Superheroes and the State of the World

Superheroes and the State of the World

So superhero movies are enjoying their day in the sun. Why is that day today?

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Probably because made up superheroes aren't actually reliable and won't solve any problems besides boredom in front of a screen.

Because we're in the golden age of wanting to do the bare minimum to address and acknowledge problems going on in the world, and superheroes are safe in every imaginable way.

Spandex

That and superheroes were always awesome right back to Grendel, it's just they fell out of favour when Frank Miller started stamping on their mystique for the lulz.

Alan Moore got them to stand back up and rip Miller's goddam leg off.

Canada's Labour Force Survey boasts the lowest rate since January

Actually Australia is at 5.4%. Take that!

The_root_of_all_evil:
Spandex

That and superheroes were always awesome right back to Grendel, it's just they fell out of favour when Frank Miller started stamping on their mystique for the lulz.

Alan Moore got them to stand back up and rip Miller's goddam leg off.

whaaaaat? Watchmen showed us superheroes just as screwed up and human as anything Frank Miller ever did, if not more so. and most of Moore's other stuff for which he's typically known is hardly superhero material.

Personally, for me, Superhero movies represent not only nostalgia, but also the fantasy that exceptional people can change the world for the better.

Great article. Also glad somebody wrote about superheros and actually knew what they were talking about for a change... 'Superman/Wolverine would pwn Batman/Spiderman' discussions bug the crap out of me.... I mean, Batman would trounce them all.... it's so obvious... :P

I for one am delighted to be living in The Age of (movie) Heroes, and long may it continue.
At the same time... maybe there'll come a day when we won't need them to encourage or allow us to escape as much.

Captain American, more Iron Man, a new Hulk (and unfortunately rebooted Spider Man) and Avengers on the horizon, a Dark Knight Rises, a new Superman movie and Green Lantern on the horizon are whetting my appetite.....

Oddly enough, I think a quote from the DC universe sums up the somewhat gloomy mood of the article here- in fact, you could argue that's what you'd need to hear in a world as messed up like this..

In brightest day,
In blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight,

Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power,

Green Lantern's Light!

Yes, I think the movie looks good :P

Jamboxdotcom:

whaaaaat? Watchmen showed us superheroes just as screwed up and human as anything Frank Miller ever did, if not more so. and most of Moore's other stuff for which he's typically known is hardly superhero material.

Quick fix here. Miller made them into emos, Moore made them into humans.

And Swamp Thing, From Hell, V for Vendetta, The Killing Joke, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Supreme, Tomorrow Stories, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? didn't involve superhumans?

As much as I find Superman to be boredom personified, I think the point about his introduction is an interesting one. We really are nearing a time where very few alive will remember a time without the costumed superhero.

Comics have also been getting more and more mainstream lately. San Diego Comic Con was a relatively local affair before the rise of the internet.

I'm usually more interested in the villain. What good is a superhero without an awesome arch nemesis to create awesome adventures?

likalaruku:
I'm usually more interested in the villain. What good is a superhero without an awesome arch nemesis to create awesome adventures?

I usually find myself rooting for the villain.

For me, I find it's the helplessness thing that's the big issue.
I find almost everyday fantasizing about being a Rorschach kind of vigilante, a guy who gets rid of the scum of the world without really thinking if what he's doing is right. I feel helpless when a chav indulges in anti-social behaviour. I feel helpless when I get back home late, and I find myself paying close attention to people sitting on benches in a park, just in case they start to follow me. I have safety issues, and being a superhero, or a vigilante, would solve those problems.
This is why I love Batman, for example. Yes, he's a hero, but he has moments when his policy of fighting with crime is rather ruthless. I know his shtick is that he doesn't kill his enemies, and that's the one thing I think he'd sometimes do better doing. In 'Batman: Arkham Asylum' there's a great scene when the Joker offers himself to be killed by the great detective. And he DOESN'T do it. Think of it - how much time and effort, and lives, would it save if he had a gun and pulled the trigger... that's the power I don't have everyday, but would really love to.

I dunno... I can't help but think the main reason there are so many superhero films around right now is because of Hollywood politics. All the major Hollywood studios have made expensive investments in CGI technology. They need to get as much use (and money) out of those investments as possible. Superhero stories, with all their wizz-bangs, give studios the chance to bust out the ridiculous special effects shots people love so much, with the added bonus of a pre-existing fanbase just waiting to be exploited.

