Comic Talk and General Discussion *

Quackcast 64- the evolution of the Superhero! Contributions?
Ozoneocean at 7:18AM, Feb. 8, 2012
posts: 28,737
joined: 1-2-2004
Banes is the special guest for this one.

We want to know about what makes a good superhero!

How did they come to be?

Are they based on the same traditions as the hero characters from myth like King Arthur, Beowulf, Thor, Hercules and The Monkey King?

What are your fave super heroes?

What's the difference between modern superheroes and golden or silver age ones?

Does a good superhero need a good supervillian like the Joker or Apocalypse or Magneto?

Why are some heroes only ever second rate and not big stars like Superman and Batman etc?

Who are your fave Webcomic superheroes? Any from Drunkduck?

Answer any, all or none of those, or just talk about superheros because Banes and I know almost nothing about them!
I haven't even seen the new Batman movies!
last edited on Feb. 8, 2012 7:26AM
Niccea at 7:43AM, Feb. 8, 2012
posts: 5,877
joined: 8-10-2007
I can't contribute much to this either. Really isn't my genre. I just happen to have two superhero comics… DON'T LOOK AT ME!
RPGgrenade at 9:13AM, Feb. 8, 2012
posts: 153
joined: 10-4-2009
Niccea wrote: I can't contribute much to this either. Really isn't my genre. I just happen to have two superhero comics… DON'T LOOK AT ME!

i'm not really qualified for that either, i tried once to make one (I've started at least 10 different comics, most of them didn't make it)
As for super hero comics, i really have no idea what to say =/ it's one of those genres i just don't know much about.

The liquid creations of Gods passed down to man, but sometimes an object of the gods' realm can cause chaos in the mortal realm.
Read Nectar of the Gods!
the_beav at 11:05AM, Feb. 8, 2012
posts: 15
joined: 9-30-2011
I'm pretty sure Turok counts as a super hero. He definitely hung out with super heros when Valiant took over. What drew me to the Turok comics as a kid was actually quite gimmicky - it always had dinosaurs on the cover. To be honest, a good gimmick might be the first mark of a good super hero. You have to have something that grabs the reader's attention.
A lot of the silver age comics had the same plot. Turok and Andar are scouting around, they find some people, solve their problems, there's a moral at the end and then they continue wandering. I still feel a good super hero needs some sort of moral element; they still need to stand for something, and something good. I honestly believe people have forgotten this point, and that is why Turok is now a bald space marine. I don't think he's even native american anymore >:(
It helps if their visual aesthetic supports the moral theme they stand for. Superman represents truth, justice, and the american way and his costume, as well as being a gimmick to sell comics, it helps to personify those themes in conjunction with his perfectly coiffed hair.
As forfor why some heroes are only ever second-raters, all I have to say is R.I.P MAGNUS THE ROBOT FIGHTER TT_TT It's best that you're not around anymore.
Abt_Nihil at 11:15AM, Feb. 9, 2012
posts: 1,462
joined: 8-7-2007
the_beav wrote:
(…)Turok is now a bald space marine. I don't think he's even native american anymore >:(
It helps if their visual aesthetic supports the moral theme they stand for. Superman represents truth, justice, and the american way(…)
Didn't Superman also abandon his US citizenship last year? :P
In the following, I'll go through your (= Oz's) questions in the order they're posed.
I don't have a well-thought-out theory about what superheroes are, but I asked myself this question when I started working on Bombshell (this question is actually posed on the very first page). I also gravitate towards the idea that they're the modern equivalents of mythological heroes (I had some discussions with DAJB about that, and DAJB seems to be a proponent of this theory).
But I also think that there are several ingredients to the modern superhero, another being the pulp vigilantes, the pulp adventures (of which Indiana Jones would be a derivative) and so forth. Even Zorro has left his mark on superheroes - Batman is often thought of as referncing Zorro, and in some versions of his origin story, young Bruce Wayne watches “The Mark of Zorro” at the movies, right before his parents are killed.
Batman is also my favorite superhero, because he seems most relevant and least escapist to me. He's also more about psychological aspects than sheer gimmicky powers and special abilities, which is more interesting to me.
I think silver age superheroes are more naive and escapist in general. They always respond to what a specific audience in a specific era needs. Later superheroes were grittier, and today I'd say they're back to being fun. At least potentially - there always exist a lot of different types of stories side by side, but in general, I think superheroes have moved away from the darkness and cynicism of the 80s and 90s. I can't give good reasons, except that it seems to be the general Zeitgeist (i.e. in movies, music and literature too).
As for the “good villain” question: I think the more superheroes are written as potentially infinitely ongoing series, and the less of a definite character arc there is to them, the more they need good villains. If you chronicle a character arc (such as in Batman: Year One), then you basically just need a task for them to accomplish, and during which they can grow. In an ongoing series, rotating good villains, who always stay fresh, is quite necessary, I think.
There are multiple (independent) reasons for why superheroes are first-rate. For now I'll pick three: The degree of how iconic they are, how interesting they are as characters, and how relevant they are for the Zeitgeist. Consequently, second-rate heroes fail those tests.
I read very few superhero webcomics, but DAJB's “Shades” definitely stands out, because it's well constructed, has great writing and interesting characters. These reasons are quite independent of genre considerations. I read comics if they're good, and don't consider genre as much. “Magellan” is also great, especially for the amount of work and detail put into it. And “Vanguard” is very cool too…
last edited on Feb. 11, 2012 8:53AM
bravo1102 at 7:53PM, Feb. 9, 2012
posts: 6,048
joined: 1-21-2008
Think about it this way; the first fictional heroes were “super” heroes. Gil-gamesh had what we'd call superhuman powers as did Hercules, Odysseusand Achilles so heroes have always been difined by some special kind of “power” that puts them above the norm.The Medieval romances made historical figures into mythical heroes. Alexander and Caesar gained super powers and fought magical creatures.Some characters of Arthur started out as Celtic deities, then became people with extraordinary godlike powers.

