Sunday, December 29, 2013

Superheroes

So: I really love superheroes. I have since I was little. I used to make up my own superheroes, as early as age 5 or so (there's even a picture floating around Facebook of me dressed up for Halloween as Debious, one such creation). I had a DC Comics dictionary as a kid, I had a bunch of records that told the adventures of various superheroes, and I liked watching Superfriends and suchlike.

But what I wasn't really into was reading comic books.

Now, that changed a little as I got older. I got into limited series like Secret Wars and Squadron Supreme, and titles like Who's Who (DC) and What If... (Marvel). I'd read comics as I found them, but I rarely bought them, and if I did it was generally a new book, from the first issue (sometimes that worked out, sometimes you get the first six issues of NFL Superpro).

I started playing RPGs at age 11, and my first game was TSR's Marvel Superheroes. I ran the hell out of that game, and since then I've played and run a bunch of others - Batman, Mutants and Masterminds, Marvel Heroic, ICONS, and most recently Better Angels. And I'm finding that my tastes are changing. I like four-color, but it's hard to get into the conventions and tropes of that four-color setting now. That is, it's hard for me to play or run a supers game without at least some attention to the larger context in which these supers exist. In my recent Marvel game, Greenspace, we had all the usual Marvel tropes: mutants, high-tech, a sorcerer supreme, and so forth. But there was still the SHIELD-like government agency looking out for everything. It's not just "put on a cape and punch dudes," I need to pay some attention to what kind of world allows that kind of derring-do. But it wasn't always thus, and I blame (or credit) movies.

Various comic-book character movies came and went; Punisher (Dolph Lundgren), Burton's Batman, and so on, and then X-Men came out. And X-Men, flawed though it was, really drove home for me that you could make a movie about superpowered people and have it make sense within its own world, and have a larger connection to the world that the source material set up. Movies since then refined that, of course; Avengers did it best, and that movie really nailed it - that's what the four-color superhero genre has always looked like in my head.

But it was long about X-Men when it clicked for me. I like superheroes. I don't like comic books.

Comic books go on forever. Characters don't age. Or they do. They die, but they come back. You can't ever really change anything. You're always at the mercy of the folks making the decisions, and often those folks are idiots who figure the best way to make comics is sexify all the girls and give pouches to all the boys. And it's not like this isn't a problem in movies, but in a movie, it's over in two hours. In comics, it all becomes canon, and even after how many crises, the very concept of "canon" is meaningless. It makes about as much sense as the backstory to Mortal Kombat.

And that's why I always liked the limited series and the graphic novels that took a few characters, told their stories, and then let them the hell go. I want the stories to make sense and then end. That's probably why I'm fine with the end of The Dark Knight Rises, because it the trilogy tells a complete story.

Anyway, I have no idea what all this means, but it's late and I can't sleep, and it was in my head, so I typed it out. Really I think I just wanted to use this space to blog a little bit. :)