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Are Superheroes Fantasy or Science Fiction?

Superhero stories are filled with fantasy tropes: wizards, knights in shining armor, dragons and other monsters, gods of various mythologies, and so on. Meanwhile, many superhero and supervillain origin stories seem like science fiction premises (mutated DNA, aliens, and so on). Most superpowers, even the ones that are supposedly based on science, defy science to the point where they would be indistinguishable from magic in a fantasy setting.
Consider the characteristics that differentiate the Fantasy Genre from the Science Fiction Genre. Then consider the central characteristics of superhero stories – Marvel, DC Comics, Invincible, pick your favorite – and analyze whether they fall more on one side or the other. If some superheroes belong to one genre and some belong to another, what happens when those superheroes team up with each other?
What are the implications of which genre superheroes "belong to"? Does this affect the future of superhero stories?

  • I'd consider seeing if superheroes might fall into an in-between category like science fantasy as well. – Siothrún 2 months ago
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On the character and continuity of Superman

Analyze the variation versions of some of the mediums’ most popular characters and the narrative through lines (canon events) that define the character despite the other notable shifts between the character’s developments.

A good example of this is the contrast between Communist Superman in Red Son vs. Criminal Ultraman in Justice Lords vs. Tyrant Superman in Injustice vs. All-Star Superman va Mainline Superman.

What makes the character the character when a comic’s multiverse can extend infinitely? What traits define the character in relationship to their world and their readers?
What makes a Superman a Superman?
Strictly within DC of course, no pastiches such as Homelander and Omni-Man.
What is the distilled version of Superman and what does it mean when the character becomes alienated from that "ideal" ?

  • Topics like this are a little too broad. Pick one character, like Superman, and some particular aspect for writers to discuss. Provide some questions for writers to answer. – noahspud 8 months ago
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  • I love this topic, Sunni. I might even undertake writing it. – Nyxion 6 months ago
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  • You mention specific comics here which give a potential writer somewhere to start, do you have anything you would like to add about how particular writers have portrayed Superman? – Elpis1988 5 months ago
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Batman, Realism and systemic problems of Gotham

Batman as a character is one of numerous contradictions. He’s a normal human but a superhero. He’s a vigilante who fights crime. He’s a hero who fights in cruel often dark and unethical ways. Batman is often criticized for not taking more systemic solutions to the problems of crime within Gotham. This is not without merit as a billionaire with virtually limitless wealth when it comes to supplying his crusade of crime and punishment. But, at the same time, what actually can be done within the continuity of DC comics to counteract the criminal element in Gotham? He’s just as likely to fight a woman with the power to control every nearby plant as he is to fight a carjacker. Even if he was able to use his liquid funds to curb homelessness and food insecurity, he’d still have a killer clown shooting poison gas. How does one reform that?

At what point does the reality of comics diverge from the goal of realism many fans and writers desire?

  • I would suggest the article's author expand to more than just Batman. Consider other comics' takes on "realism." In The Boys, it's almost like crimes are planned and staged by the corporation that owns the heroes, and the public perception of these crimes is carefully curated. In alternate versions of the DC universe, such as Injustice, the only way to reform crime is conquering the world, dystopia-style. – noahspud 7 months ago
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The Problem With Sliding Timelines in Comic Books

Major comic book publications DC and Marvel have been around for the better part of the century. In that time, the most popular superheroes in the world have been through a lot — far too much for just one life. Comic books use a sliding or floating timeline to allow characters to remain relatively ageless and storylines to stay relevant. For example, Peter Parker (Spider-man) debuted in 1962 and aged in real time for 3 years until his high school graduation in The Amazing Spider-man issue #28. Yet, nearly 60 real-time years and 900 issues later (not to mention countless other limited and extended runs), Peter is still a young adult. While engaging storylines can still be written in the ongoing Spider-man comics, some readers may find there is a limit to how far their suspension of disbelief can be stretched. Discuss the prevalence of the sliding timeline in major comic book publications and how it creates problems with continuity, character development, and reader engagement. Consider solutions to these problems, such as with DC’s ever-rebooting universe, the increasing popularity of standalone series, ‘Elseworlds’ and ‘Black Label’ stories, and limited runs.

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    The Iterations of Tony Stark and Ultimate Comics

    The MCU has taken a lot of it’s inspiration specifically from the Ultimate line of comics. Thor’s Stormbreaker, Spider-Man being in high school again, and Tony Stark’s personality. Tony Stark has always been snarky, witty, and a pretty swollen ego, but a lot of the mainline comics’ Tony Stark’s rough edges have been sanded down. Stark was one of the founding members of the Illuminati, working for Kang the Conqueror, shooting Hulk into space, lots of his actions in both Civil War storylines, and not to mention his stint as Superior Iron Man, exploiting people and lots of other dubious actions.

    My question is, have we lost something? Are the rough edges what make Iron Man so compelling in the comics? Has the MCU’s more palatable Iron Man worse or just different? What about other comic characters who’ve lost nuance like Wolverine in every movie besides Logan?

    Further, how do we go about adapting these characters from these thousands of issues to hours of film? Is it even possible? Is the loss of some nuance a necessary evil?

