What makes a good super heros story? Discussion split from Superman & Lois Show

I think that you need both. The reason why a story about Clark Kent facing ordinary problems works is because of the contrast: “Here’s a guy who can bench-press an aircraft carrier, and yet he still has a hard time asking out the girl he likes”, or whatever. And yes, to make that work, you do have to sometimes show him bench-pressing an aircraft carrier. But it should be the background, not the foreground.

And this does vary by character. Fight scenes involving Superman are only superficially interesting, because you already know how he’s going to win: He’s stronger, tougher, faster, mightier than his opponents. If he needs to take a punch, he can. If he needs to punch someone else harder than they can take, he can do that too.

But if you look at, say, Spider-Man, while he’s also superpowered, he has definite limits. He sometimes gets into fights that are beyond his weight class, such that if he tried to fight like Superman, he’d get splattered. And so he needs to figure out how to leverage the powers he has, and use them in clever ways, and that’s interesting in its own way.

On of the companies that became DC was originally Detective Comics, and Batman originally had a more detective aspect to him (along with the cape and weird bat-obession). But that was a looooooong time ago…

I know their backstory says they have limits but they really don’t. The most glaring one is injury/healing factor. Almost every superhero takes punishment that would kill a human hundreds of times over. They always get thrown thru brick buildings, sometimes more than one. They have cars thrown on top of them. They get dropped from 100 story buildings. Other than a shake of the head, maybe a drop of blood on their mouth it seems to have no effect on them. Even people with no powers at all get their asses kicked on a regular basis and show no injury. Not to mention the plot armor they have making sure nobody bothers to pull out a gun to shoot them until the hero is within range to fight hand to hand.

And there is a reason why Detective Comics had to change.

Has anyone noticed how pissy some people have gotten in this thread?
(eta: well, started out that way…)

Hey, comics can be fun, movies can be fun. We’re basically asking how superhero stories can be more fun… (apparently, more Tom Holland, less Darkseid).

Which actually made me realize a good way to approach this: DC or Marvel comes up to you and says, we love your work on the 'Dope, can you write us a good Super-Movie?

I’d say, sure, can I cast and direct it, too? And ignore Zack Snyder? Okay, then, we’re going to balance Supes and Clark/Lois/Lana/kids… (and Jimmy Olsen of course).

And we’re not going to have a slugfest with Darkseid. In fact, an omnipotent bad guy is stupid, so [squeaky eraser noises] let’s get someone human-scale, and even sympathetic… hmmm, maybe the Smallville Lex Luthor.

And my goal will be to make you care about the characters…

Twice this winter, while I was watching the first episode of a super-powered teenage girl show, I looked up and said out loud “Damn, I actually care about these people! Not a common occurrence.”

(I Am Not Okay With This on Netflix, and Impulse, which I had to buy on iTunes. Similar, both have “new kid in class” protagonists… and nerdy guys who help them)

I thought you were going to talk about Stargirl, also about a teenage girl, new in town, discovering her superpowers. But it’s a goofier take, much much goofier, and loads of fun. And, yes, you do care about the characters.

I like that we’re getting a nice Superman, one who actually wants to help people. I want to like the show. But…

Eh. It’s not bad. I don’t think it helps that it premiered so close to WandaVision, which was just so much more ambitious, and had all that Di$ney backing. But it’s just not really grabbing me. Truly, we are in a Geek Golden Age. I can remember, and it wasn’t all that long ago, when I would watch just about any sci-fi/fantasy drek, because there just wasn’t much of it around. And if it were super-hero drek, well! But now, there’s so much good sci-fi/fantasy, and good super-hero productions, I usually don’t watch mediocre stuff anymore, or even stuff that’s technically well done but which doesn’t really grab me. I think this series falls into that area for me.

The LA Times talks about why Superman is better on TV.

The article makes some good points, but I think the reason is far simpler. Serial television has a far smaller budget than feature films. Hence any special effect have to be judiciously rationed. Hence there’s going to be far less spectacle and much more talking. The spectacle is what hooks the viewers, but the talking is what keeps them coming back for more. If the characters aren’t written well then the series is going to be cancelled.

For me it varies.

For the comic book themselves I prefer them to focus mostly on super-heroics.

For TV shows I actually prefer them to focus mostly on the person behind the super-hero.

The TV show format has more room for the creators to expand on how characters develop and mature. They can go through dialogue in one episode that might take three or four issues of a comic book to express(unless you like walls of texts in your comics-I don’t). And acting is a lot better at expressing emotional turmoil than trying to depict it visually in a comic.

She was quite prominent on a couple of seasons of Supergirl.

The idea that people read comics for the fight scenes doesn’t make sense to me. The bulk of those books about the character and plot. Plus fight scenes don’t tend to translate well to a static medium. The thing that makes them remotely exciting is the movement. No, comic books get complicated because they bring in that other stuff.

