Honestly, with a few of the classic superheroes, there really isn’t a creative reason to make them more dramatic or relatable. There is just a commercial reason. We wouldn’t be any worse off if Superman, Batman or Marvel had gone out of business and been replaced by other characters, genres and stories. People would just be focusing that energy on something new, and creators wouldn’t be working on old stuff owned by corporations trying to sell the same stuff over and over like its soda pop.
It’s not really a new take on Aquaman. It’s just an old take applied to Aquaman. A lot of the new Superman approaches are really just kinda like treating Clark Kent like he’s Peter Parker. Like how hard it is to be Superman. Like Dan Harmon once said, though, Superman is like a Harvard graduate on a Galactic scale. Mundane Human problems are irrelevant to him. Boredom would be tag biggest threat Superman faced. The real challenge would be to live in a world where Superman exists.
I already mentioned about milking characters and franchises dry like Wolverine, Batman, Supes, etc… and how some characters have way too many titles. I used to always worry about continuity like with the Authority how many things can happen to the Earth in such a brief time or Batman and Spiderman being in so many titles how many things can happen to a character in one day.
I stopped thinking about the continuity and just thought of stories as just tales like the old Arabian knight tales. Don’t ask too many questions etc.
It is a violation of sorts to good storytelling but it is a mess to sort out all the gaping plot holes, how one storyline contradicts another etc… Sometimes you just got to go with it and have fun with it not nitpick and overanalyze.
About superheroes, I think DC and Marvel flagship characters are milked to death. Batman could, and Supe too, could use a little rest. Reading Kingdom Come made me realize how many DC owned characters are out there, despite some are created purely for the four issue series.
This is why I think Superman is much better than Superman 2, and why the best parts of Man of Steel are when he’s Clark saving a school bus or an oil rig, not when he’s Superman saving the world.
The best Superman stories throughout his 80-year history have been those in which he never punched anyone.
I don’t think any modern writer gets that. Maybe except for Grant Morrison.
Edit to finish the thought: Which isn’t really the fault of the writers (or film makers), it’s the fault of the audience, as Al suggests. Too many comics have conditioned us to think that more punches are better.
And it’s why people think Superman is boring: “He’s too powerful,” meaning “There aren’t any villains who can out-punch him.” The problem isn’t that he’s too powerful to beat by fighting, the problem is that you want him to be fighting.
Hey, you want to know a funny thing, and getting back to how fans sometimes lead a story to being warped to give them what they think they want?
By the third season the fans had gotten tired of spending time mostly with the characters exploring themselves, so they then went radically in the direction of plunging into the mystery, which is why there suddenly were flash-forwards and then in the final seasons, flash-sideways…Personally, I enjoyed the whole series, although my least favorite was when they ended up in the past, but there was still some good material there (particularly for Daniel). I actually liked the third season a great deal, too. But then Lost in general is one of my all-time favorite stories from any medium.
The best thing about ASS is that is completely self - contained story; it’s accessible to newcomers (though level of pseudoscience can be confusing sometimes) and at the same time, it’s a love letter to Man of Steel. The ending echoes the ending of 2001 A Space Odyssey. Don’t know if that was intention.
It’s admirable how Alan Moore pulled that “no one has to right to kill. Especially Superman”. And then went to loose his powers. Or not?
Given certain company constraints, you can only do so much with the established comic characters like Superman, the JLA, etc. With the exception of Elseworlds, you can use an analogue or a character knockoff to tell a good story ie. Alan Moore doing Supreme, Miracleman, and the Watchmen characters respectively, Marc Gruenwald with his original Squadron Supreme, etc.
Comic-book analogies of iconic teams and characters are often quite derivative; the writer may be showing us a new take on those characters, but by its very nature it is not original. It really only works if those analogues are not the focus of the story. Garth Ennis’ THE BOYS was filled with clones of Marvel’s mutant teams, but the stars of the book were Billy Butcher and his teammates. And our own Mark Millar created an Avengers-clone team during his first AUTHORITY arc, but only so that we could cheer when the title team beat the snot out of them.
True. Even when Superman started out, he was in many ways defined more by what he did than what he could do, where he came from or any internal struggle. Essentially, he was and has been an expression of what people would want to do if they had the power to do it. The less defined he is as a character, the more accessible he is to the audience’s own fears and anger.
