Can superheroes grow up?

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voiceofisaac writes:

"So, if most superhero comic books are adolescent power fantasies, what about them would need to be changed in order to make them a more adult fantasy? Or are all power fantasies adolescent by definition?"

ted_slaughter ripostes:
"First, ‘adolescent’? Are you saying it’s adolescent to desire power, or that comics are inherently jejune? Because I beg to differ, on both counts.

Ted and Isaac cut to the core of the issue here. This is, in a way, the whole ball game.

First, let me make something clear: there is nothing wrong, shameful or second-rate about adolescent fantasies. Adolescent fantasies drive the entire movie business and have for more than a generation. "Grown-up" drama was once where all the money was spent in Hollywood, now it’s the opposite: all the money is spent on adolescent fantasies, while adult drama must squeeze itself in where it can. Adolescent fantasies thus call the shots in this world of professionals — movies based on superhero comics, fantasy novels, children’s books and pop-culture flotsam attract the biggest names, the highest salaries and our brightest talents. No offense to the wonderful movies nominated for Best Picture this year, but the three movies I went to see more than once in the theaters, Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda and The Dark Knight, are not on the list. The question here is not "are superhero movies any good?" but "can superhero movies ever be anything but adolescent fantasies?"

Ted asks if [superhero] comics are inherently jejune. I think "jejune" is the wrong word — they are inherently fantastic. The moment you have a character with superpowers, you enter the realm of the fantastic. Put your superhero in a wild costume and set him in an action-adventure story and there’s no going back — you’re dealing with pure fantasy, and fantasy, like it or not, is the realm of the adolescent. Superheroes have special powers by definition, are by definition fantastic, and therefore superheroes are inherently adolescent power fantasies.

(But wait! Don’t grown-ups consume fantasy? They certainly do! The Harry Potter phenomenon is only half driven by children, millions of adults read those books. The fact that adults consume fantasy does not make Harry Potter novels adult, and it does not elevate The Dark Knight to the level of Crime and Punishment — it only illustrates is that, in today’s society, adults are encouraged to act like adolescents for an extended period of time — their entire lives, if they can get away with it.)

Will superhero movies always sit at the kids’ table? Will there ever be a superhero movie that will be discussed in the same terms as Citizen Kane, as Persona, as Raging Bull?

I see no reason why not. The "superhero movie" is, after all, just coming into its own as a genre right now. Genres always start as exploitative entertainments, and if they survive they eventually develop into art. Westerns began because they were cheap to make and people liked them — the makers of The Great Train Robbery would be shocked to see their pot-boiler genre develop into Stagecoach, The Searchers, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Unforgiven. There’s no inherent reason why the chanbara genre would necessarily beget Seven Samurai, or that the horror genre would produce Psycho or The Silence of the Lambs. But they did, because their genres developed over time and brilliant artists brought their talents and skills to them.

I believe that we’re approaching that point with the superhero movie, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

Batman comics flourished as entertainment for children, and the Adam West show was an accurate reflection of that. Its tongue was firmly in its cheek and it blew everyone’s minds anyway. I know that when I watched it as a child, there was no satirical element to it — Batman and Robin were as realto me as a heart attack. Tim Burton re-imagined the character (for movies, anyway) as a dark, brooding character who had no sense of humor at all — and it blew everyone’s minds all over again. The Schumacher movies, oddly, moved in the opposite direction, taking the character back to its adolescent roots. Batman Begins split the difference between Burton and reality — Gotham City was still a fantastical place but great care was taken to make Batman seem like a graspable, logical development of a genuine psyche — it made him feel "real." The Dark Knight almost does away entirely with fantastical elements — almost — and has blown everyone’s mind yet again. Obviously there is something going on in our society that wants to see our adolescent fantasies become real — and computer effects, just in time, have been developed to make all that possible.  See, for example, the Lord of the Rings movies.  When I was a lad, to come out and admit that you took Tolkien seriously was to brand yourself as a backward loser incapable of conversation with living people, much less adults.  Something happened between then and now, and Tolkien is taken very seriously indeed by millions of people, and Return of the King swept the Oscars.  So the "fairies and fantasy" genre has obviously matured in a way that the superhero genre has not — yet.

James Bond is over 40 years old now. He was gleefully constructed as a pure adolescent power fantasy, by the admittance of his own creator. James Bond movies are silly, colorful, stylish, giddy and hyperbolic. No one went to see Goldfinger thinking they were seeing a serious espionage drama about the life of a secret agent — it was a fantasy, an escape — almost camp. James Bond, somewhere in there, got old enough to evolve into Jason Bourne. The Bourne movies, no less fantastical (or adolescent) than the Bond movies, nevertheless feel much more serious, grim even, more "real," and make a contraption like Die Another Day look ridiculous in comparison. Jason Bourne has spooked James Bond so badly that Bond has evolved into Bourne in order to guarantee his own survival — Quantum of Solace even swiped Bourne’s editor to give it that extra edge. As the super-spy genre develops, I have no doubt that one day someone will come along with a brilliant new take that will elevate it high art.

