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Genre Deconstruction / Comic Books

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  • Alan Moore has his own page.
  • Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns takes straightforward superhero action and makes it look absurd by having real-world politics interfere. Batman's work becomes a tool for debates about "toughness on crime," while Superman's idealism makes him an easy dupe for the US government's plans for nuclear war. It also asked the question: "What sort of a man would dress up in a bat outfit and fight crime?" The answer: "A man who isn't very pleasant or sane." Though, it's not really clear the work is intended or often taken to be a deconstruction.
  • Youngblood tries to answer the question "What if superheroes were real?" The answer? They'd basically be reality TV stars. The series deals with similar themes found in Tiger & Bunny, such as the use of corporate sponsors and the pressures of stardom that a hero might encounter in the real world. A shocking number of the "heroes" are also shown to be outright assholes, especially in later volumes that tried to comment on the '90s Anti-Hero tropes that the title initially played straight.
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  • Does anyone remember what kicked off the Marvel Civil War? A group of superhero reality TV Stars.
  • Deconstruction in comics is even older than that, dating at least back to the Bronze Age. In The '70s, DC came out with Green Lantern/Green Arrow, in which the title characters do superhero stuff while at the same time arguing about the morality and political implications. As a result, the more lawful Green Lantern and the more chaotic Green Arrow butted heads many, MANY times.
  • Hell! You could even argue that it dates back to the Silver Age! When Stan Lee first pitched the idea of a superhero with real life problems his editor replied "Don't you know what a superhero is?"
  • A 70's storyline in The Avengers tried to deconstruct the concept of the Token Minority. The Falcon is forced into the team in order to fill a diversity quota, which not only leads to friction with Hawkeye, but causes Falcon to doubt his own worth as a hero. He eventually quits after growing to resent being thought of as the Avengers' token black guy.
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  • Freedom Ring was created by Robert Kirkman as a deconstruction of the teen superhero archetype. Specifically, he wanted Freedom Ring to struggle with his new abilities and ultimately die early on his superhero career in order to contrast how easily most teenage characters adapt to their powers, which he saw as unrealistic. Unfortunately, the decision to make him gay meant that when his deconstruction-mandated death occurred, it took about 20% of Marvel Comic's homosexual population.
  • While Kingdom Come was part of the mid-90's wave of Reconstructionist comics (made in response to the above-mentioned wave of deconstruction), its reconstruction of the Silver Age was accomplished by deconstructing the Dark Age, bringing it to its most extreme conclusion: the Nineties Anti Heroes, having killed all the villains, have become crazed Knight Templars and pretty much taken over the world.
  • The entire Marvel Comics Siege macro-crisis was a Deconstructor Fleet of the entire Marvel Universe, the Reed Richards Is Useless trope and the idea of the superhero in general.
    • It first starts with Avengers Disassembled showing what happens when you entrust the world to a set few ultra powerful humans. It then goes into House of M, proving what happens if the super humans took over.
    • Civil War addressed the stupidity of having the government let walking A-bombs blow themselves up in New York everyday while simultaneously showing how said government control plans would fail. This is shown in the deliberate Flanderization of Captain America and Iron Man showing how both sides are pretty stupid. This was also explained in the what if story arc when both sides find a balance and thus achieve peace.
    • Dark Reign then deconstructed the entire "Lone Cop saves the world and get promoted" genre by showing exactly what would happen if said psychopaths were really appointed to such positions of power. Thor, Reed Richards and Iron Man's tenures as God, Guardian and Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. in each of their individual story arcs show how each quest to "fix" the world leads to disaster. Then, the New Captain America saga had a deconstruction of the Sidekick. The idea of power and potential is again brought up in The Hood's story showing what happens if all the D-list heroes in the universe eventually got together and actually applied their powers, while the Mighty Avengers show how these super teams affect the political climate.
    • The Illuminati is in itself a deconstruction of large hero collaborations (and how they lead to failure i.e. World War Hulk & the Secret Invasion) and its counterpart "The Cabal" showed just how incapable a society of villains would be at functioning.