The only difference now is that in comics they are dressed up in colorful leotards and capes rather than tunics, sandals, chainmailandproudly crested helmets. Though of course the Marvel Universe has superhero versions of Hercules and Arthur and everyone else's mythology show up at one point or another. Even Dracula got the superhero treatment at one point. So any and all heroes can be “superheroes” Even that normal war hero guy Sergeant Rock was teamed with Batman in a Silver Age Brave and the Bold against Dracula if I remember correctly.
Ozoneocean at 9:25PM, Feb. 9, 2012
posts: 28,737
joined: 1-2-2004
Great contributions so far!
Any more stuff about modern superheros? Does anyone read or whatch the stuff coming out these days?

I've not seen Captain America, the new superman, the Hulk, Batman, or Spiderman films, or even watchmen.
But I've seen Kick-Ass, the two Iron Man films, most of the 80s/90s batman Films, the classic Superman movies, two of the Xmen films, both Hellboy movies, and Thor.

I never read the comics either, but I did watch all the classic animated shows when I was little, including those old, old ones that were basically just filmed comic book pages with voice acting and some limited animation (Ironman, The Hulk, Thor).
All of what I know about modern superheors is pretty much based on The old crappy Superfriends and the Justice league cartoons.

I remember there was one theory that stated that superhero comics were the kid friendly version of the pulps, so they stayed pretty tame in the old days. But as that audience aged, the genre grew up with them, to meet their expectations; So it got darker and more mature.
And that's why it started to die- because it wasn't doing the same thing for newer younger fans.
MrHades at 6:59AM, Feb. 10, 2012
posts: 173
joined: 1-25-2008

