Familiar Foe

It occurred to me the other day that I could probably go a few years without seeing Spider-Man.  I don’t say that just because of the recent movie reboot, and I don’t say it because I’m not much of a Spider-Man fan either.  Those are doubtlessly connected to the issue, but there’s also the fact that, by now, I’ve probably read over a hundred Spider-Man stories.  And I’m not even a big fan of the character.  But if you count comics (both those titles he stars in and those he’s guest-starred in), cartoons, and movies I have seen and read a lot of Spidey stories.  After a certain point, I need a break.

This is happened to me with the Punisher.  He was a character I did like and who I read regularly.  At one point, I was buying his every title, his every one-shot graphic novel, anything and everything with him appearing in it.  Then one day, I just wasn’t interested any more.  I hit a saturation point where he lost his appeal.  Every story just seemed like a variation of a previous story.  The character was fully explored.  The bad guys were just different versions of previous bad guys.  He was having his Nth fight with the Kingpin, Daredevil, or Spider-Man.  And while there was nothing wrong with any of it, it just seemed run-of-the-mill.

This is probably why I was one of the few folks happy when the Punisher came back as an avenging angel with supernatural powers.  I’d felt the Punisher himself was used up, but that the new concept had new stories to tell, new opportunities for growth.  Sure, it was fairly radical, but that was what I liked about it.  It was, of course, undone, and there is every reason to believe that this was the right course of action for the character.  I was in the minority when it cam to that notion.

One of my biggest complaints about modern comic books is how most mainstream companies are just slapping new paint on old characters and ideas.  That’s not to criticize the writing, but am I the only one who wants to read about new characters, new heroes and villains.  Rebooting a character is fine, but I don’t need a new “edgier” version of Batman.  I’m not sure I really need Batman at this point.

Heresy, I know.  I like Batman, but I have seen hundreds of his adventures, and while there’s some variations in his incarnations, it’s still basically the same set of stories.

I know I’m unique in this regard.  There are plenty of folks who have spent the last 30 plus years reading Spider-Man stories and will be happily reading those stories 30 years from now.  There will probably always be an audience for Indiana Jones, James Bond, Spider-Man, Batman, etc.  And to be fair, when characters last long enough they become new again to the next generation.

But I think this is why people respond so favorably to more independent comics.  The Walking Dead, Invincible, Fables, and Atomic Robo (just to name a few) are new ideas and characters.  One of Harry Potter‘s biggest strengths has always been his relative newness.  And while Firefly had potential, I feel like fans love the show because it wasn’t based on anything previous.  It was a chance for sci fi fans to discover something new, and that is all too rare in the mainstream.

I’m not criticizing anyone for their tastes, and I’m not criticizing creators for catering to those tastes.  If I ever have a breakout character that people are scrambling to buy stories for, I would be happy to provide them.  That’s not selling out.  That’s just giving the people what they want and trying to make a living.  But I haven’t had that character.  Until I do, I’d much rather write stories I like, full of new characters and worlds.  I’d much rather explore than settle into a nice comfy safe zone because after a while (and it varies by character and creator) every character, every concept, becomes more popular for its familiarity than anything else.  There’s nothing wrong with that, and it isn’t a mark of declining quality.  It’s just the way the cycle goes.

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

 

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2 Comments

  1. Posted July 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    aMEN. I’m not much for poets in general, but Emerson nailed it when he said “every hero becomes a bore at last.” Fantasia has no boundaries, but heroes do, and once you’ve colored them all the way out to the edge, there’s nothing new to do. You can write a story where Superman goes around drop-kicking puppies, but it’ll turn out to be a clone or an alien or a mirror-universe, because we know the REAL Superman doesn’t do that, and after a certain point, we’ve seen enough clone/alien/mirror-universe stories to be able to smell another one coming down the pipe.

    This is where I think telenovelas beat out soap operas, and what (for my money) makes Star Trek a better deal than Dr. Who: if you know the story is going to end, maybe sooner than you’d like, there’s an inbuilt drive to catch it while you can, to hoard and savor a limited resource. And if somebody pulls it out of the closet again years later and gives it a makeover, there is all that much more excitement to seeing it again. McDonald’s figured this out with the Monopoly game – it’d be hard to miss it if it never left!

  2. Scott Parker
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I just discovered Atomic Robo at Houston’s Comicpalooza in May. It is just so much fun! And that’s why, in recent weeks, while I still am reading the new DC books, I’m really enjoying re-reading my collections of 70s-era Bat titles (and other books). Nothing against gritty, but I am happily being reminded how…fun books used to be.

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