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Are we cynical about superheroes?

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Aldo930 Professional Moldy Fig/Curmudgeon from Quahog, R.I.
Professional Moldy Fig/Curmudgeon
Dec 22nd 2014 at 2:38:04 PM

[up] But, as I said earlier, there are people who may tell you that they are more accessible, in whatever way, than modern superhero stuff.

It's not the length, it's the accessibility that's the problem with these guys.

edited 22nd Dec '14 2:38:51 PM by Aldo930

"They say I'm old fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast."
Dec 22nd 2014 at 2:44:26 PM

[up][up] Maybe you're thinking of Spirou.

wehrmacht belongs to the hurricane from the garden of everything Relationship Status: YOU'RE TEARING ME APART LISA
belongs to the hurricane
Dec 22nd 2014 at 4:17:05 PM

the problem to me isn't really that stories keep being made about the characters so much as the fact that they all have to be in continuity means that there are some very large pitfalls in terms of writing quality.

to use an example of what i'm talking about, the joker in the dcau eventually died. and this death stuck. he was brought back from the dead ONCE and it was actually a big deal because characters don't just come back from the dead willy nilly in that universe. the stories and characters are allowed to come to a close, and be replaced by new versions of the characters who can be taken in different directions.

i made a whole thread about this, but the whole shared universe and approach to continuity from both DC and Marvel is extremely conducive to terrible writing.

Noaqiyeum The it-thingy from the October Country Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
The it-thingy
Dec 23rd 2014 at 11:01:46 AM

In what sense is the Doctor not a superhero?

Anyone who looks dangerous is dangerous. Anyone who doesn't look dangerous is dangerous and sneaky.
PersistentMan My journal is ready Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
My journal is ready
Dec 23rd 2014 at 11:12:37 AM

Yes, we really are cynical about superheroes. Really.

Have you forgotten the face of your father, troper?
VampireBuddha Hungry dinosaur from Ireland Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
Hungry dinosaur
Dec 23rd 2014 at 11:13:07 AM

On the subject of accessibility, it should be noted that each Tintin album is self-contained. It tells a complete story that doesn't rely or build on past issues. Hence, there's no chance of continuity lockout.

Judge Dredd goes the opposite route, as it has a decent amount of continuity, but avoids lockout by a few key decisions. First, very few antagonists appear more than twice, and even the supporting cast tends to appear only sporadically. Second, the other stories in the same universe are only published in at most a few installments a year; thus there is little opportunity for the epic soap operas that dominate American superheroes to develop. Secondly, Dredd only appears in two comics, and the Megazine stories are 99% stuff that tells a good story but doesn't majorly alter the status quo. Third, it doesn't use comic book time, so the fridge logic of how PJ Maybe killed all those people without being gunned down in five minutes doesn't arise.

Finally, 2000 AD, wherein the primary stories are told, is a weekly anthology. This means that a) it appears in more frequent doses, so the reader's memory of the last installment is fresher than with a monthly comic, and b) if a crossover does happen, there's no need to buy another comic book since the other comics are part of the same physical product. (Yes I'm thinking of "Trifecta").

EDIT DUE TO NINJAFICATION:

In what sense is the Doctor not a superhero?

He doesn't have an alter-ego or secondary identity, nor does he dress in a unique, distinctive, copyrightable costume. I'm also not sure the TARDIS counts as having superpowers.

edited 23rd Dec '14 11:15:27 AM by VampireBuddha

Dec 24th 2014 at 11:33:05 PM

I'm also not sure the TARDIS counts as having superpowers.

Isn't he immortal or something though? Wikipedia also says his species perceives the past, present and future all at once or something confusing like that, IDK.

IndirectActiveTransport You Give Me Fever from Chicago Relationship Status: Coming soon to theaters
You Give Me Fever
Dec 25th 2014 at 10:25:37 AM

He has the ability to regenerate thirteen times, at which point he dies for good (or restarts the process over, circumstances depending) and the regeneration will just keep going until allowed to die down and settle into his new form(it can be overwhelmed, in theory). Also, when the species goes to war and they lose they just reset time until they win. He's really good at staying alive point being but can theoretically die. And no, the Doctor is not a superhero.