It's like monster movies. There have been loads of monster movies recently (Cloverfield, Monsters, the Mist). Is it because we live in dark times, and these movie monsters represent the dark heart of nihilism that beats within us all, the urge to lash out and destroy? Or is it because we have always, and will always love big trashy films with explosions and special effects.

The trouble with trying to anaylyse the machinations of Hollywood is that you soon realise it all comes down to one thing: not the urge to inspire people with displays of heroism, but the urge to make as much money as possible. Super hero films are merely profitable right now. They make lots of money, so lots more get made. The minute they stop being as profitable, the minute Hollywood moves onto something else. Like pirates.

Sounds pretty spot on to me. Yes, there are factors like bandwagons and those that just jump on whats popular, but themes that resonate does factor in to a pretty large degree. Yes, Hollywood just looks at the figures and surges onto the stage, but the reason the early ones are popular and the films remain popular....
Likely a reason why despite Pirates of the Carribean being popular, there hasn't been a massive surge of pirate films.

The only thing in the article I'd disagree with is "soon no one will remember a time before "It's a bird! It's a plane!" ".
There will ALWAYS be history buffs and nerds that remember the times long ago. =p

I think they've finally learned how to make them, and the audiences have learned to give them a chance.

It's a bit self-reinforcing: there is this huge back-catalog of characters and narrative arcs that already exist but have never been put to film successfully. Part of the reason for that is that the comic book stories were marginalised and regarded as kids stuff, so the funding wasn't there and the audiences weren't interested.

Then you start getting a few really good comic book movies made, and audiences learn not to disregard a movie based on a comic book. Studios put more and better resources into them, the movies get better (not always, but often enough) and the audiences grow.

i had a story idea for a world saturated with superheroes except they were something gaudy and celebrity. they wore corporate logos on their outfits representing endorsement contracts, and the government licensed and monitored their actions, training them to work alongside the police. so kind of similar to watchmen, except with more actual superpowers, and the heroes were embraced rather than rejected.

the ultimate point would be that superheroes, and any heroes in general, are bad for society, in that when people have heroes strong enough to lean on, their own strength atrophies away. it's in human nature to avoid work. and the greatest problem is that very nature; and the process of fixing that problem is a nasty affair indeed.

People need heroes to give them hope. This may be more prominent at the moment, because there's so much screwed up with the world right now, but the fact remains that, in one form or another, superheroes have always appealed to people. The Iliad, the first extant work of Western literature, is about demigods and heroes; the modern superhero is essentially a contemporary re-working of the ancient Greek hero of legend. People have always needed heroes, and always will.

Ironically enough, Lex Luthor would doubtless argue that this idea of needing heroes that the article expresses (and which I agree with) is a serious problem; he's always claimed that this is why he hates Superman. There's obviously more to that, largely his insatiable ego, but in a way, he has a point. Expecting a hero to come along and solve our problems for us isn't the best way to live our lives; Lex has always believed that Superman holds people back from greatness, and argues that, if people believe they can do great things, they will; but with superheroes in the picture, there's no need to. He's shown in at least one continuity the amazing things people could do if Superman weren't around; maybe we ought to take a lesson from him? Maybe we ought to stop hoping a hero will save us, and make the effort to fix things on our own.

mikespoff:
I think they've finally learned how to make them, and the audiences have learned to give them a chance.

It's a bit self-reinforcing: there is this huge back-catalog of characters and narrative arcs that already exist but have never been put to film successfully. Part of the reason for that is that the comic book stories were marginalised and regarded as kids stuff, so the funding wasn't there and the audiences weren't interested.

Then you start getting a few really good comic book movies made, and audiences learn not to disregard a movie based on a comic book. Studios put more and better resources into them, the movies get better (not always, but often enough) and the audiences grow.

This.

In addition to the main article.

Super heroes rose from the ashes of the great depression of the 30's. Idealism flourishes when the light is dimmest. It's happened before: the economic downturn of the 80's fuelled a comics uprising. Back then it was headlined by Miller's Dark Knight and Moore's Watchmen but the movement was bigger than that. And now it happened again. But now its in movies rather than paper and ink.

Charisma:
i had a story idea for a world saturated with superheroes except they were something gaudy and celebrity. they wore corporate logos on their outfits representing endorsement contracts, and the government licensed and monitored their actions, training them to work alongside the police. so kind of similar to watchmen, except with more actual superpowers, and the heroes were embraced rather than rejected.

Have you read The Ultimates? The early issues, at least, are in a similar vein. Garth Ennis' The Boys is also exploring similar ground, in the usual Ennis fashion (extremely graphic violence, dark humour, witty dialogue, male friendship and just a bit of sweetness).

 

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