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Author Topic: What does it mean to be a Superhero?  (Read 1804 times)

Hawkmumbler

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What does it mean to be a Superhero?
« on: 30 July, 2016, 03:12:28 PM »
Over the last 18 months i've seen a steady but very noticeable change in my comic reading taste, namely the addition of 'cape comics', which i'd so derided for years before. Maybe it was a cultural distance but I could never get into the Marvel or DC mainstays, and that partially still hold true, however i've found myself accumulating a steady stream of favorable indi and mainstream superhero books...well, 'cape comics' anyway.

And by this I mean, with the restraints of corporate attitudes to 'good and bad' lifted, creator owned cape comics have been able to elevate somewhat beyond what the 'superhero' genre is often perceived as and has brought into the question what defines a superhero comic. Brightly colored and/or intricate costumes? A force for good? A rogues gallery? With each new book I read by an indi writer the more these old hat definitions loose their meaning. Look at Nexus, for example, and Colin made a great point by PM, because despite owning higher powers, it is in fact Horatio who is the 'hero' in this book, whilst the Nexus mantel has been held by several individuals of varying morality (bear in mind I have not read Next Nexus yet), meaning that Nexus can not by all accounts be considered a superhero comic. Contrast that to Zenith, that by all accounts IS a superhero comic, with a superhero protagonist...but is it/he? Zenith is merely a pop brat lucky enough to be born into stardom, lived long enough to let his powers garner him further fame and then squander them on a petty and short lived idol career. He's no 'hero' despite his super powers.

Flipping back into one of the more groundbreaking mainstream titles, Suicide Squad, often labeled as a 'superhero comic' posses among it's ranks very few truly outstanding bastions of justice (Bronze Tiger and Nightshade get a free pass) and instead is populated by super powered amoral monsters, yet combined they've saved the world more times than Batman. So, heroes after all? This can be further extended to Grendel (specifically Hunter Rose), who fights against a drab, oppressive society by living within his own rules, a figure head for rebellion not dissimilar to V, despite being something of a ruthless killer and veritable anti-hero in his own way he's a pioneer to the world he lives in, and their can be no better description to this kind of person than that of a 'hero'...Grendels kind of an interesting case now that I think about it.

Then their are further, increasingly bizarre additions to the genre. Flaming Carrot, for all his insanity and seeming ability to defy definition is most certainly a superhero in both character and comic. The Maxx initially appears to be sold as a superhero book but quickly morphs into something completely different. Then there's poor Concrete, trapped in a world unkind to his skill set, what is he...a superhero or something else all together?

I guess what I was trying to say with all this rambling is, what is a 'superhero', and what defines who is and isn't a member of that Superman led group of icons in a genre encompassing an increasingly varied list of titles and attitudes to the genre.

Colin YNWA

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Re: What does it mean to be a Superhero?
« Reply #1 on: 30 July, 2016, 07:38:54 PM »
Well I'll chip in, but not as much as I'd like as I'm on a pit stop at the In-Laws on the way to my jollies camping in South Wales so will be largely off-line for a wee while.

ANYWAY I kicked all this off in a series of PMs with young Hawkmumbler. See i read this book many moons ago now 'Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre" and a fascinating read it is (alas seems out of print these days?). Anyway the book asks the question fairly early on 'What actually makes a superhero'. On the surface a simple enough question. After all we all pretty intuitively look at a character and decide - Yep that fits my criteria. Now when you start to question those criteria it becomes a far more complex question. The specific example become very difficult to unpick.

So when people dismiss superhero comics, as so many, so often do, I always want to ask what they actually mean by that? Dismissing superhero comics is often used as a shorthand for dismissing comics from the 'big two' BUT even then its a slightly lazy one. As Hawkmumber says even there the definition of superheros is these days regularly stretched and poked to test its meaning.

When you go further and deeper into indie comics, especially a lot of 80s and 90s (pre-Image) comics its becomes a very complex and interesting question - well to me but then I LOVE superhero comics and I'm not even sure what that means. Hawkmumbler gives some of the better examples of the less obvious characters that may or may not exist in the genra but I'll try another more direct example.

Look at Zorro and Batman, which if any meets your criteria of a superhero and why?

Hawkmumbler

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Re: What does it mean to be a Superhero?
« Reply #2 on: 31 July, 2016, 01:37:34 PM »
The Zorro and Batman comparison is an interesting one, seeing as Bruce is basically just a spiritual successor to Zorro and even in  certain variations on the Batman law, Bruce uses Don Diego as a strong influence on creating the Batman persona. The two are directly linked.

Theblazeuk

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Re: What does it mean to be a Superhero?
« Reply #3 on: 03 August, 2016, 02:36:35 PM »
I am bookmarking this thread until I can come up with some clever words.

Magnetica

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Re: What does it mean to be a Superhero?
« Reply #4 on: 03 August, 2016, 02:54:21 PM »
I thought the only super hero comic strips were Zenith and Marauder.

What ....you mean there are comics other than 2000AD?  :lol:

JamesC

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Re: What does it mean to be a Superhero?
« Reply #5 on: 03 August, 2016, 04:22:34 PM »
The Batman/Zorro thing is interesting. I'd say that Batman is more easily accepted as a Super hero because of the world he exists in and the characters and villains he's associated with.
Basically, if Zorro joined the Justice League and fought aliens that shot time travelling laser beams from their eyes, he'd be a super hero too.

Even characters who quite obviously are super heroes have roots in characters that pre-date the birth of the super-hero. Captain Marvel is basically a genie. If he's a super hero then why isn't Aladdin?
 

The Adventurer

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Re: What does it mean to be a Superhero?
« Reply #6 on: 03 August, 2016, 09:40:26 PM »
Judge Dredd is a 'super-hero' imo

He's got an iconic costume, a vast rogues gallery, a clear sense of Justice (even if it's his version of it, defined by the harsh world he inhabits), and his adventures have a heavy action oriented slant with a soap opera structure.  Hell, he's probably more genetically tinkered with then Captain America.

But because the world he inhabits isn't really a 'super-hero' universe. He's not really treated as one.

THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK

Leigh S

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Re: What does it mean to be a Superhero?
« Reply #7 on: 03 August, 2016, 09:50:08 PM »
Judge Dredd is a 'super-hero' imo

He's got an iconic costume, a vast rogues gallery, a clear sense of Justice (even if it's his version of it, defined by the harsh world he inhabits), and his adventures have a heavy action oriented slant with a soap opera structure.  Hell, he's probably more genetically tinkered with then Captain America.

But because the world he inhabits isn't really a 'super-hero' universe. He's not really treated as one.

By day, a mild mannered Judge... but by night, Joe Dredd becomes... Paperlung-Man!

sheridan

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Re: What does it mean to be a Superhero?
« Reply #8 on: 30 August, 2016, 05:55:35 PM »
Judge Dredd is a 'super-hero' imo

He's got an iconic costume, a vast rogues gallery, a clear sense of Justice (even if it's his version of it, defined by the harsh world he inhabits), and his adventures have a heavy action oriented slant with a soap opera structure.  Hell, he's probably more genetically tinkered with then Captain America.

But because the world he inhabits isn't really a 'super-hero' universe. He's not really treated as one.

By day, a mild mannered Judge... but by night, Joe Dredd becomes... Paperlung-Man!
And in those crepuscular periods in between... Bionic Peeper Boy!