How will superhero movies get there? How will they grow up? I’m not sure — Psycho brought a formal daring and a technical brilliance to its low-rent genre, so maybe that’s a place to look. Imagine Quentin Tarantino making a superhero movie (which he kind of already did with Kill Bill) and you begin to see the possibilities. Seven Samurai imagined the chanbara movie as an epic, a national story, and overflowed with generous humanity and classicist sensibility. The Dark Knight comes close to approximating these qualities, but still remains rooted to its action-adventure genre, with its bigger-than-life villains and its spectacular action sequences. The Godfather legitimized the gangster genre with elegant, Shakespearean plotting and a somber, autumnal tone. Both those things seem within reach of the superhero movie, but again, we’re not quite there yet. Chris Ware responds to the fantasy of Superman by placing the character in the context of his drastically prosaic stories of painfully acute failure and weakness. His Superman is an adolescent fantasy — a poisonous one, often — in the mind of a rapidly-aging dead-end zero. So maybe there’s something in that — a superhero movie that’s less about the hero and more about the person who thinks he’s a hero. Don Quixote comes to mind — a "take" on an adolescent fantasy genre (the chivalric adventure) thatelevates it into the highest realm of literature.

I’m keeping my eye on Watchmen, not because I think it can make superheroes grow up exactly, but because it can introduce the concept to the moviegoing audience. If they have done it right — if they have done it half-right — it should completely detonate the audience’s concept of what constitutes a superhero movie, which can only lead to more exciting, more interesting stories ahead.


40 Responses to “Can superheroes grow up?”
  1. shocka says:

    Bullshit. The Dark Knight is already there, a much more profound, insightful, mature and intelligent film than any of those nominated for Best Picture this year.

    I mean, Slumdog Millionaire, are you kidding me? Seriously? Wonderful? You can’t get more juvenille than that contrived, aggressive, racist, predictable garbage. It’s more a children’s fantasy than an actual film, and from a screenwriter’s perspective, you should be offended. Characters chop and change perspectives and motivations at the drop of a hat to suit whatever ham-handed contrivance the plotline hands us next. The structure is pathetic, quickly becoming obvious that we’ll cut between each Millionaire Q and the life event that allows Indian Poverty Stereotype to answer it in such a rote and contrived fashion – nearly everything the Academy decides to nominate for its Best Picture is this same kind of mundane crap, akin to Showtime viewing: stupid material aimed at stupid adults to make them feel smarter. Case in point – Crash, aggressively stupid and racist garbage aimed at stupid adults maintaining that “Hey, we’re all racist!” through a happenstance Magnolia-prism in which idiots bump into idiots and play off each other in as contrived and pathetic a fashion as possible; Babel, the same goddamn thing with nip bush; A Beautiful Mind, mediocre predictable dramatised crap disguised as an inspiration how-it-happened “based on true events” series of events that caters to the stupidest kid in the class; Gladiator, a special-effect driven action film with awful dragging sequences of “character development” (note that none of these films have genuine character development, it’s all about contrivance and having characters pop up whenever they’re needed, hooray!) etc, need I say more?

    My point is that the Academy caters to the middlebrow, the simpering fools who don’t understand what they’re watching, why it works, the cultural contextual relevance of it, and what actually makes a good movie a good movie. They’re the same dipshits who liked Iron Man. Which was flaccid garbage driven by a quality performance but without a decent, believable storyline or any worthwhile action sequences. Compare Iron Man to The Dark Knight to get an idea of how much of a stupid-adult’s fantasy one is: one film believes that the world can be saved by a rich dude pimping himself out with gadgets and flying off to kill the bad guys. This is basically the belief that put us in the war with the Middle East. The other film believes that a man doing such a thing, as a well-funded, well-armed, moral vigilante, actually has consequences.

    Fuck the Academy and their closeminded anti-intellectual horse shit.

    EDIT: And where do they get off not nominating The Wrestler for Best Picture?

    • voiceofisaac says:

      Don’t hold back, tell us how you REALLY feel! 🙂

      Meh, I liked IRON MAN a lot, but I agree that the Academy has skewed tastes.

    • Bitching about the Academy’s selection of nominees, much less the actual winners, is like complaining about the Grammys. Both are relatively out of touch, yet both have convinced the general public that what they’re doing is representative of public opinion, rather than a gigantic mastubatory spectacle that allows annual realignments of industry power dynamics.

