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Author Topic: What's so friggin' GREAT about World War II, anyway?  (Read 29241 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: November 16, 2005, 08:19:13 PM »

One would imagine that when writers and artists break away from the so-called Big Two to start their own companies and create their own worlds in creator owned comics, that they would relish in the removal of the "rules" that bound them at the first two companies and start telling stories that they couldn't tell at their previous employers, just because of how the Marvel and DC Universes work. After all, there's so MUCH to superheroes, so much potential, that what the two big companies do only really scratches the surface.

One would think they would go all out and create comics about Superheroes in caveman days, mutant cowboys vs. mutant Indians, superheroes whose primary job is fighting werewolves and dinosaurs in a post-apocalyptic world. What would superheroes be like in Ancient China (the idea of superpowered guys with laser-vision fighting Kung Fu on mountains is an idea so spectacular I really hope someone does it soon)? Why not think of superheroes as a normalized, science fiction element to do worldbuilding around, like in LORD OF LIGHT?

One of the comics that really fulfills the promise of creating a take on superheroes very different from the Big Two companies, is the absolutely wonderful MONKEYMAN AND O'BRIEN, a comic which draws more from b-movies and monster yarns, featuring atypical Doc Savage-esque protagonists without secret identities or costumes, but who nonetheless have weird powers and deal with science fiction elements, like giant ants and wield wondrous gadgets and devices.

The wonderful HELLBOY by the always brilliant Mignola also is another case of a superhero comic, that nonetheless is very different from what the standard two companies put out, with an emphasis on supernatural events, and stories that are more mystery-centered and less action-centered.

Jim Shooter's underrated, excellent NEW UNIVERSE, torn down venomously by much smaller and pettier men than he, that would never dare speak against him when he was EIC of Marvel but demolished his work the moment he no longer had authority, was a case of another such universe: superheroes and superpowers treated as a science fiction element, with emphasis on plausibility, which didn't take the conventions of the superhero story for granted.

Even a tiny change in terminology really gives a superhero comic a different feel: notice how different the ABC World is as a result of Alan Moore using a term like "Science-Heroes" and "Science-Renegades."

It really says something about how narrow the comic book superhero genre is considered to be that when Kurt Busiek did ARROWSMITH, a comic book that is, in essence, a superhero story about men that fly with dragon boots and baby dragon sidekicks in World War I, filled with the fanciful fantasy elements that define superhero comics, like sea monsters and flying ships and rock trolls and satyrs immigrating to the United States - and yet nobody is calling it a superhero comic.

(Interestingly enough, Miami film critic Rene Rodriguez has pointed out that THE MATRIX is basically a superhero comic book adaptation without a superhero comic book to adapt from: it had the Kung Fu, the superpowers, the mechanical monsters, the alternate dimensions...it feels more similarities to King Kirby than an Arnold Schwartzenegger kill 'em up)

A former girlfriend that read Romance novels told me that it is very hard to find a decent Romance novel, because the best ones involve romance as the focus, but also have mysteries and suspense aspects as well. If it DOES, however, despite the book's primary focus on romance, if it involves police drama or jewel robbery even as SUBPLOTS, then the book is placed in the "THRILLER" section. The only ones that remain in the Romance section are books with stereotypical romance plots and covers. One can draw obvious comparisons to superhero comics.

Instead of showing the many different kinds of stories that superheroes can tell, what do the smaller comics do? Create Marvel/DC clone universes.

Superhero universes in the model of the Big Two have several traits distinct to them:

1) Superheroes take codenames and wear distinctive costumes that are skintight and colorful;

2) The world is assumed to be "supermarket tabloid" in style, with magic, UFOs, Bigfoot, Viking Gods, and Mole Men assumed to share the world as inhabitants;

3) Those that obtain superpowers are neatly divided into two categories: those who, independently, decide to use their powers altruistically, like a superpowered cross between a Sherriff in the Old West and Red Cross workers, and others that use their powers for selfish gain ("supervillains.")

4) There always tends to be a Superman or Captain America duplicate figure that is the rallying point for the entire setting, who is supremely morally incorruptible and noble.

5) There tends to be a Justice League/Avengers clone organization that is the meeting point for the big heroes of the setting.

6) Superhero worlds have nearly identical histories: superheroes first show up in World War II, disappear, and then return fairly recently.

It's this last one that bugs me the most because it shows that even something as arbitrary as when superheroism begins is xeroxed mindlessly, everywhere from the IMPACT line, to the Maximum Press world, to ASTRO CITY, to FLARE in heroic publishing, to things as diverse as the Freedom City manuals for Mutants and Masterminds (if I was Kurt Busiek, I'd call my lawyer, because that gaming book Freedom City was such a rip-off of his Astro City that it filled even me with rage, even down to the road signs that start and stop the book - Michael Moorcock put it best when he said that "homage" is like someone stealing your television and then saying, "hey, you have great taste in televisions.")

Yes, we all know World War II was pretty important in the history of superhero comics, but here's the thing: that does not mean that the world that YOU are creating, Mr. John Q. Comicswriter, has to have superheroes kick off at the same time. Just because superheroes stopped selling in the 1950s does not mean that superheroism on your earth has to die off at the same time. And so on.
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Maximara
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« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2005, 11:02:43 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
nstead of showing the many different kinds of stories that superheroes can tell, what do the smaller comics do? Create Marvel/DC clone universes.