    • All this is paralleled by the Annihilation and War of Kings series depicting exactly what kind of galaxy is filled with empires that invade and blow up planets on a daily basis and exactly how disillusioned it makes characters. Seeing Black Bolt turn to insanity was just further reconfirmation of what a world Cosmic Marvel is. The Nova Corps pretty much deconstructed all Space Cop tropes with its nigh-omnipotent run band of non sanctioned super soldiers and exactly how that would affect any political situation.
    • The Decimation arcs in X-Men show exactly how humans would react to mutants if the odds were evened. And the Secret arcs show exactly what being a real spy means and all the details it entails.
    • And finally, Siege shows that after all this, heroes are still heroes, no matter what.
  • The Ultimates attempts to put a more realistic spin on the superhero genre, specifically by trying to show what would happen if a team like The Avengers existed in real life. The Ultimates become used as a tool of the government and end up causing a group of foreign countries to attack America with a Legion of Doom-type team consisting of superhumans from nations that the U.S. has attacked. Subsequent storylines deal with the idea of a superhuman arms race between the U.S. and hostile nations.
  • Even before The Ultimates, the Captain America character William Burnside (the Captain America of the 50's) was created as a deliberate response to the use of Politically Correct History for Golden Age superheroes. He and his sidekick Jack Monroe (the 50's Bucky) were depicted as being just as racist, sexist, and xenophobic as the average white male from the 1950's would likely have been.
  • Another interesting example by Grant Morrison is Fantastic 1234. At first, it seems like a traditional deconstruction of superheroes by way of the Fantastic Four, highlighting their 'real' personalities via highlighting their worst aspects as they would be in real life; Ben Grimm is a self pitying misanthrope with a violent temper, Reed Richards is a emotionless autistic who seems to value his inventions more than his friends and family, Johnny Storm is a brooding Greaser whose tastes for fast cars and fast women can't fill the void inside of him, and Sue Storm is an insecure, passive-agressive neurotic who feels she is trapped in a loveless marriage and is severely tempted to run off with Namor, who is presented as a coldblooded sexfiend willing to do anything to make Sue his own. However, it ends up being a subversion of such a deconstruction; Reed Richards has realised that Dr. Doom has been using a reality altering device to 'deconstruct' the Four and bring out the worst possible aspects of the four's personalities in order to destroy them and gain ultimate revenge on Richards. Richards builds his own variant of the machine to 'reconstruct' the Four and save the day, the point clearly being that the standard portrayal of the Four are their real personalities. In fact, for his arrogance Doom ends up being the one who's deconstructed, and rather painfully at that, where it is revealed that he is a lonely, pathetic man-child with a ridiculous speech pattern who is not even remotely on Reed Richards' level of genius and whose vendetta against the four is petty and stupid. Also, he seems to be going bald. Ouch.
  • Marvel comics Marvels and its Evil Twin Ruins similarly focus on the impact of superheroes on an "average" person.
  • DC Comics' Jonah Hex: Sounds like old fashioned Cowboys and Indians hijinx on the wild frontier, right? Riiight.
  • Princeless deconstructs a number of tropes pertaining to European fairy tales, such as the black lead becoming angry after a potential suitor refers to her as a "fair maiden". There's also some skewering of Stripperific superheroine costumes and the impracticality that would come with them.
  • The Valiant Comics flagship title, Harbinger, featured a groups of super powered teens on the run for their lives from a seemingly unbeatable business man who, at least at first, seems to be an Expy of Charles Xavier. While the man seemed to genuinely care for his subordinates, he never hesitated to mistreat them for the sake of what he felt was the greater good of humanity (which is to say, a better world that would be completely under his control). He was desperate to hunt down their protagonist because their team leader has the same powers as him - the near-unlimited telepathy and telekinesis and ability to activate superpowers in others. The hero, incidentally, wasn't exactly pure either - early issues in particular showing him using powers in selfish and potentially dangerous ways. It also does a good job showing the mental and emotional toil this kind of thing would have on a group of teens, constantly moving from town to town, and being the only thing keeping this guy from becoming dictator of the world.
