I can’t remember the last time I read a comic where the superhero saved someone. Someone other than his supporting cast that is. To be a hero means selflessly risking one’s safety to preserve the safety of another. To save one’s own loved one isn’t selfless, not really. To save one’s home town isn’t selfless either nor is saving one’s home planet. It’s self-preservation.
These days it’s typical for the story to start with the bad guy directly attacking the hero, so the hero is also the victim and there is no selflessness at all, just self defense. And while self defense is rateable or even admirable it’s not heroic. And the superhero concept of hero becomes defined as the guy who didn’t punch first.
“Good guys” who can’t lose being sucker punched by “Bad guys” fighting over nothing of substance with neither side really risking their lives. These aren’t heroes and villains, they’re two armies of vikings in licensed property Valhalla.
I first started reading DC Comics right after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which provided the DCU with a clean sweep, more or less. It was a good jumping on point because everything was new-ish and didn’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of decades of continuity.
But that was a long time ago and DC is running with more baggage than ever and while I can keep up with every new character (thanks to Wikipedia) more and more I don’t want to. Since no one really dies in the DCU there’s a saturation point off in the distance where Mundane-American are the new minority.
I could jump ship to Marvel but they have decades of mutants clotting the system and not one, but four crossovers going on at the moment. They’re following the Lay Chips business model, you can’t read just one, ’cause you’ll never be able to follow the story.
Or maybe the problem is I’m too old to be reading comics. Nope. Because they keep using characters like Cable or Rachael Summer’s as if their personal time lines made a lick of sense.
There’s something to be said for death and entropy.
The Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum. He kills a few people in clever and macabre ways until Batman punches him in the face and takes him back to Arkham.
I’ve seen this cycle so many times that Batman feels like an accomplice. He’s the guy that gives the Joker a ride home at the end of the day. And why not? The Joker’s much more effective at advancing his agenda (kill people) than Batman is at his (save people). If you can’t beat them, join them. That’s the Wayne family motto.
Since the villains are just as valuable as intellectual property as the heroes are the best the hero can aspire to is maintaining the status quo. After racking up a body count in the thousands there’s no reason why the Joker’s still alive except that he looks good on a t-shirt or in a video game.
There are no character arcs here. DC and Marvel have these vast universes of static characters where change is either illusionary or temporary no one’s really fighting for anything. And since they’re also immortal then there’s no good guys or bad guys. Just two armies of vikings, fighting it out in Vallhalla till Ragnarok hits the publishing industry.
I didn’t buy any comics yesterday. But that’s not so unusual anymore. Lately I’ve often walked away from the store empty handed. This week I didn’t even go to the store. My pull list is down to seven titles so it’s not worth my while to drive up there more than once a month. A weekly ritual I’m participated in without fail since 1992 is over. An end that started with Blackest Night.
I was really into the series right up until the final pages of the final issue. With it’s theme of death vs. life I thought for sure Johns was trying to close the rotating door that death has become in the DCU. Instead, I got a mass, snap-of-the-fingers resurrection.
The DC and Marvel universes aren’t filled with characters, they’re filled with walking, talking intellectual property. Every superhero is really Wile E. Coyote. They don’t age and they can’t die, not for long. And if that’s the case, what are these “heroes” putting on the line? What are they risking? If death doesn’t exist than what worth is life?
One exception squeezed thorough this year: Marvel’s 1 Month 2 Live flew in the face of all that immortality. I recommend it.