Superhero universes in the model of the Big Two have several traits distinct to them:

1) Superheroes take codenames and wear distinctive costumes that are skintight and colorful;

2) The world is assumed to be "supermarket tabloid" in style, with magic, UFOs, Bigfoot, Viking Gods, and Mole Men assumed to share the world as inhabitants;

3) Those that obtain superpowers are neatly divided into two categories: those who, independently, decide to use their powers altruistically, like a superpowered cross between a Sherriff in the Old West and Red Cross workers, and others that use their powers for selfish gain ("supervillains.")

4) There always tends to be a Superman or Captain America duplicate figure that is the rallying point for the entire setting, who is supremely morally incorruptible and noble.

5) There tends to be a Justice League/Avengers clone organization that is the meeting point for the big heroes of the setting.

6) Superhero worlds have nearly identical histories: superheroes first show up in World War II, disappear, and then return fairly recently.

It's this last one that bugs me the most because it shows that even something as arbitrary as when superheroism begins is xeroxed mindlessly, everywhere from the IMPACT line, to the Maximum Press world, to ASTRO CITY, to FLARE in heroic publishing, to things as diverse as the Freedom City manuals for Mutants and Masterminds (if I was Kurt Busiek, I'd call my lawyer, because that gaming book Freedom City was such a rip-off of his Astro City that it filled even me with rage, even down to the road signs that start and stop the book - Michael Moorcock put it best when he said that "homage" is like someone stealing your television and then saying, "hey, you have great taste in televisions.")

Yes, we all know World War II was pretty important in the history of superhero comics, but here's the thing: that does not mean that the world that YOU are creating, Mr. John Q. Comicswriter, has to have superheroes kick off at the same time. Just because superheroes stopped selling in the 1950s does not mean that superheroism on your earth has to die off at the same time. And so on.


I see what you are saying but I think the above is the fact that because of the slump the Comic book marked is in no one really wants to experiment. Even the RPG suppliment GURPS Supers fell into the above pattern - heroes emerge during WWII, McCarthy and the HoUA cripples them during much of the 50's the 60's sees a rebirth and so on.

The reason I believe is because WWII had so many secret projects that making superhereos part of them is easy. It was also the last epreiod where we really had a moral certainty. After that things becing to bo merky and darker.
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Johnny Nevada
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2005, 01:31:51 AM »

>>

6) Superhero worlds have nearly identical histories: superheroes first show up in World War II, disappear, and then return fairly recently.
<<

Well, true except for the pre-Crisis Earth-One anyway, which depending on which decade one views Superboy as having debuted in, didn't have any superheroes during World War II...
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2005, 02:37:56 AM »

actually i think the significance of world war II to comics is the fact the real world had someone who is recognized as the real worlds only legitamate super-villian in modern times.

super-villian in terms of a world threat not powers.
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Permanus
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2005, 09:58:57 AM »

I see your point, but I don't really think there's any harm in it. The superhero genre was invented just before World War II, so I suppose most comics creators kind of slip into an unconscious hommage mode, creating a reality in which the world was pretty much the way we knew it until the 1930s, and then, ker-pow, everything changed. (To be fair, this isn't always the case: Astro City certainly hints at superheroes being around since the Wild West, and one character, the Old Soldier, seems to be as old as war itself. Similarly, the recent video game City of Heroes/City of Villains mentions a French superhero dating back to the 17th century!) The look, feel and staple accessories of superhero comics -- sleek spaceships, outlandish costumes, ray guns -- were created during the 1940s, and have a sort of late Art Nouveau quality, so it makes sense that, when creating a superhero-populated universe, you sort of feel obliged to explain this by imputing its origins to that period. True, this may impose certain artistic restrictions on the genre; it's just a difficult thing to shake off.

Most genres are somehow associated with a certain era: hardboiled private detectives of the Marlowe/Spillane mold seem to suit the 1930s better. Other genres are linked to a certain era by virtue of what they are: Sword-and-Sorcery stuff has to take place in some distant past, and the Scarlet Pimpernel simply wouldn't work if his adventures took place during the Soviet revolution. War movies are bound to a given era because they have to be seen to take place during one conflict or another. People expect certain locales and accoutrements from genre fiction, and that's what they like about it. You don't watch a Robin Hood movie because you believe in redistribution of wealth: you watch it because you dig castles, archery and swordfights.

I suppose another reason why the superhero genre in particular is so tied to WW2 is that the war changed the world in a way few conflicts have, at least in modern times, and gave the world the dubious gift of the atomic weapon. In a way, the superhero is a sort of metaphor for the atom bomb: a very powerful thing that can change the world.
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TELLE
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2005, 12:48:05 PM »

Quote from: "Permanus"
You don't watch a Robin Hood movie because you believe in redistribution of wealth: you watch it because you dig castles, archery and swordfights.


I would watch a Robin Hood movie set in the Russian Revolution!  It works for me.  Why choose between archery and redistribution of wealth when they work so well together?
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2005, 06:56:19 PM »

Quote from: "TELLE"
Why choose between archery and redistribution of wealth when they work so well together?


LOL! Amen...

quote of the day.
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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2005, 07:52:53 PM »

Then there's The Flame and The Arrow -= set in Medieval Italy and I did a modern spin on a senior computer hacker pil;fering the Bush regime and redsitributing it to Katrina victims.

Only in the Weekly World News, kids.......

good. evil. arrows. swords. BOOYAH
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