Friday, May 21, 2010

Wither the Superhero?

I never got into comic books.  I've got this stack of random Marvel comics for one Christmas when I was like 12, and that was about as deep as I got.  The only comic I really ever got into was Groo the Wanderer, but even then it was rather sporadic.  Strangely, I do watch Atop the Fourth Wall regularly, but reading comics is something I'm not into.

Then I got to thinking about it, and I couldn't think of many "superhero" type comics I have EVER actually read, either in book or, especially, webcomic form.  Now by "superhero" I mean the cliched version:  Capes, masks, super powers, super villains and all that stuff.  So I went looking and guess how many of the my 200 plus reads have been "superhero" comics?


Out of 200+ comics, I've read five that could be considered superhero comics.  Weird, isn't it?  I mean, shouldn't there be more?  Even the ones I have read, three of them are only JUST superhero comics.

The Front (currently MIA) is the earliest, and while it isn't strictly "cape and mask" it has a lot of the elements you would expect to see.  Shadowgirls IS a superhero comic, in all but reality.  The Lovecraftian setting keeps it from being an outright superhero comic.  And Wonderella is, well, a complete parody strip and while it has all the tropes, it plays them for laughs more than anything else.

The remaining two are much, much closer to my idea of what a superhero comic is.  While I haven't officially reviewed Spinnerette (it's part of the Krakow family, so that should tell you something right off the bat), it does play much closer to the theme than any of the others, while still countering a dash of "reality," as it were.  And Aptitude Test does much the same, though it does stray much further into the superhero territory of old than even Spinnerette does.

So why the lack of superhero comics?  Well I have two ideas:

The first, and probably most obvious, is that webcomic artists think of the genre saturated.  I can get behind that idea pretty well, as most artists are looking for "new ground" to explore.  The problem is that most of the new ground they explore is the same old stuff that has filled webcomics for years.  Geek comics, wacky adventure comics, comic epics, etc.  Superhero comics have been fully explored in comic book form, but for webcomics, there is still a lot of wild land out there.

There is another idea I had:  That artists think it's too hard to do.  Yeah, that sounds strange, but it makes a certain amount of sense.  Most superhero comics have MOUNTAINS of backstory to support them, continuities that dwarf even the longest lived webcomic.  Then theres the fact that the majority of superhero comics die within the first year because they can't generate an audience quickly.  And then, there's Watchmen.

Now I've never read the book, or seen the movie, but the general reaction to Watchmen that I've found is that it "changed comics forever" and it also changed how superheroes were viewed.  This view meant superheroes had to now have "depth" which ended up getting translated into "dark and brooding" by a lot of hack writers.  My point is that suddenly superheroes now had to have not just big backstories, but inner stories that trended toward dark and unfun.

No one wants to work on a comic that isn't fun, so most artists skip it.  The dark elements scare off the bright and colorful artists taking their cue from Japanese manga, and the complex character elements that seem to be required by superheroes now scare off everyone else.  It's too hard to make it work.

Which is wrong, of course, but that doesn't mean the perception isn't there.  And that's why I think superhero comics are a rare commodity in the webcomic community.

Or it could just be I just don't look for or read them.  But after 200 strips, you would have thought I'd have run into more than five the buggers.

Well, that's enough for this week.  See you next time kiddies.

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