Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Didn't grimdark comics go out of style in the 90s?

I'm not one of those prudes longing for a pristine, wholesome Golden Age of Comics when superheroes were morally unambiguous and nobody swore or died.

I liked it when superheroes first started getting a more "adult" treatment. Now there are numerous superhero novels. Like 'em or hate 'em, they have made it a distinct if niche sub-genre. Some authors treat the genre and its conventions at face value, others try to be subversive. But it's cool and interesting to explore questions like "What if Superman wasn't so nice?" or "How would the world really deal with superpowered people?"

I do, however, believe that the heart and soul of the superhero genre is heroes being heroic. And villains being villainous. And a generally optimistic tone in which we have reason to believe that Good will eventually triumph over Evil.

It's not terribly realistic, and it's not terribly nuanced, and a lot of people don't like superheroes, or think the whole idea is stupid, for precisely that reason. Fair enough. I don't get the appeal of paranormal romances or steampunk. We all like what we like. But I think what draws fans to the genre is the expectation of tales of heroism.

According to some, superheroes are modern myths retold, and there's some truth to that. But I think they are mostly power fantasies. Specifically, we look at a deeply dysfunctional broken world with mostly insoluble problems, injustice and atrocities that cannot be easily fixed with individual action, and imagine how satisfying it would be if we could just run around punching out bad guys.

Mix it up a bit with some moral dilemmas, the occasional "anti-hero," sure. I was as big a Wolverine fan as anyone, back when he first became the hot new icon that everyone copied and parodied. And while Alan Moore's Watchmen is an ugly, cynical deconstruction in a lot of ways, it's also clever and it respects the conventions it's deliberately breaking. And it was a limited, self-contained story, not an ongoing bloodbath in which all the tropes of superherodom were repeatedly shat upon.

Which brings me to the "Free Comic Book Day" issue of DC's The New 52 Future's End:

Future's End

Basically, the whole issue is a bloodbath in which all the DC heroes are hacked apart and assimilated by some Borg-like Big Bad who's taken over the world. Bruce Wayne, mortally wounded after having his arm graphically chopped off, sends his protege back in time to fix it.

First of all, Marvel has already done this. Repeatedly. It was even made into the most recent X-Men movie.

Once again, DC is trying to capture what has been a winning formula for Marvel without any sense of what makes it winning. Some people did not like the "Days of Future Past" or "Age of Apocalypse" storylines in the old X-Men. They were kind of grimdark. I liked them, but in the 80s and 90s when they were first published, Marvel was experimenting with their most popular and contemporary heroes, and they did, unfortunately, then go through a long dark period of X-Force, X-Factor, X-cetera, and the completely worthless character Cable. I know this legacy is still around, but notice the winning Marvel movies, even Days of Future Past, were "darkness before the dawn," not darkness all the way through.

I assume that DC, also, intends for "Future's End" to end with the heroes victoriously hitting the reset button. But everything I have seen in their new line indicates that they're just kind of clueless about what draws readers to superhero comics.

"Free Comic Book Day" is supposed to attract new readers to the genre. So what the hell makes DC think the best way to do that is by putting Wonder Woman's head on a spike?

New 52 Future's End Cover
Tags: soapbox, superheroes

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