    • Most of Valiant's titles were Deconstructive in nature. For another example, Shadow Man. The classic comic book plot "Heroes travel to the future to fight evil" is deconstructed in the Unity Crisis Crossover, where Shadow Man learns he's going to die in 1999. Shadow Man's book takes this and runs with it, showing him growing gradually more reckless and angsty as 1999 grows closer. In 1995 he even tries to kill himself, thinking that this at least will let him choose his own destiny. Sadly, the line was discontinued before 1999, so we never learn how this story arc ends.
  • Astro City is a deconstruction and a reconstruction. Like Marvels (by the same author), it focuses on the impact of superheroes on regular people, but also on the inner thoughts of heroes and villains. Even more so, it deals with those issues in ways that are not just negative or cynical as deconstructions often are. For example, one story dealt with a parent bringing his children to Astro City, and deciding that, after a chaotic night full of alien gods and life-threatening danger, the strength and idealism of the city's community was exactly the message he wanted to send his children. Other times, we see a woman spending decades blaming herself for driving off one of the world's most powerful heroes, or a lawyer's clever manipulation of super-hero tropes in a trial leading to deep danger for his entire family. And some stories switch gears midway...
  • Planetary, as an archeological survey of comic books, pulp fiction, and B-Movies, deconstructs any sci-fi trope it doesn't reconstruct or parody. The Hulk was captured by the army after his first rampage and took decades to starve to death in a silo. The Narmy B-Movie monsters are the result of horrifying Cold War experiments in American concentration camps. The Fantastic Four didn't just come back changed, they came back wrong. And Reed Richards isn't useless. He's the American Doctor Mengele.
  • Warren Ellis did a "thematic trilogy" for Avatar Press in which he deconstructs the superhero genre (yes, again). The first part, Black Summer, shows us what would happen if superheroes were too human. The second part, No Hero, shows what would happen if they put themselves above human laws. The third part, Supergod, shows what would happen if superheroes weren't even remotely human.
  • Kick-Ass in regards to superheroes in their teens. If you're not trained or otherwise prepared for fighting crime, then you get your ass kicked if you're lucky. If you are trained for fighting crime then you're a Child Soldier who likely has a mess of mind issues.
  • After all these superhero deconstructions, one might expect a supervillain deconstruction. Wanted (the comic book, not the movie) is about an Unlucky Everydude who gets invited to join a society of supervillains known as "The Fraternity." It's a world filled with eccentric, costumed renegades who spend their days doing just as they please, with nothing to fear from law enforcement - and what they please is decidedly unpleasant. Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds with a Dark and Troubled Past comes under fire as the Villain Protagonist goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against all the people who ever wronged him... including guys who made fun of him back in high school, and culminating in killing his own father. And looming over it all is the death's-head visage of Mister Rictus, who makes sure that we never forget the true face of Nightmare Fuel, or the consequences, both moral and aesthetic, of a life without concern for boundaries. In the end, it turns out that the only thing worse than This Loser Is You is This Loser Is Having Delusions Of Grandeur While Fucking You In The Ass.
  • A story from Grant Morrison's Animal Man run (noted for its Postmodernism) deconstructs Looney Tunes and similar cartoons: in "The Coyote Gospel," a grotesquely anthropomorphic coyote is repeatedly and brutally killed by an Elmer Fudd-style hunter obsessed with his destruction, and continuously reforms/regenerates in a most disturbing manner. Finally, in a scene reminiscent of the classic "Duck Amuck" short, the malevolent animator paints his blood in as he dies for the last time.
  • While a few elements are questionable, The Unfunnies is still a clever commentary on how writers are corrupting the once-innocent world of comics by injecting their own perversions into it. The story begins with a stereotypical Hanna-Barbera cartoon world of talking animals, then introduces prostitution, child pornography, and violence. Then it's revealed that the world's creator is a child rapist and murderer who's on death row, and created the world so he can switch places with a character there, and thus live forever. The whole "man in prison creates cartoon world that turns out to be real" plot is also lifted directly from Cool World. The Unfunnies asks why is he in prison? Wouldn't the world he created be just as insane as he is?
  • Tintin: The Castafiore Emerald, Flight 714, and Tintin and the Picaros are deconstructions of the Adventure genre and of the Tintin series in general.