Old Bats was pretty hardcore back in the day!
Hey, why not follow me on Twitter? User name: @THE_MrHades
the_beav at 7:50AM, Feb. 10, 2012
posts: 15
joined: 9-30-2011
ozoneocean wrote:
And that's why it started to die- because it wasn't doing the same thing for newer younger fans.
Well, Marvel's Civil War finale sold something like 260,000 copies, give or take ten grand, and these aren't page hits these are hard copies so saying super heroes are dead or dying would be a little preemptive - i mean, the health of these comics are tied to Disney now, so they're probably not going anywhere. Maybe they're, like, spiritually dead to you, ozone? Now, that I can't contest.
Regardless, the same thing has been said about video games, but from what I can tell the kids love their killerspiel.
I know enough about super hero comics that the place to look for the start of this maturation process would be Jack Kirby, he injected a lot of angst into the genre that appealed to the teen audience, and he considered his characters as the new myths, or new gods. It also helps that all these super heroines are basically nude. I mean, in the same way that the greeks used to drape a sopping wet cloth over their models. -Just- enough clothing to keep the moral conservatives from knocking.
We should have a nude week on drunkduck where everybody draws their comics as normal except all the characters are inexplicably naked.
Ozoneocean at 8:29AM, Feb. 10, 2012
posts: 28,737
joined: 1-2-2004
I like that naked idea ^_^

As for “started to die” I meant in a general sense. You know; there was a massive explosion of superhero comic characters in the late 80s or 90s or something when lots of new characters came into being and lots of “side” character types had their own successful lines…
I suppose you could say that possibly coincided with old school fans finally having the money t indulge themselves in their passion and new people coming into comics because they appreciate the swing the genre had taken?

But that explosion contracted right down. Most of those side characters lost out and the comic industry had to retool and focus on their main, popular lines only.

Tat civil war thing, as I understand it, was mainly a gimmick to get people buying comics again and also to help slim down the universe by giving minor characters proper endings…?
The new popularity of the newer films is a newer thing ^_^
After the batman movies in the 90s things died right down, till Spiderman, X-men and and Ironman made it all cool again.


Now, I admit I don't know a lot of that first hand, but I've been around comic fans enough to have picked some of it up… even though much might be wrong because I remember badly…
But I know it hasn't been a smooth progress, I know the comic market has grown and shrunk time and again and I know that while comic movies are cool now, that was not always the case.

I remember back in the 90s when there were comic shops all over the place… and then in the 2000s there were hardly any.

Feel free to correct me. A lot. Because I need to get this stuff right! ^____^
Kroatz at 1:11PM, Feb. 10, 2012
posts: 2,417
joined: 8-18-2008
Super heroes used to be an inspiration to the, back then, very young comic book readers. They were able to perform amazing things and they all had an unshakeable moral code that they lived by.

Over the years superheroes grew up, just as the audience did. Problems they have are no longer fully caused by supervillains. The art style grew more adult and often more realistic. As the heroes became more human in appearance they evolved in the same way in their behaviour. Spider-man got married. Superheroes died and for a while they actually stayed dead, the ones they left behind suffered and grieved. Batman had sex.

Most of these more mature themes already existed in many of the indie comics. The big two only included those kinds of stories to appeal to a new demographic, they made the heroes more humans because that was what the audience needed.

What makes a great superhero? A great superhero evolves with it's audience, inspires them when they need it and shocks them with new changes when they get bored. There are many heroes and none of them is a bad superhero. Some people like Deadpool for his quirky attitude, others like 3-D man for saving the world from a Skrul invasion. The only real reason second rate heroes exist is because some heroes have bad writers. The Mad Hatter's only real power is the ability to wear hats. The Spirit's only power is the ability to get punched in the face a bit more than normal people. The Joker is nothing but a clown in a cheap purple suit unless you manage to capture elements of a truly psychotic mind. Every character has the ability to be the greatest hero in the universe as long as the writer behind them has enough talent.

A good superhero needs conflict to be able to show how good they are. Deadpool's greatest enemy is his own failing mind. Batman suffers not only from a serious clown infestation but also with the knowledge that he is getting older and will one day make a mistake. Wolverine suffers from his past and the knowledge that no matter what awful thing will happen, no matter which of his friends will die and no matter what he does wrong he will be forced to live the concequences. It is impossible to appreciate the light a single candle brings until you see the darkness it is surrounded by on every side.

