Well, that’s the cynic’s version of Abrams. You don’t have to be a fan. There are people (ah, such as me) who love what and how he does things. The biggest problem is that segment of fans who want a ridiculous mystery, that his projects seem to court, who have no interest in what he actually does with them, which is to explore the human element far more eagerly than the mystery. Which any good mystery always does. Sherlock Holmes isn’t really interesting as a detective; his ability to figure anything out effectively ruins him as a dramatic device. What keeps him fascinating, more than a hundred years after he first appeared, is what always kept him fascinating, the good ol’ cult of personality.
Whenever anyone complains about how JJ Abrams never follows through on his wild ideas and mysteries, I point them towards FRINGE.
I forgot about the characterization of the villain of course.
Some storylines drop little hints of a mystery character and a big reveal towards the end as to who is behind it all like in the Hush storyline from Batman, the old Jason Wyngarde from the Xmen, Kevin Smith’s Daredevil. I don’t know if Game of Thrones with its Night King counts because he wasn’t incognito but was in the background as a coming threat.
Those stories still work Imho, but have to be done very well or else it won’t pay off.
As for characters, decades ago the most violent was Wolverine and most supernatural was Dr. Strange and Fate. Since then, we have gone even further than all that with the Darkness, Witchblade, Dr Strange adventures got a little weirder, Wolverine got bloodier, so did the Punisher, BATMAN, and the Joker got crazier and so on. Magneto was the Xmen’s biggest threat now look… Have things gone too far? Just asking.
As far as villains go? The biggest problem is that a good villain is incredibly hard to find. I’m not even talking criticism of MCU villains. Villains in general. But especially villains in comics. In general. When was the last time a really good villain was created? I can understand if launching new heroes can prove challenging, because they will always be measured against their ability to sustain a monthly comic. But villains? Not so much. It’s gotten to the point where they’re almost more interesting as heroes (Lex Luthor, Sinestro, and Doctor Doom in recent years; even Magneto was last relevant when he was entangled in the Xorn business, and Doctor Octopus could only be when he’d…tricked himself into becoming his own worst enemy).
And really, when was the last memorable villain created? Is it really that hard?
Anyway, interesting new facet to the discussion.
However, Batman, Han Solo and even Wolverine are not precisely anti-heroes in the strongest sense. Michael Corleone is an antihero (more a tragic hero in the end). Mad Max and Yojimbo are anti-heroes. In some ways, Tarzan, John Carter and Conan are anti-heroes.
In most cases, they are simply heroes, but they live in the same moral universe as the antagonists. With characters like Superman, Flash Gordon and Luke Skywalker, they are good in opposition to obvious evil. Wolverine and Batman are also set in opposition to obviously evil people.
However, with anti-heroes, they start out pretty much the same as the villains of the piece. The only difference is that they are often more skilled at it than the villains - and, more importantly, they are not unjustly cruel are sadistic in most cases.
Mad Max, for example, is just another Road Warrior scavenging to survive, but even though he won’t stick his neck out to save anyone, he won’t hunt down innocent people and torture them to death either.
Clint Eastwood in Fistfull of Dollars is just another gunslinger looking to make money out of his extreme skill with pistols. But he only uses that against other gunfighters.
The turn for the anti-hero is when something happens to push him against a line he won’t cross.
That’s attractive because the moral case for the hero is a complete arc where their heroic position is balanced on one sharp point.
Actually some of the better storytelling doesn’t get too heavy on the scifi/fantasy stuff but just suspend belief a little and the good characterization takes it from there.
The first Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, Big, Meet Joe Black, Groundhog Day, etc.
Even a lot of the original Twilight Zone episodes.
And Who can forget the original Night of the Living Dead?
There is an interesting website that categorizes tropes in case somebody doesn’t already know about it.
I think what defines an antihero is that at some point they realize they can’t always be selfish, so that they begin acting like a hero even though they’re otherwise about as compromised as the villains around them. They are heroes, but other heroes might have a hard time seeing them that way. In that sense, when someone like Lex Luthor joins the Justice League, for instance, all the good guys sincerely doubt that he isn’t operating on some kind of ulterior motive. (Personally, that’s my favorite Luthor, and one of several reasons I love The Final Night so much, where this version first showed up.) That’s him being an antihero.
We can also get into creators style of storytelling whether it is book authors like JK Rowling, Philip K. Dick, Tolkienn,. George RR Martin…
Whose style or type do you like best? JJ Abrams with his mysteries? Tarantino? Scorcese?