    • Might be useful to include some examples of what Ultimate Iron Man did and how he was different from mainline Tony. – noahspud 1 year ago
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    • I think that the rough edges in 616's Iron Man positioned him as more of an antagonist in many popular storylines. I think that the MCU definitely made conscious attempts to water down his actions, even in the Civil War storyline. Whereas in the Ultimate line of comics, he was definitely still snarky and narcissistic, but didn't make as many huge mistakes as 616 Tony, who's contributions to making the 'Thor' android lead to the death of Goliath in 'Civil War', who literally took Peter Parker in to Avengers tower and then sent a squad of villains after him who very nearly killed him. In the Ultimate Universe, Peter looks up to Tony, and I feel that the MCU very much ran with this idea, especially after Robert Downey Junior had endeared this character to so many people through the Iron Man and Avengers Films. I think that for this topic, it's worth considering the loss of the original characters' personality, and the replacement of something new — but not necessarily less palatable or less nuanced. I think that nuance depends greatly on the writer, director, and actor concerned with whatever iteration of Stark is present, whether in comics or film — such as with Logan, which you referenced. Adapting characters with nuance is definitely possible. It's all about going into the character with confidence, in my opinion. – Patrick 1 year ago
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    The Red Ten vs The Boys

    From 2011 to 2017, Tyler James and Cesar Feliciano created a ten-issue comic book series in which a parody of the Justice League were mysteriously murdered in a plot eerily similar to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. As in Christie’s novel, it was slowly revealed that the superheroes were being killed because they were guilty of dark secrets.
    This series bears a resemblance to The Boys, the comic series by Garth Ennis currently being adapted into a TV show. This series has its own parody of the Justice League, hiding their own dark secrets. The titular characters, the Boys, set out to test the heroes’ limits and, if necessary, deal out bloody justice.
    Compare and contrast these series, their characters, their themes, etc.

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      What makes some superheroes more popular than others

      Why is Ant-Man, despite being integral to the MCU, still considered a lesser-known superhero, with jokes being made about it as recently as Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania? Why did Drax come out of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 the most popular Guardian, going up against the likable charm of Starlord and the reserved bad-boy archetype in Rocket Raccoon? Why is Iron Man, who was once considered a B-list superhero in Marvel comics, now the pillar for the MCU and Marvel heroes as a whole? Why are Batman and Spiderman *so* timeless, that they will likely continue to see adaptations long after we’re gone?

      There’s an unmistakable draw to some superheroes. Captain America, a symbol of America in a time of strife, is now a symbol of the entire world. It’s interesting to look back on superheroes, someone six years ago might not be able to tell you who "Doctor Strange" was, but is now a household name. Writing, staying power, casting, exposure, and adaptation all likely carry some weight in explaining why some superheroes refuse to die, while some fade into obscurity. With the unimaginable popularity of superheroes in modern culture, it should be analyzed just what, and how many factors make certain characters so integral to our culture.

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        Ideology and a problem with Superheroes.

        Superheroes, are presented as by their nature disruptions to the "natural order" of the world. That is to say many are presented in worlds more or less analogous to that of the reader, either in the urban setting or something that perceivably realistic. But, this presents a disruption to the world they exist within.

        Many heroes are, in some interpretations, read as virtual gods amongst men, invulnerable, nigh unstoppable, with only "benevolence" as the check against them dominating the world. How does a world function similarly to our own while also inhabited by a living god or gods?

        Many exist only in reactive states, that is to say, many heroes and their stories are written to respond to "crime" or "disasters" but rarely are we presented with them proactively pushing for some sort of shift. How does this materially affect their world? How does a world of heroes and supervillains, one of constant impending doom have any sense of normality? How can that world even function?

        Part of this can be blamed on the medium, crime being punished is an easier comic to sell than crime never happens, but that reinforces the idea of crime without interrogating the why of crime. The material conditions, not to mention the motivations of criminals within worlds of sentient nuclear weapons is rarely examined.

        Returning to the core question, superheroes exist in worlds similar to our own, but how in fact is that possible? How is it that a world where Superman and Batman exist is virtually the same as a world where they don’t. How is the world of Marvel, with aliens and spirits, and devils, and sentient robots not dissimilar entirely to the world that exists today?

        How do writers square the circle that is the "status quo" ? Status quo being read as a world that has enough parallels to the real world to be read as similar to our own. A sense of normalcy that can allow for the reader to feel connection with the world of the heroes. How can you reckon with the fact that the existence of these walking myths has little impact on their worlds?

        The writer could interrogate the idea of the superhero as it compares to the prior age of myth, but the more challenging question would require some understanding of the main universes of some of the major comic book publishes and their distinctions and similarities from the real world along with speculation/analysis of why or even how those similarities exist.

        • One idea from the pilot episode of Agents of SHIELD: organizations like SHIELD exist to keep the majority of the weird stuff away from the public, so the world will not change dramatically. Another idea: if the existence of super-people did change the world, the most likely result would be something like Injustice: Gods Among Us - the super-people ruling the world, whether the regular people wanted that or not. Many of the superheroes know this and willingly avoid impacting the world in such a way because free will matters to them. Also consider Watchmen, a fairly popular story about super-people very much changing the world. – noahspud 2 years ago
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