So who is an on going superhero? We mentioned the Power Puff Girls, they weren't exactly set up with some kind of end game, their stories could theoretically go on, but the Power Puffs mainly had themselves. They didn't have to worry about anything happening in Dexter's lab, Dial M for Monkey, ect. More over, Power Puff was a comedy first, action thing second, drama third, if you're lucky.

Spider-man doesn't just have to worry about Spider-man, or even what spun off directly from Spider-man (Morbius, Punisher, Cloak&Dagger, Spider-girl, Venom, et all), a silly Avengers plot about "registration" act can completely ruin him, he has to deal with the "Secret Wars" involving a cosmic being more suited for Dr. Strange or the Silver Surfer, Loki exists in his world, ect. It can work but is often a recipe for disaster.

Moreover, Power Puff often fluctuated in several ways for the sake of telling a story (wait, they were scared of being dumped in molten metal before but now we're looking at a prequel and they're diving in molten magma?) but more often than not, Rule of Funny was the driving force behind it. (Mojojojo just beat the alien menace with his bare hands when he never showed that kind of ability before and never would again? Did you laugh at it? Then shut up!) Spider-man vs the Firelord? Not so much.

That has less to do with cynicism and more with plot quality, or lack there of. Sue me. He makes a good point about saving people though. Usually saving people is the DC comics thing and just beating the bad guy is Marvel's Spider-man did do his best to protect people in those two movies, and they were on a more personal scale than "Save Manhattan-New York-The Country-Earth" anyway, so in that sense they were toned well.

That's why he wants you to have the money. Not so you can buy 14 Cadillacs but so you can help build up the wastes
Dec 25th 2014 at 11:46:12 PM

Personally, I would call the Doctor a superhero. Not in the traditional sense, obviously, but even so I do think he qualifies. And whether or not he has a secret ID is open to debate, I think...

Exploder Pretending to be human
Pretending to be human
Jan 3rd 2015 at 6:39:15 AM

Thread Hop:

Related to the title, I'd like to ask another question. There have been occasional claims that superheroes as a concept or in their current execution are fascist. How do you regard this statement, and if you agree with it, how to, well, make it not fascist?

edited 3rd Jan '15 6:39:46 AM by Exploder

VampireBuddha Hungry dinosaur from Ireland Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
Hungry dinosaur
Jan 3rd 2015 at 7:48:59 AM

Is the concept of superheroes problematic? Sure. (Although Marvel is pretty good about ameliorating the inherent issues). Fascist. No way; Colin Wilson makes a pretty cohesive argument why they're fundamentally liberal.

Jan 3rd 2015 at 11:34:31 AM

I agree. Superheroes are strongly averse to centralized authority, much less acting as one themselves; fascism banks highly on the opposite sentiment. His Eisenfurher stint during the Civil War notwithstanding, even Iron Man is more of a left-libertarian entrepreneur than a conservative action icon.

Rather, I'd say the popular image of well-known powerhouses as all but unchallenged and undisputed procurers of justice can sound a bit too much like something out of a propaganda short. Same goes for the aforementioned movie incidents of Iron Man or Batman staging illegal precision strikes and kidnappings in foreign countries. Or the Justice League's habit of keeping superweapons in international orbital space, ostensibly for protection from invaders. So yeah, the concept itself is quite liberal, but some instances understandably raise a few eyebrows.

edited 3rd Jan '15 11:39:19 AM by indiana404

IndirectActiveTransport You Give Me Fever from Chicago Relationship Status: Coming soon to theaters
You Give Me Fever
Jan 3rd 2015 at 6:20:15 PM

Rather, I'd say the popular image of well-known powerhouses as all but unchallenged and undisputed procurers of justice can sound a bit too much like something out of a propaganda short.
See, that's not what I think when I think "superhero".

