By cbishop 42 Comments
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|23||08/30/10||Death Nor Consequences: Taking the "Hero" Out of "Superhero"||(Blog) (Forum)||Gen. Discussion||(Back) (Next)|
To the shock and horror of many, in my last blog, I asked, "When Is It Time to Quit Collecting Comics?" That discussion pretty much led me to the conclusion that quitting isn't really my issue. It's more that I've lost interest... sort of. I don't have the burning need to read a story when it's new, like I used to, but I still want to read it in trade. I still get excited about the idea of finding a great new comic, I still enjoy reading reprints of older material, and I still love creating my own characters. So it's not like age has abated my love of comics. I love 'em. My issue seems to be that I don't enjoy many of them.
I haven't read a story that gripped me in quite some time, and I've been trying to figure out why for almost as long. Something has been missing from my comics. Something that made me remember them, think about them, and go back to them. I have wracked my brain over and over, and just the other day, realized that the answer has been staring me in the face for a long time. It's the lack of death or consequences. That seems really simple. It's talked about quite a bit nowadays, especially with DC's Blackest Night putting the spotlight on the "revolving door of death." Until a couple of days ago though, I hadn't realized just how much the lack of those two things was really detracting from my enjoyment of the stories.
The circumstances of the "deaths" (in quotes, because some deaths only seemed to be death to other characters involved) and returns of recent years are common knowledge to most, so I won't go into them here. Look at the list of names though: Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers, Superman, Nightcrawler, Oliver Queen, Hal Jordan, Ted Kord, Jason Todd, Stephanie Brown, Batman, Reed Richards, Jean Grey... I'm sure there are ones that I've missed. Series characters are tough, because if you kill them off, that's the end of the series. Yet, if they don't face challenges that may kill them, it starts to become a question of "are they heroes, or just adrenaline junkies in costumes?" We scoff at deaths in comics, because most characters are guaranteed to return. The only time it's really a question is if it's a "second tier" or lower character (like Ted Kord [as much as I love the guy, he's only second tier]), or if there's a legacy character with the same name (like Connor Hawke as Green Arrow). Even then though, this only creates a little doubt, because chances are, if they wear a costume, they'll come back eventually.
Then there's consequences. It used to be that superheroes showed us, the readers, the difference between right and wrong, and the consequences of wrong actions. Now, it seems that they merely show us that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is okay, as long as you can get away with it. The Punisher kills without remorse, but always manages to manipulate things so he doesn't take a fall for it. Wolverine's character used to be about a violent man of honor. Now, it seems that he kills as a means to an end, and "berserker rage" is a justification in itself. Jason Todd thinks killing is the way to take care of badguys, yet still thinks himslef a hero. Shadowland seems like a cool story, but c'mon, it's about Daredevil becoming a badguy. And Spider-Man. Oh. my. gawd.
Spider-Man made an actual deal with the devil, and the result is a happy shiny retcon, removing problematic plot points? Yes, he gave up his wife and future child, but that's it? "Deal with the devil" stories are notorious for the devil taking far more than the dealer bargained for. Is that coming for Spider-Man, or was this just a convenient plot device to retcon Spidey with? I mean, with the fantastic results that Spider-Man got, a deal with the devil seems no more dicey than buying a used car.
These are not the actions of heroes.
To put it in a real world perspective, look at 9-11. We hailed our police, fire and rescue as heroes, because they ran into the World Trade Center towers when everyone else was running out, at the cost of their lives. We found them inspiring again, because these sacrifices were so graphically thrust into our lives. It's literally of Biblical proportions: "No greater love has any man than this: that he would lay down his life for his brother."
That's a hero.
A killer is not a hero (Punisher, Wolverine, Jason Todd). A man that turns from good to evil to enforce his ideas of how things should be is not a hero. He's a would-be-tyrant (Daredevil). A man who makes a deal with the devil is not a hero. He's a coward (Spider-Man). A man who walks across the country to find himself is not a hero. He's a hippie. When he leaves his wife and other responsibilities to do so, he's a man-child (Superman).
I have always prided myself on being able to take a story and enjoy it for what it is. Even if I don't agree with the direction a character is taken in, or with how a character was changed during a reboot, I feel I can still say if the story is good or not. I don't mind if a character has to make hard choices, or even if he has to choose between the lesser of two evils to get the job done. I do want heroes though - characters that go into battle knowing they might die, and do it anyway, because there are other people in need. Granted, most dead-and-returned heroes don't know they're going to be coming back. As readers, we do, but the characters don't. Still, I want more from my comics. I want to be inspired by them again. Heroes should be able to do that. Is that so much to ask?
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