  • The original The Punisher maxi-series by Garth Ennis featured a trio of vigilantes, each of whom are essentially a more realistic take on the concept behind the Punisher, as well as the entire "armed vigilante" sub-genre of fiction. Elite is a complete racist who primarily kills black and Latino men because he blames minorities for ruining society, the Holy is a mentally-disturbed serial killer who justifies his crimes by claiming he's punishing the wicked, and Mr. Payback is an idiot whose poor planning causes collateral damage and civilian casualties. The message seemed to be that while the Punisher is a cool character, he's also complete fiction; chances are real world vigilantes would not be as focused, unbiased, or precise as he is. The Punisher himself ends up killing them after delivering a "The Reason You Suck" Speech where he points out why they're terrible at being vigilantes.
  • Frank King's long-running comic strip Gasoline Alley was originally intended to be this; King believed that the idea of comic strip characters not aging was unrealistic, and set out to make a strip where they did. Unfortunately, adherence to the policy has made the strip even more unrealistic as a result due to its longevity; the original protagonist, Walt Wallet, is still included in the cast after its run of just short of a century, and is almost 111 years old. To make that worse, a few characters are exempt from this rule, like the comic relief characters Joel and Rufus, who never age a day.
  • Marvel's events between Age of Ultron and Secret Wars (2015) deconstruct the idea of Earth Is the Center of the Universe, the human heroes getting involved in cosmic level events and exactly what happens after you punch out Cthulhu. They also show that, contrary to most comics, violence is not always the answer and might does not always make right. The heroes continually make increasingly heavy-handed decisions in order to save the world which has far-reaching consequences, like the time traveling in Age Of Ultron creating a massive time rift that results in 616-Galactus almost destroying the Ultimate Marvel universe, and lets Ja'son of Spartax unite the universe in their hatred of Earth. The hastily-done destruction of the Web of Life and Destiny by the Superior Spider-Man in Spider-Verse and the cosmic-level destruction of the Maker in Ultimate Fantastic Four throws everything out of whack in a misgided attempt to set things right. The Illuminati's secretive nature ends up working against them in saving their universe with it basically stated had they told people instead of doing it themselves they could have prevented it rather easily. And it ends with Doctor Doom seizing ultimate power, all because of the heroes' arrogance.
  • Although not quite the stated goal of the comic or anything, Crossed deconstructs the idea of a Zombie Apocalypse, or more specifically, the idea of a zombie apocalypse portrayed as a fantasy world for armchair survivalists. Part of this is done by showing that zombies as we know them are a fictional entity, and if something like a zombie apocalypse actually happened in real life, there would be no guarantees on how they would work or what they would act like. The Crossed themselves seem to have been designed, at least in part, to show this off, by cranking the danger zombies present Up to Eleven, to the point that no amount of preparation could possibly prepare a real person for them. In this case, The Virus is a Hate Plague that removes all of the infected's inhibitions and turns them into a Combat Sadomasochist and is heavily implied to be something akin to a Biblical plague, and not only can they think, they actually frequently outsmart humans by taking routes a normal human's physical and moral limitations prevent them from even seeing as viable options.
  • Pick a World War II comic written by Garth Ennis. You will find: heroic if PTSD'ed grunts on both Allied and German sides, glaringly incompetent Officers At The Rear who couldn't find their ass with both hands and a map on both Allied and German sides, unflappable British soldiers who do most of the work compared to the Americans, and vastly superior German weapons and vehicles that only lost Germany the war because they were produced too little, too late.
    • His run on The Punisher and Nick Fury replaces that last one with "inept politicians who don't understand the situation and make everything worse for all involved, on both sides" in Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua and the Middle East.
  • Black Science is a deconstruction of pulp Weird Science adventure series like Lost in Space or Jonny Quest. The father who leads his family into adventure is an insufferably arrogant Mad Scientist, the strange worlds the heroes visit are more terrifying than fun, the fact that kids are brought along is criticized as blatant child endangerment, the Dr. Smith Expy is an Anti-Villain trying to Save Both Worlds, the Token Non-Human is a Blood Knight, and the method the heroes use to explore the multiverse is also threatening to destroy it and is arguably more of a threat than the actual villains.

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