My favorite super hero is not technically a super hero. His name was Morpheus, the god of dreams and he is to this day te greatest character Neil Gaiman ever created. The reason Morpheus is a great hero is because he suffers. Every woman he ever loved whithers and dies. He has responsibilities he feels are no longer neccesary. His family is very needy and requires his help at every turn and, much like wolverine, he knows he never has the power to truly die. The tale of Morpheus, the sandman, is such a strong one because he has more power than anyone, possibly even more than his brothers and sisters, and yet he does not feel that he has the right to live his own life. He creates his own worst enemy.
The feeling you get, right before you poop.
That's the best feeling in the world.

- Albert Einstein
the_beav at 5:27PM, Feb. 10, 2012
posts: 15
joined: 9-30-2011
Well, Civil War was a Frank Miller storyline you might recognize it as the story that killed off captain america (that was in the news) and i'm not entirely sure but it might have tangentially rebooted the spiderman series that had been ongoing since forever (all the fans lost their collective shit over that it was pretty hilarious) but it serves the same purpose as a lot of these story arcs like Planet Hulk, World War Hulk, All-Star Superman. They do their best to drum up the hype machine and push comics out the door and then they're wrapped up and sold as trade paperbacks. Trades are what is slowly resurrecting the industry from the crash.
On a side note, the crash of the 90s wasn't necessarily caused by the public's interest or disinterest in comics. It was because the distributors of comics created a bubble that had people opening comics shops and production companies spitting out comics hand over fist to meet the demand. When all was said and done all the small retail stores went out of business and collectors lost their knee-caps, so there was some loss of interest on the part of collectors but with the advent of the internet it seems like they would have lost their legs one way or another.
Anyways, trade paperbacks are what's setting the pacing of these storylines, at least until web readers replace them, but hopefully we'll never see that happen. I like trades. They provide a good bit of story at a fair price, the materials they're printed on are quality. It's ideal.
That's not to say they make good movies though.
The Green Lantern was based on the Secret Origins arc, and, well, that comic should have stayed a comic.
Abt_Nihil at 5:12AM, Feb. 11, 2012
posts: 1,462
joined: 8-7-2007
The_beav raises some important points (esp. about the 90s bubble), just one correction:
the_beav wrote:
Well, Civil War was a Frank Miller storyline…
Actually, it was Mark Millar. Big difference :)
As for crossovers like Civil War: the_beav mentions bringing in new readers (i.e. people who hadn't read superhero comics before) by creating a hype. That's definitely one reason, but I'd like to add two more:
By bringing characters from several series together, you might convince someone who's already reading, say, Spider-Man, to also start reading Iron Man. Back in my teens, when I had just started reading DC Comics, that worked pretty well for me. I'd been reading just Batman and a bit of Superman, but it was the crossovers that led to my “branching out” within the DC Universe.
Also, even if you're already reading several separate titles, there's a demand for reading stories in which heroes meet. It's always interesting from a story point of view - beyond any marketing tactics. I'm not involved in Heroes Alliance for selling anything, but for the sheer fun of having characters interact and for bringing creators together.
El Cid at 7:34AM, Feb. 11, 2012
posts: 1,273
joined: 5-4-2009
I think the recent spate of superhero movies isn't so much a matter of superheroes suddenly becoming relevant, but just the fact that special effects are cheap enough and good enough now that they've become feasibly profitable. Superheroes give plenty of opportunity to dazzle the audience with eye candy, and they even come with prepackaged stories and a pre-existing fan base. For a movie executive, it's irresistible.