And so do the shows, because, while fight scenes work to some degree, they get boring without the other stuff. You need an investment in why the fight is happening. You need to know who the characters are. You need to know the reason the fight is happening. You need to know the stakes, both external and internal.

As for whether they spend most of their time as the superhero or the “secret identity,” that varies for different heroes. The more powerful the character, the more you need to spend time with them not being “in the costume.” No one wants to see the plot entirely resolved by just using your powers. For lower powered characters, the powers just aren’t enough. But, for higher powered characters, you often need other restrictions that aren’t about raw power.

There’s also something to be said for making your character relatable, and that’s easier if you spend time in their civilian identities, getting to know them as a person.

I really do think Superman works best when he’s primarily Clark Kent. Sure, mentally he’s always Superman. But having to pretend to be Clark Kent, and take on the restrictions that entails, makes for a more compelling narrative.

Sure, sometimes you want to give him a villain who can compete with him in raw power. But the reason why that works is that this is something for the character to deal with. It’s not about seeing who has the higher power level–since that’s ultimately just something the authors decide on a whim.

That is, in the comics, where the writers have full creative control. There are definitely YouTube videos and articles that pit powerful characters against one another, trying to use canon to figure out who is the most powerful. But then those videos/articles have absolutely no story.

Sure, fight scenes aren’t the only reason people read comics. Image had quite a few comics in the 90s that were pretty literally just fight scenes, and those comics quickly folded. The ones with compelling characters and stories continued.

On the other hand, there’s a reason super hero comic that featured big fight scenes came to dominate the North American market, and romance comics, for example fell by the wayside. Of course, a big part of the reason for that is that the in the Marvel revolution of the 1960s, super hero comics absorbed a lot of the tropes, and a lot of the most talented artists, from romance comics. But what we wound up for the most part were super heroes with a romantic life, not romantic leads who happened to have super powers.

There actually have been a number of limited series that have gone in both directions. But superfight series like Contest of Champions and Secret Wars tend to be more popular than series like Young Heroes in Love.

You’re completely misconstruing my point. The best Superman stories are about fighting a smart villain, not someone who thinks he can outpunch him.

I don’t watch horror except for psychological horror. Monsters and boogiemen are boring. You want horror, watch Repulsion or The Tenant.

I understand Alien better than you. You evidently don’t see cheap manipulation and creaky plot contrivances.

You’re arguing that horror is an inferior form of movie because it doesn’t have to have good characters or a reasonable plot. Your point is “It’s horror. It has a right to be of second-rate.”

I will make this point, though. The best superhero show to ever appear on TV was Misfits (especially the first two series). More character depth, superb plot twists, and a more realistic look at how superpowers might work. There probably were a few fight scenes, but they were not in every episode.

The Umbrella Academy was also quite good (for the same reason, even the casting).

Not sure why this popped up again but no, just because you like those stories doesn’t make them good. If Superman exclusively used only his IQ to stop villains, no one would buy the comics. If this was such an untapped market, someone in charge would have had these kinds of books out long ago. People like Superman to use his powers.

Are you saying these two movies scared you? Again, as an adult, I don’t think anyone gets scared by horror movies. Repulsion bored me to death and I have never seen The Tenant and since it’s a Polanski movie I never will. Really, the best you can come up with are 50 year old movies?

The thing is, you don’t understand Alien at all. You just wish it was a different type of movie altogether.

I’m arguing nothing of the kind. Horror movies can have all different levels of quality just like, surprise!, all other types of movies. The fact that you, personally, do not like one type of horror movie does not make those movies bad.

No, it wasn’t. It had a real good first year and then went to unwatchable. Not to mention the time travel plot and the acting ability of the guy that played the time traveler. The just throw in a stray 35 year old along with the teens to mix things up a bit. I don’t recall any superb plot twists, Ill have to take your word for it.

You keep saying this, yet I cannot think of a single comic where Superman is just constantly fighting. The fight scenes show up, but they’re not the point.

Sure, Superman uses his powers, but he has to do so creatively to solve it. If he can just punch his way to victory, the comic is boring. That hasn’t been the case since very early comics where he was facing just average people.

It’s not like @RealityChuck is saying something knew. People talk all the time about how boring Superman is because he’s so powerful he can just punch his way through the problem. It’s the number one reason people say they like Batman better.

And this was an early complaint. They had to invent Kryptonite, which reduces Superman’s powers, in order to make him better. They had to play up his morals. They had to make him vulnerable to magic. They made him have to worry about making sure Lois didn’t catch him as Clark. And, yes, they created other people who were just as strong so Superman had to be smart to defeat them.

They went out of their way to make problems that Superman couldn’t just use his powers to fix, because that made for boring stories. I don’t get why you keep arguing that this isn’t the case, and people just read the comics to see Superman use his powers and win.

Maybe you don’t find it boring, but most people do.