      As for The Wrestler, I doubt Aronofsky will ever get nominated for Best Oscar Anything. Rather than seeming dense and complex, like Crash, they actually _are_ dense and complex. Witness the massive confusion by critics over The Fountain.

    • “Bullshit. The Dark Knight is already there, a much more profound, insightful, mature and intelligent film than any of those nominated for Best Picture this year.”

      Agreed. Though I did actually like Benjamin Button too, it didn’t leave me thinking after wards, just entertained.

  2. jkcarrier says:

    You could argue that by introducing that element of self-awareness and self-mocking, the Adam West Batman was the first step towards an adult superhero story. Or at least one that was crafted with an adult audience (as well as kids) in mind.

  3. swan_tower says:

    and fantasy, like it or not, is the realm of the adolescent.

    You state that as if it’s a universal, but that attitide is a pretty new development in literary culture, dating back, what, two hundred years or so? I’m pretty sure it connects to the development of the novel as a form (since early novels distinguished themselves from romances [in the old sense] by their realism), though I’m not English-major enough to be certain.

    Fantastical tales have been literature for adult humans pretty much as long as humans have been around. (And I’ll warn the commentariat right now that anybody who tries to frame earlier societies as the childhood of the human race will not be spared when I reply. I am an anthropology major.) If the modern fantasy you see looks adolescent, it’s because social stigma relegated it to that demographic, much like fairy tales got bowdlerized and relegated to the nursery; only in the last few decades — more or less since publication of The Lord of the Rings — has it really started climbing out of that hole again. But that’s nothing inherent to the storytelling mode; it’s a question of who’s been willing to devote themselves to producing fantasy, and what they’ve aimed for, and how they’ve been received when they do.

    • samedietc says:

      I have the feeling that

      fantasy, like it or not, is the realm of the adolescent.

      is going to be the spark for a lot of your readers to disagree with you.

      And I’m very tempted to disagree with that statement off the bat, but I wonder if, after we spent a day of arguing about fantasy and adolescence, we would come to the realization that one of us was talking about unicycles and one of us was talking about tricycles.

      So, can you (Todd) unpack what you mean by “fantasy” and “adolescent”?

      • greyaenigma says:

        This is what’s getting me. I get frustrated by so many debates about whether something is X or Y when those terms are vaguely defined or loaded with connotations that different people may or may not apply.

      • kevinm126 says:

        “I have the feeling that

        fantasy, like it or not, is the realm of the adolescent.

        is going to be the spark for a lot of your readers to disagree with you. “

        Three things.

        1. I think a lot of that disagreement is going to come from the guise of not wanting to admit that the genres these folks hold the most interest in are, from a marketing perspective, targeted at an age group far younger than they are. But seriously, guys, you need to realize that there’s nothing wrong with that at all (like Todd said).

        2. In fairness, there’s plenty of fantasy fiction targeted towards a very specific fanbase/sub-culture that most definitely DOESN’T include children or adolescents. But that’s not what Todd’s talking about, and extrapolating to include those examples is moot. Doing so is completely ignoring the context of the statement in this argument and subsequently missing the entire point.

        3. It strikes me that a lot of people are taking “adolescence” to describe a specific age group or mindset. I disagree; I took it as a term to describe what aspects of our own psyche that these fantastical elements in a story appeal to. In that sense, I couldn’t agree more.

        What it all comes down to is that it seems that some are getting worked up and defensive over nothing. Another reply is the perfect example – yes, some terms are “vague” or “non-specific.” However, I don’t think we can label that as a “problem,” but rather as “reality.” There are concepts that are, by their very nature, vague and/or non-specific. That’s life, folks. Stuff isn’t as clear-cut and simple as you would like, nor should it be.

        • swan_tower says:

          1. I think a lot of that disagreement is going to come from the guise of not wanting to admit that the genres these folks hold the most interest in are, from a marketing perspective, targeted at an age group far younger than they are.

          I can’t speak for other people — and I admit I’m talking about fantasy in a multi-media sense, incorporating books as much or more than movies — but the book end of things is my profession, and I guarantee you it isn’t being targeted at an age group far younger than myself, or probably most of us here. If I had to guess, I’d say adult fantasy novels are aiming at a demographic ranging from 15 up to about 40 or 50; beyond that top age, the fans exist, but they’re fewer, and kids younger than 15 are more likely to be reading YA (young adult) fantasy.

          In fairness, there’s plenty of fantasy fiction targeted towards a very specific fanbase/sub-culture that most definitely DOESN’T include children or adolescents.

          I’m not sure what you mean by “a very specific fanbase/sub-culture,” so I can’t respond to this. If you mean the SF/F fan community as generally identified — I don’t know what percentage of the fantasy book-buying public they make up, but it’s well under half. (How do I know this? Because there aren’t enough con-goers and the like to account for more than maybe half my novel sales — and my sales are modest as such things go.)

