight year old girl who's prone to temper tantrums, and there is absolutely no way to prevent that from happening.
That kind of thing is absolutely terrifying. Technology and resources to create super humans can be contained, rationed to those who would use it wisely. But the X-Gene is loose in the world, and the average baseline human is powerless to stop the likes of Proteus, Sabertooth, and Apocalypse from coming to be.
That's why the citizens of the MU hate and fear Mutants, on average, more than they do augmented humans. Because if you take humanity out of the equation, if you ignore the fact that these people are humans with their own lives and hopes and dreams and just view everyone involved as mere statistics, then Mutants are much more frightening than augmented humans.
- Why is the namespace for comics on this site "Comicbook" instead of "Comic Book"? I used to think it was the latter but I keep encountering the former. Which is it?
- How has there not been a major deficit from all the buildings wrecked in superhero/villain battles?
- Because economics generally doesn't make exciting material for a fantasy action adventure comic.
- Comics are filled to the brim with things that would radically advance/change technology and society. There are scientists both crazy and not-crazy who've invented robots, time travel and even interdimensional treadmills, which must be decades ahead of us AT LEAST, yet you almost never see these wonder materials and inventions utilized by the public masses. The Earth, universe and sometimes ALL OF EXISTENCE is threatened daily, yet the PTSD you'd expect is absent. There's In Spite of a Nail, and there's flipping the nail off.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief covers this one. Yes, if superheroes actually were a thing, the world would be radically — perhaps unrecognisably — different from the world we live in, but part of the appeal of most superhero comics is the fantasy of these characters and their adventures taking place in a world we can identify as more or less similar to our own, even if it is a bit exaggerated and different in some ways. It's just something you have to suck up and accept in order to embrace the fantasy of 'what would happen if superheroes existed right outside my window?'
- It's odd that the adult heroes and civilians are cool with costume kids age 14-17 fighting one-eye mercenaries, thugs, and monsters on daily basis. No one is against this?
- Well -out of Universe- you have to remember that when comics started children as young as 14 were still lying about their ages to sign up to fight in wars, and that a great many adults were consciously turning a blind eye to them doing so. By the time that mindset finally passed it was just a narrative convention, which dovetailed nicely into the mid-century fad for kid detectives. Creators now are kinda stuck with them. In-universe of course, many costumed heroes are not entirely paragons of mental stability and many started their own crime-fighting careers as teens (often against teenaged versions of their main super-villain foes) so probably don't see the problem.