What makes a superhero iconic and enduring? That's a good question. It's true that superheroes from history, from Gilgamesh to Odysseus, and even Paul Bunyan, epitomized the spirit and values of the cultures they came from, but that only gets you so far with superheroes. What pervasive relevance does Captain America still have? Superheroes ultimately exist to sell comic books, not affirm cultural identities, so their survivability has to come down to mundane marketability. Batman has gone through several facelifts over the decades, so it's hard to talk about how he's managed to persist for so long when in fact he hasn't. Today's Batman is very different from the Batman of the 1970s, who was very different from the Batman of the 1950s.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of superheroes; I find normal human characters more interesting. In my adolescent years I was a fan of the X-Men, but I think that was largely due to all the women in tight-fitting and scanty costumes. If I had to pick favorites, I'd say Batman, just because he's a regular dude. But when I do read comics, it tends to be sci-fi stuff or crime dramas, or weird Vertigo titles like “Preacher,” but really I don't read that many print comics anymore. Um, looking through my Favorites list, the only superhero titles I spy are Vanguard and Curse of the Black Terror, both of which take a somewhat gritty and unconventional approach to the genre.
skoolmunkee at 7:46AM, Feb. 11, 2012
posts: 7,057
joined: 1-2-2006
I've said before how Batman is my favorite superhero. It's been said that he doesn't have powers, but really he does- just modern definitions of it with money and gadgets. Really Batman's biggest superpower is his incredible willpower and drive. That makes him very relatable.

I think part of the draw of some superheroes is that they are what regular people wish they could be. If you as a regular person were just a little bit more talented, a little bit more able, what would you accomplish? That's been subverted as well with superheroes like Watchmen and Powers and how their status and responsibilities have warped them. I'm far from expert but I think modern superheroes are much more likely to be fallible. It's more interesting and makes them easier to relate to. A good villain will always be the one that pushes the hero to work harder, be better, do more, think differently, re-evaluate themselves, and so on. That's what makes the Joker so great, which the Dark Knight movie brought out brilliantly. Superheroes who are perfect are boring, but it takes a good villain to reveal the flaws.

Really though I like Batman so much because he's the most interesting psychologically. To me (of the superheroes I know) he's the most imperfect and will always be. He represents a lot of duelling ideas and dichotomies. (Hellboy has quite a few as well.) He has the double life of course, and he's really Batman and not Bruce. He's intensely self-punishing, he's set all these impossible goals and boundaries for himself. He's sacrificed everything to achieve what he has and that's simultaneously admirable and tragic. Batman will never, ever have a happy ending. It's ultimately kind of a depressing thing to think about, but in a way it makes him far more relatable than someone like Superman- because as hard as some people may try, as good as they may have it, I think sometimes everyone thinks “what is even the point of this, am I even going to have a happy ending?” Batman's great because you can at the same time be really impressed by him and also just feel really sorry for him. Batman's better than you, but you can also kinda feel better than him.

As a rather random thought, I wonder how closely the evolution of the superhero genre has related to the society they're being published in. You could easily say that around WWII when most of them came about, perhaps people wanted adventurous escapism, something more lighthearted? And then themes fluctuated over the years as society and audience reflected on them. I think that the hero comics of the 90s were quite grim and dark if you use Spawn as an example, and the revival of Batman, and so on. Maybe it's less so now, but the underlying themes are perhaps being taken more seriously? I don't know. :]
Ozoneocean at 9:44AM, Feb. 11, 2012
posts: 28,737
joined: 1-2-2004
Oh crap!
Banes and i have just now finished recording a massive two parter.
Sorry El Cid and Skool, those were great but just too late…
But this is an interesting topic, maybe in Quackcast 66 these can show up as well if there is a related topic?