As much today as back then, people still feel powerless against the looming problems and daily challenges of the world. So, much of what makes a superhero story work for adults is to more strongly connect the antagonists and the supporting characters (the people the hero is saving) emotionally to the audience.
Thanos worked because you could see his point of view - people could hook their own fears into his clear intention. Zod and Ares worked better than Steppenwolf for much the same reason. Their antagonistic intentions gave the heroes a clear contrast. Also, the people that the hero champions is important as well. It can’t just be generic innocents or all about the heroes themselves - unless you’re playing with genres to tell a hard-boiled detective story or even horror movie with superpowers. Even then, though, you probably should have a better approach to characters who aren’t the hero than simply GUNMAN #2 or BYSTANDER.
In the original stories, the villains weren’t super at all. They were robber barons trying to muscle out independent operators who wouldn’t join or tried to compete with their monopolies. Or, of course, dictatorial generals trying to conquer the “free world.” The villains were just caricatures of bad people in the real world. They were people who used their power (in numbers, money, intelligence or weapons) to inflict injury upon the powerless people. The hero was super because he had in whatever way the power to individually overcome whatever they thought gave them their advantage.
Supervillains came in to simplify and strengthen the books, which were mostly for children who could easily project their own fears and animosity emotionally onto them, but they have to be well developed to reach a wide audience.
A lot of superhero stories today focus a lot on the heroes’ struggles externally and their inner conflicts, but that’s only part of what a writer has to do to make it work. There needs to be just as much attention on the people the hero is trying to help or save and the people that they are fighting against.
Part of storytelling is also updating characters and even stories to fit modern society. For example, updating the DC characters from the campy Silver Age stories, like making the Joker crazier, giving Batman more issues, etc. As for the Joker, I feel some went overboard in making him more vicious like what he did to Barbara Gordon, what he did to his own face, and so on. I can get into Marvel too but you get the point.
James Bond comes to mind as in the modern movies, he doesn’t go through as many women like Kleenex like he did in the 60’s. This is in obvious change to the changes of society and views of women…
I appreciate the updating of contemporary characters to keep pace with the change of time, such as your example of James Bond moving beyond the sexist character as portrayed by Connery and Moore. I also appreciate putting characters in more mature settings as the audience ages, such as your example of Batman.
On the other hand, I’m not a fan of films such as Guy RItchie’s Sherlock Holmesand Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette that are set in the 19th or 18th century but in which the characters behave like people from the 21st century.
Personally, I wish they would never update them. Or more to the point that new characters would replace the old ones. It’s a little ironic, after all. James Bond - since that is the example here - came out of a very specific time period and conditions of the crumbling British Empire as well as the growing Cold War. It’s interesting that people are wanting to update James Bond, but is there any real interest in a new Charlie Chan or Fu Manchu? It’s pretty easy to leave those in the past. Why not Bond?
Again, it’s not original creative impulses that keep these characters alive but strong commercial interests that drive it in almost all cases. That’s created this nostalgic feedback loop where people just want the same old thing with shiny new packaging. For me, there is something of a literary generation loss as these expectations grow so set. There is a notable difference between TH White and JK Rowling. Also - even with the internet - there is not a lot of space left in the various outlets for an original work to reach a paying audience. As soon as someone does something independently original or successful, he’s hired to direct a Godzilla movie or write the Spider-Man comic book.
I appreciate guys like Millar who can take something from the various genre conventions and turn them into original works. At the same time, though, I’m often reading or watching something and wondering what it could have been if The Hulk didn’t need to be in it or if it didn’t need to be about toys I played with in the 80’s.
Prequels are a mixed bag of sorts as the viewer already knows the overall setting of the story and who lives and who dies. In the Star Wars prequels for example, you already know that Kenobi survives, Anakin turns evil, the Jedi order dies etc. so what was the point? At the very least give more character background and make the stories as self contained as possible.
The best prequel imho was Godfather 2 which told the beginnings of Vito Corlione as a young man. There was no fake suspense there and it added to the character. You knew he was going to live but it showed more of his origins.
So telling a prequel story is mixed. It is hard to pin down but you can see where it goes wrong…
I disagree about the Godfather 2 since it was just flashbacks that were cut out of the original story and then shuffled off later when making the movies. It’s not really something that was made under the same constraints.
And prequels - it’s only if they feel so beholden to every minute detail. That’s when a prequel feels less like its own story and /just/ set-up. It’s a tricky balance to be sure. But knowing the end isn’t the problem - it’s the story’s mindset about how/why it gets there.