I think member of the community who happens to be able to handle certain things the rest cannot. I think of a hammy super villain proclaiming the established power structure obsolete and demanding the populace bow to him. The citizen security guard catches word and steps out of the lobby telling the villain to cease and desist. He refuses and makes an elaborate metaphor belittling her powers in comparison to his own nigh omnipotence. They fight, the villain gains a temporary advantage by forcing the hero to catch a bus full of orphans but the hero discovers the villain's weakness/uses some desperation super move/gets a necessary distraction from the supposedly helpless orphans, wins, then returns the store, where an accident occurred while she was away, forcing her to work late.

Seriously, I don't look at She-Hulk and think The ‹bermensch. Hell, I don't even get that from Thor, and he's literally a god. Maybe Sentry, but that Creator's Pet is part of the reason I don't read Marvel comics anymore anyway.

Even when the superhero decides to take things into his own hands and track down the villain's lair, it usually lead to "AHAHAH! You have fallen into my trap. No one will hear you scream!" with the superhero only surviving due to the villain's character flaws and or some unexpected plot development.

Even in the Ironman film example, I took that as A) Tony Stark gets kidnapped by warlords using his own weapons, nearly dies, barely escapes. B)Tony Stark sees Warlords on tv. Gets angry, takes revenge, causes an international incident. C)Warlords later mysteriously drop dead thanks to Obadiah Ironmonger, who was supplying the warlords in the first place. Ironmonger dies, Warlords have no weapons, and there is peace for a little while. Stark mistakenly credits himself, then a new super villain shows just how wrong he is. Yes, he made an illegal strike, and he almost got shot down for it and had the government trying to confiscate his means for doing so.

I haven't watched Ironman three, as I was getting tired of Marvel Movies around that point but you make it sound like illegal strikes on foreign nations were the movie's central theme. As I remember, he bombed some warlords and that combined with lack of him no longer supplying them and some events he didn't even know about, got everyone quiet for few months before they went right back to the way that had been before when Hammer started weaponizing the world instead.

Rather, if I had a complaint about the Marvel movies. It'd be how pathetic Loki's little invasion force in Avengers was, how much collateral damage the superheroes allowed them to commit despite their overall unimpressive display, the fact S.H.I.E.L.D. is a branch of the UN and yet tried to NUKE an American city, the very thing the UN exists to prevent, that the superheroes had a big stupid knockdown fight between themselves while Loki simply stood around and watched simply because. I can even forgive the collateral damage thing considering the Hulk was one of the people involved and the city was still standing. Hell, that Hulk was pretty much an actual superhero and team player at the end of the movie, the Hulk who was responsible for turning Marvel comics into a Crapsack World, makes me think we weren't getting cynical of superheroes until maybe Amazing Spider-man and man of steel came around. Even then, I think that's cynical, lazy cash in (we need to get our superheroes out there and make it bigger and dumber than what marvel is doing!) rather than cynical of superheroes themselves.

That's why he wants you to have the money. Not so you can buy 14 Cadillacs but so you can help build up the wastes
Jan 3rd 2015 at 11:40:13 PM

Fair points all around. I can even add to the Iron Man example that, while "evil terrorists exist and we have to take them down by extra-legal means" is one of those nigh-fascist themes, the reveal that it was in fact a member of the home team who supplied them and the root causes are ultimately internal, works precisely to the opposite effect. The overall message reads that yes, foreign baddies exist, but they'd be nowhere near as dangerous if local forces didn't prop them up. War on Terror applicability optional.

The Loki-led invasion is much more straightforward, though the underlying themes are similar, likely accounting for (part of) the guy's massive popularity - I mean, raise a kid under a gigantic lie, and you really shouldn't wonder why he turns unstable, treacherous and deceitful when he finds out of it.

Still, the Batman example holds true, in that the terrorists really were unprovoked, destructive for its own sake, and taken out by hastily justified breaches of privacy. And my personal criticism regarding Man of Steel was that Superman ultimately saves the world from invaders that wouldn't have come if he wasn't here in the first place. Doubly ironic when you consider that offering salvation from an ultimately self-created otherworldly threat is one of the main criticisms against the religion the film so anviliciously tried to symbolize.