For the TV it boils down to the writers and showrunners like Roddenberry, Stracynski from Babylon 5, Stephen J. Cannel, and so on…
Or comic creators like all you can name and care to discuss…
…oh and the difference between professional storytelling and fan fiction.
I love writers who have a truly distinct voice. That’s part of the reason Tom King appeals to me, because he definitely stands out in that sense, although I also like his storytelling. Tarantino is known for his dialogue, and he has written some of the best conversations of the modern era. People always point out Sorkin as a master scripter, but other than his chatty style I’m not sure he’s really delivered on the same level. Obviously Bendis is known for his chatty characters. I adore Abrams and his ability to come up with killer concepts.
Morrison, obviously, with his ability to think two and three and fifteen thousand levels beyond what anyone else is doing. You always get the sense that what he’s writing is completely believable to him, and that kind of confidence, even if it can be bewildering at times, is incredibly easy to get behind, at least for me. I know plenty of people still think Final Crisis is a mess, but I think it works. Johns, who works from a similar mindset to Morrison, in that where most people give up figuring out a concept he just keeps plugging away at it and lets it breathe in revelatory new ways.
In Star Trek the moment the Next Generation came together was when the new era of writers came together in that third season and quit trying to live up to a prior legacy and just started making their own, and that was the first time I realized a committed group of writers working toward the same goal is probably better than someone like Straczynski stoically trying to go it alone. I think Babylon 5 would have benefited immensely with a few extra sets of eyes on it. I don’t think Moore worked as well outside the Star Trek family as fans like to believe.
I think Battlestar Galactica was compromised in the same way Babylon 5 had been, trying to be only one thing, which for me got incredibly old very quickly, because it had made the fatal mistake of being relentlessly grim right from the start. That’s not fun to watch! It may deliver a fascinating story, but it’s a chore to follow. I know he had Michael Taylor with him, who’d contributed some great Deep Space Nine material, but I don’t know how much Taylor was involved, and whether he was free to do what he did best. Which is also, y’know, pretty crucial.
I put down fan fiction at the end because it is sensational and piques the interest.
Like these vs. threads where you take a Marvel character and pit them against their DC or whatever counterpart. It sounds good but since it is all up to the writer who wins, it never really does the crossover justice. Stories and threads like that are just for the fanboys to argue and debate ad infinitum.
Real storytelling will give you more substance and dimension…
The Venture Bros. is probably the best example of the type of storytelling I like. An always forward moving narrative that leaves the room to breathe. Minute, almost inconsequential, aspects that can be brought up at any moment and then reflected upon more clearly. Background lines that are jokes that can then be fleshed out at a given notice. Nothing that drags down the now but can only be seen as affected the this as it were.
Such as in Stray Bullets with its non-linear and ensemble narrative that really opens itself up when it peels itself back.
You’re also describing Arrested Development. Didn’t know much about Venture Bros. until your thoughts.
Oh yeah, if you like Arrested Development then check out Venture Bros. Both work so much on the power of callbacks and recursive importance.
It’s also why I value the “myth-arc” over the “seasonal-arc”. In fact I think that the latter is basically harmful unless does incredibly well, while the former gives out more satisfying stories - IMO.
Thanks to electronic publishing, just about anyone can release a novel today via Amazon or BN.com. It’s like Vanity Press without limits! That is not necessarily a good thing.
Speaking of ad infinitum, some storylines and plot devices have been pretty much exhausted and played out.
I have to say that the Sopranos has exhausted the mob drama series which is why there hasn’t been another mob show. Same with medieval fantasy movies and shows like LOTR and GoT probably won’t be followed by another series aside from a spinoff in the same world. Star Trek and Star Wars cornered the space adventure etc. In fact. It was Brian Vaughan who had the idea of reviving Flash Gordon but decided against it as it would look too much like Gaurdians of the Galaxy which is already with us.
I also have to say that the moviegoing audience needs new ideas and rebooting former ideas like the Matrix for example won’t do it. We are running out of ideas, help!!!
That says more of his take on Flash Gordon than it does about the property being too similar.
Hey! I’ve released a fair bit of material via this avenue. Although I don’t pay for fancy covers. Or advertising. So as far as anyone is concerned, I guess I don’t. So I withdraw my objection…
I’m not knocking talented people who choose this publishing route; just noting that not all those who do are talented.