Quick, let's think up a realted topic to superheros that is interesting and people want to talk about!!!!
How about… The Comic inudtsry and where it's headed??????????
Macattack at 9:56AM, Feb. 11, 2012
posts: 291
joined: 12-29-2009
It's kind of funny you ask that Skoolmunkee… and funnier still that it hasn't been brought up yet because most of my studies of super heroes have been from a sociological view. When super heroes started it was at a time when A) there was a feeling of hopelessness because of money going dry, and because of that crime was also pretty rampant. and B) a follow up book to Darwin's origin of man or whatever it was called had led society to search for the “Master Race.” This really opened the door for the “meta humans” or “Beyond Humans”.
Superman was created largely as the man who could do what his creator's father couldn't. I believe it was Jerry Shiegal's (may have been Joe Shuster's) father was shot in a robbery so what better creation than a man who was bullet proof, super strong, and able to take down the bad guys? He even looked like the father!
Batman on the other hand…. oddly enough Batman was created because Bob Kane was offered an amazing job and said (and I quote) “For that money I'll make you a super hero by monday!” That being said he has quickly become one of DC's two most iconic characters.
What makes Batman and Superman so iconic?? In a way it's strange as Superman is incredibly difficult to write well due to his near invulnerability to almost anything except for this super rare alien rock called Kriptonite which just about every thug seems to get their hands on. And Batman?? When you take down the threatoning demeaner and angsty childhood why did he become iconic when Green Arrow didn't?? I, personally, think that it's because in an odd way they're the source that just about every other super hero is based off of. Superman is the ever true, good hearted, all american boyscout who was raised with those good farmboy morals that are so hard to keep in this ever corrupt world. Batman represents the fact that you don't have to be invulnerable to save the day, you just have to have the drive to want to see justice done.
I think the best explanation I've heard for comic books was this time line:
-There was the origins where the first superheroes came up and in an uncertain world people clung to these stories of hope for justice and heroes
-Then came WWII and the superheroes became even more famous becoming the secret weapon to fight the enemy. This led to some amazing super villains mainly because the writers needed some sort of excuse as to why the war hadn't been won yet despite super heroes fighting.
-Then the war ended and it just seemed to be a hard act to follow up. On top of that there began being complaints and studies about how comic books were causing violent children (much like the complaints on videogames now)
-Censorship was forced on comics as the nations were in uproar and these led to some of the strangest kinds of comics you'll ever see simply as… well they weren't allowed to do anything else
-Censorship was finally abandoned and we kind of went the polar opposite direction in reaction to the new found freedom, creating a plethural of anti heroes and making our current heroes a lot darker
-I'm not certain how true this is though the timeline matches up but I'm told that a big turning point was a 4 issue comic by DC comics called “Kingdom Come” which basically foresaw a future if we kept going the way we were headed with dark heroes
-Now I find we're heading to, (but not quite yet at) a new kind of hybrid between the original heroes and the dark heroes. No we don't see criminals cut in half or anything as much anymore but at the same time we've also lost much of that “He's the hero, he's the villain” attitude. Now there's a lot of added focus on “Why is he doing this?” and “Is he really evil or is he just a victim of circumstance??”
I find that the super heroes on Drunkduck really support this new kind of hero too. Abt Nihil's Bombshell is all about trying to find the source of the problem vs just taking out the first villains you see. Nepath's Energize and Fearless have a great view on the heroe's sorrows, even my own Wireless comic is in a large portion a social experiment as to what would happen if Canada, after being without superheroes since WWII despite every other country embracing the superhero future, gained its own superhero. As well as the power of the media over personal opinions and panic. Loads of great examples on here.
Macattack at 10:03AM, Feb. 11, 2012
posts: 291
joined: 12-29-2009
Favourite Superhero: Despite me not paying much attention to him for the last numerous years still has to be Spiderman…. I know he's gone downhill in movies and really a lot more complex than he used to be but I'll always have a soft spot for him as I can relate too well.
Supervillain Theory: I'd say more than supervillains, that nemesis are important to a superhero story just because they show that it isn't always easy to be a hero. On top of that it really builds on the superhero character as they're usually the one person (or thing) who can bring the superhero to their breaking point and make them ask the tough questions in life. Why is Lex Luthor good for Superman? Because they're about as opposite as you can get. Lex is as vulnerable, corrupt, and greedy, as Superman is invulnerable, honest, and generous. Batman and Joker? The Joker is as chaotic, impulsive, and sadistic, as Batman is strategic, pensive, and refusing to kill (minus that one picture apparently). You can find these connections with most Hero/nemesis relationships and it's just the most epic part of the genre

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