So, I guess the fascism accusations could be aimed more at the DC end of the scale, and not even much of that. Kinda like how in the JLA/Avengers crossover, the latter team thought the former were self-styled dictators with good publicity, a far cry from the less-appreciated heroes of Marvel. Being more of a Marvel fan and used to their way of doing things, I usually have the same reaction to some DC sentiments as well.

Jan 4th 2015 at 11:59:53 AM

DC superheroes tend to look more 'fascist-like' in part because the ungrateful, prejudiced, rat-bastard overall citizens of the Marvel Universe are the ones actually the most fascist-thinking in that universe, and by contrast their heroes, especially those who are persecuted like Spider-Man and the X-Men, tend to look better and more 'liberal'. Really, other than short hiccups like Legends, where it takes massive outside alien influence, the DC populace is the kind that will only elect Lex Luthor as POTUS if they're tricked into believing the Outed Evil Luthor was a murderous clone of the really nice guy. While Marvel's populace is the type that will openly embrace the fucking Green Goblin as their head of security and are always two steps away from pushing mutants into concentration camps after siccing giant murderous robots on them.

edited 4th Jan '15 12:01:01 PM by NapoleonDeCheese

GAP Formerly G.G. from Who Knows?
Formerly G.G.
Jan 4th 2015 at 1:48:45 PM

DC does have some fascist undertones? Marvel is liberal? Hmm is a right at this point.

edited 4th Jan '15 1:50:42 PM by GAP

"The King Slime. He's awesome. But Metal King Slime is even more awesome!"
Jan 5th 2015 at 11:24:45 AM

Well, if you define Fascism as it is..um..defined, then no. Superheroes are not unltranational militarists who emphasize the primacy of their particular states. At worst, they're super-empowered individualists who occasionally form extra-national coalitions with a disturbing amount of centralized power. In most traditional itetrations, super-heroes don't make laws or even try to enforece their own will. Traditionally, they're super-powerful or super-empowered individuals doing what amounts to their civic duty. Certainly, stories have been told in which "super-heroes" ARE fascists, but I don't think the idea is intrinsically such. It's not fascist for an ordinary citizen to prevent a mugging, so it's not, as far as I'm concerned, fascist for Batman to stop the Joker from gassing Gotham City.

Jan 6th 2015 at 6:38:43 AM

I'd say the darker tones of the current generation of superhero films also play a significant part in how superheroes are perceived. Used to be that superhero universes were relatively decent places to live in, with the overall message that the world is just awesome because there's these good guys who go out of their way to help people, so the occasional alien attack or trigger-happy nutcase isn't all that worrisome. Nowadays however, the pathos is all about how we live in a borderline crapsack world, and the Apocalypse is always just around the corner, so we need self-styled extra-judicial enforcers to stave it off - and that's a classic fascist rhetoric right there. Who wouldn't be cynical after trying to take it at face value?

edited 6th Jan '15 6:39:58 AM by indiana404

Jan 6th 2015 at 7:03:59 AM

Does that have to do with Silver Age comics being directed to children? Because in comparison to modern comics, those stories seem like the heros' version of paradise. Because they would be bored if they didn't have any threats to fight.

Jan 6th 2015 at 7:16:33 AM

Less because they were aimed at children than that they were overseen by the Comics Code Authorty to make sure they were "safe" for children. 40's era comics like Daredevil and Crime Does Not Pay (to name just two) were aimed at kids too, and the former depicted kid cults killing other kids and the latter was Quentin Tarrantino-level violent. The idealized world of the Silver Age was by parental-group decree; comics writers themselves obviously had different ideas about what kids could handle.

