Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Greatest Superpower of All

Writing about Grimjack last week reminded me of the thing that annoys me the most about superhero comics. And, since I am a blogger, I can now share it with the two of you who care.

Every single mainstream superhero, from whatever publisher, have one superpower in common. It doesn't matter who they are, what their powers supposedly are, or any other consideration -- they all have this one amazing ability not found in the real world.

They all have the incredibly fine-grained ability to control their level of violence in their vicinity. Nearly every superhero has a "code against killing" (the source of much angst when the Joker breaks out of Arkham and kills hundreds of people for the hundredth time, but, still, an unbreakable code), and yet they spend most of their time running around at top speed, hitting other people as hard as they can, diving from rooftops, and doing other incredibly dangerous things. No one ever dies accidentally, or through misadventure; a stray bullet or piece of shrapnel never kills anyone -- therefore, obviously, we can deduce that all superheroes have the amazing and never-mentioned ability to sense and entirely control nearby fatal and near-fatal violence.

A hero never dies, unless it's in a big cross-over event and it Means Something.

A villain never dies, unless it's to show that This Superhero Has Broken The Code And That Is Bad.

Every civilian death (there are a few of them, to motivate the heroes, but they're usually offstage) is Poignant and Meaningful.

And no one -- no one -- ever dies inadvertently. In a comic-book world, it is impossible to die unless someone specifically chooses to kill you.


Anonymous said...

Without giving too much away, I really think you're going to like David J. Schwartz's book, which we just sold to Jason Pinter.

I'm terribly excited about it, it's really just fabulous.

Anonymous said...

In _Stormwatch_ and it's sequel _The Authority_, civilians die all the time. Without anyone intending that particular death. Often meaninglessly. And the only motivation they provide is for the protagonists to try to do better next time.

Anonymous said...

If I had a collected run of Ostrander's SUICIDE SQUAD, I'd send it to you, esp the bit where the Wall tells Deadshot to keep Rick Flag from killing an evil senator, which technically Deadshot manages to do.

Anonymous said...

I think the no killing anyone idea goes back to a more elegant, but simpler time when comics were sold in grocery stores and drug stores. Many writers were probably influenced by the 'comic code' during their youth. It lasted from the early fifties until the, at most, seventies. I shall miss the logic of Bizzaro or the helpfulness of Bat-mite. They would not fair well in the world of the graphic novel.

Christopher said...

Their is a new comic out right now called The Boys. I beleive being printed under the Wildstorm line. It is written by Garth Ennis and is simply wonderful.

What you might find interesting is the whole premise of the comic book is about fall out from accidents and collateral damage by people with super powers. Innocent people die. I don't want to give to much away in case you try it. There Are some great suprises right off the top. Very well written and drawn (Darick Robertson).

A.R.Yngve said...

Rick Veitch satirized this cliché quite well in his graphic novels THE ONE and THE MAXIMORTAL: it's quite scary when he depicts how deadly an uncontrollable Superman-toddler could be! (*shudder*)

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