Resin Heroes

Are superhero movies worth the time it takes to watch them anymore?

I honestly never thought superheros would be popular. In high school I was the kid who collected comics and, hoping one day to become a comic book artist myself, carried around a sketchbook full of drawings of superheros and space ships. There was a small group of us in school who were into superheroes and comics and art but not many. And I can remember on many occasions being teased about my love of the genera.

Which is odd since these days superheroes and sci-fi is so mainstream that the most popular movies and TV shows are sci-fi and superhero ones.

4c2e00adf2037The first time I went to a large comic book convention it was quite different than comic book conventions of today. Back in the mid 1990s, comic book conventions were mostly about the comics along with a scattering of toys and VHS tapes and a few celebs tucked into a corner. Today literally the opposite is true. The modern comic book convention, in my experience anyway, is mostly about celebs, them front and center, with a scattering of toys and DVDs with a few comic vendors as well.

And cosplay was something that used to be practiced by few at these conventions but has skyrocketed in recent years. We’ve gone from literally a handful of people dressing up to literally hundreds, if not thousands dressed as their favorite characters at a modern convention. I don’t think there’s much harm in this — if the local dentist can dress up in his Harley t-shirt and put a bandana over his head and take off on his hog and play biker on the weekends, then what’s wrong with someone dressing up as their hero one day a year? — it just strikes me that people are less interested in reading and enjoying the comic form as entertainment than somehow becoming a part of it.

What’s weird about this is that the comic books are the source material for just about everything that’s popular today, yet this source material is being ignored at best, or at worst past storylines are recycled into modern books and passed off as new and modern and innovative.

4310495954_6217e89468_bIt is a bit shocking to have lived from a time where superheroes were shunned, especially on the big screen, to now live in a time where superhero movies are some of the most profitable movies being made. It does seem, though, that what’s popular today won’t necessarily be popular tomorrow.

I stopped going to the larger comic book conventions a few years ago. The fun of attending was slowly eroded by the amount of people attending them. 10 minutes waiting to get in has morphed to more than an hour, the amount of celebrities and lines of people waiting to meet them at the events and even meeting a celeb can cost upwards of $200, to the cost of a ticket to go to the con skyrocketing to $70, etc. etc., etc.

It also seems like the flood of superhero movies rather than exciting people is rather diluting the genera and make them less and less popular with each passing year. The last Twilight movie made about $300 million, last summer’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones made about $30. Is this the fate of the comic book movie, that the more popular characters — The Avengers, Superman, Batman — can pull in the box office, but as time goes on less popular ones won’t?

I wonder too if the movies will have to change to keep their appeal. Right now all the superhero movies seem to comfortably fit into a single plot — good guy fights bad guy who is seemingly much more powerful that good guy. It doesn’t look like good guy is going to win since he’s so overmatched, but in the end he pulls it off and beats the baddie. Iron Man, Man of Steel, The Avengers and Thor all share this basic plot structure.

And while this is fun for a time, it also becomes repetitive and boring. Of course the good guy’s going to win in the end, they ALWAYS win. Plus the nature of movies today with telling stories over a few hours means that there’s not much story OTHER than good guy fights bad guy that can be told in that time.

506b47311fffcComic books are a (seeming) never-ending supply of story. Regardless of the current numbering scheme, Batman and Superman have been in the comics more than 70 years, and even perennial teen Spider-Man 50. And all that time there have been different stories being told over the years of these characters that have grown and changed and gone back to the beginning and changed some more. With movies there simply isn’t enough time to tell this kind of story, so it reverts to black and white. Simple good vs evil.

I kind’a wonder if that’s the appeal of modern TV shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. These shows have hours and hours and hours of time to devote to story meaning they can tell stories in more shades of grey than simply black and white. I’m not even sure who the good guys or bad guys are half the time in these kinds of shows. And in these shows it’s normal to kill off major characters from time to time.

But with superhero movies, not so much. Even with last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers before that killed off a minor, but fan favorite, character he/it didn’t stay dead for long and returned to the land of the living sooner than you could say “perception of change.”

Wolverine_Vol_2_35I’m even disappointed in the majority of modern super-hero comics these days too. There was a time when these comics were just telling a part of a longer story that’d been going on for years and years. But recently the idea has been to strip down the characters back to their roots and tell the origin stories all over again. This started with the Marvel Comics “Ultimate” line where they were sort of a Puff Daddy remix of the best stories that had come before and retold for modern tastes. The “all killer, no filler” comic as it were. Which is great, but it means that a lot of the subtlety of the stories that had built up over time was lost in all this retelling.

DC Comics got in on the act a few with their “New 52” line where they literally cancelled their entire line of comics and restarted all of them over again with #1 reintroducing the characters.

I guess this kind of technique is meant to bring in new readers. “Hey kids, this is Batman from the beginning so if you were thinking of collecting comics before you should start now!” But for older readers, like me, it seems like a lot of history is being erased and bull-dozed over in order to lure in some new readers.

It feels like a money grab and I honestly haven’t bought a super-hero comic in many years now.

At their core superhero movies are entertainment and are entertaining. My worry is that, like food, superhero movies are more like fast food, than fine dining. And while fast food can be enjoyable at times, it’s not really good for you.