Jan 6th 2015 at 7:31:26 AM

Conversely, the popularity of more straightforward anti-heroes like Wolverine and the Punisher, early Batman, or even non-costumed serial killer killers like Dexter may stem from the rational-under-the-stated-circumstances mindset that, if ostensible lawmen are too corrupt to do their job, ordinary citizens are justified in going however far it takes to make up for it, and need only decent aim or a sharp blade to do so, rather than physics-defying superpowers or billions of dollars' worth of improbably-non-lethal ordnance. There's quite a bit of elegance in such simplicity.

And, as an afterthought, it's getting more than a little grating to keep on pumping cliched lines about "inspiring people" and "making a difference" in a genre medium where designated muggles are contractually barred from being little more than ineffectual bystanders for the capes to save; and, in general, Nothing. Ever. Changes. There's the ultimate cause for cynicism, all but woven in as a necessary genre convention - that unlike any other narrative that may start with those cliches but actually has the decency to end on a higher note, the superhero mythos keeps going and going, until they become all but meaningless.

edited 8th Jan '15 1:46:18 AM by indiana404

Jan 19th 2015 at 12:41:41 PM

[QUOTE] Still, the Batman example holds true, in that the terrorists really were unprovoked, destructive for its own sake, and taken out by hastily justified breaches of privacy. And my personal criticism regarding Man of Steel was that Superman ultimately saves the world from invaders that wouldn't have come if he wasn't here in the first place. Doubly ironic when you consider that offering salvation from an ultimately self-created otherworldly threat is one of the main criticisms against the religion the film so anviliciously tried to symbolize. [QUOTE]

Bruce is only able to find the Joker's location using the sonar tech but by then the Joker has accomplished his goal of corrupting Harvey. Clark is an infant when he is sent to Earth and cannot be held accountable for Zod's actions, especially since Zod did not need to destroy Earth as the film points out.

edited 19th Jan '15 12:46:16 PM by windleopard

Jan 19th 2015 at 1:15:08 PM

Given that Krypton already had an advance probe on Earth that arrived eons before Clark did, and given that Zod and his minions were checking the locations of ALL the probes for a new place to Krypto-form with their nifty world-engine, I think, given the circumstances, they would have showed up whether he was here or not.

Jan 19th 2015 at 1:18:55 PM

Point. Though at any rate, that's my criticism toward the story itself, it's pretty clear baby Kal-El can't be blamed just for arriving on Earth. Mind you, I did find something funny in how he was supposed to be born naturally, with no genetic tampering... and then Jor-El loaded him up with the biological imprint of an entire world. I realize it was a dire time, but man, way to put a planet's worth of pressure on the kid even before he starts teething. Putting that next to how quickly Zod swerved into stupid evil territory, never mind the overreaching complacency that doomed Krypton in the first place, and I really started thinking that world had a bit too much lead in its crust altogether.

In general, another criticism frequently leveled at Man of Steel - that Clark was too grim and gritty to bear, and his relationship with Lois had no chemistry - may hint at a particular fault of superhero writing, rather than the superheroes themselves, that drives fans away. Namely that, in banking on them being upstanding and courageous, writers often forget to make them truly likable, and personable enough to care about. For instance, back in The New 52's early Justice League run, the only members who felt human were Green Lantern and the Flash - a regular buddy cop duo worthy of their own title. They were still noble and heroic, but they also did it with flare and played off one another way better than the vaunted Batman-Superman tag-team. In short, they weren't just heroes, but fleshed-out and colorful characters in their own right.

Then again, stating that superheroes are cool but superhero comics need significant improvement isn't exactly a revolutionary idea, now, is it?

edited 19th Jan '15 1:25:35 PM by indiana404

Jan 19th 2015 at 1:25:43 PM

[up] Oh, I agree. Too much Krypton, not enough Clark Kent, IMO. I think it's a fault in many writers' approach to Superman stories and, in a larger sense, super hero stories in general.

Most writers who deal with Green Lantern and Flash together agree that the two characters actually like and trust each other. Writers (and perhaps worse, editors) can't seem to make up their minds whether Superman and Batman actually like each other, just respect each other, or plain dislike each other. Makes it hard to put them in "buddy cop" mode.

edited 19th Jan '15 1:28:27 PM by Robbery


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