          As for that not being what Todd’s talking about: I suspect there was some muddying of the topic going on between “fantasy” as fantastic narrative and “fantasy” as wish-fulfillment, but his original phrasing (which he’s modified in his later post) made it sound like he was stating a universal about fantastic narratives.

          And if myself and the others hadn’t disagreed with him, we wouldn’t have gotten the interesting discussion we now have going on in that other post — and I’m enjoying that one quite a bit.

    • mimitabu says:

      this reply won’t mention the bible

      “But that’s nothing inherent to the storytelling mode; it’s a question of who’s been willing to devote themselves to producing fantasy, and what they’ve aimed for, and how they’ve been received when they do.”

      are you sure you’re ready to separate “inherent to the storytelling mode” and “who produces it and for whom”? is there an Ideal Story that we partake in, or are our storywriting actions all novel things, defined more by our context than by some “objective features of stories”?

      i ask because maybe fantasy can be rendered “adolescent by definition” precisely by the context of today. sure, you’ve probably got the historical development right (i’m not qualified to comment, but i can’t imagine you don’t), but so what if shakespeare’s fantasy and “realism” were both equally adult? perhaps the world today places fantasy in adolescence, for whatever reason.

      this is somewhat “sake of argument” stuff coming from me, though. if todd is appealing to something objective rather than contextual re: “introduce prominent fantasy elements, bang, it’s not adult,” in which case i find it hard to agree. this is probably the philosophy student in me coming out, but i’m not comfortable with believing that the wrestler is an adult movie, but had he magically morphed into a bird and flew off at the end would suddenly be not-adult. perhaps fantastical elements aren’t enough… maybe todd is saying that if a movie/story is driven by fantasy, it’s by definition adolescent. if so, i would say that i disagree in principle, but at the same time i think that all superhero movies/stories (and most giant robot anime) are adolescent power fantasies.

      • swan_tower says:

        Re: this reply won’t mention the bible

        are you sure you’re ready to separate “inherent to the storytelling mode” and “who produces it and for whom”?

        Yes. By “storytelling mode,” I’m borrowing a distinction Brian Attebery once made, which I found very useful: he separated fantasy-as-genre (the marketing category) from fantasy-as-formula (specific story-types, like the Tolkienesque quest), and both of those from fantasy-as-mode. That last is a spectrum ranging from the mimetic (reproducing the conditions of the world as we understand them to be: at its extreme, nonfictional reporting of real events) to the fantastic (altering those conditions: at its extreme, something too weird for us to even comprehend).

        The storytelling mode, therefore, is one that diverges not just to the degree of realistic fiction — which depicts events that have not but could have happened — but to a higher degree, where the events could not have happened. I don’t think that mode is inherently connected to adolescence or any other stage in life. However, the social value attached to it will influence whether good writers spend their time and effort on it, and whether people who want to be respectable will bother reading it, and how the public responds to it. Things that get stigmatized usually end up relegated to children, or women, or poor people, or minorities, or whomever.

        It isn’t a matter of Ideal Story; it’s a matter of how the stories we’re talking about match or don’t match the world we live in. (Which, incidentally, is a mutable thing anyway; a devout Catholic might believe in miracles that his next-door-neighbor Richard Dawkins thinks are entirely implausible.)

        But Todd has clarified his point in a another post, namely that he was talking about the social role of fantasy today — which, while not completely the realm of the adolescent, is indeed often treated as such by the dominant culture perspective.

  4. iainjcoleman says:

    fantasy, like it or not, is the realm of the adolescent.

    That’s Homer fucked.

  5. 1. Sci-Fi/Fantasy has always belonged in the realm of adults, despite it’s mislaid correspondence with adolescence. It might be discovered by many in that time frame, but those same individuals spend many more years as adults enjoying the genre. For example, I don’t think Jurassic Park could readily be dubbed an adolescent novel.

    Also, I’m assuming you haven’t seen Punisher: War Zone. Except for the over-the-top blood/gore (which is comic-esque in its ridiculousness), it could easily be mistaken for an action movie.

    • blake_reitz says:

      Of course SF/Fantasy is enjoyed for many more years by adults, there are simply many more adult years in a lifespan!

      Interesting you mention the Punisher. As a character, he belongs to the same set of marvel characters that started as attempts to cash in on movie crazes (Ghost Rider, Luke Cage, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu), so he really is an action/revenge movie character. There’s an article out there on the web, maybe even from this LJ, that says this is why Punisher movies are mostly unremarkable – they’re still just action movies.

      • I hadn’t seen the first two that were made, but the one from 2008 that we saw in Dec we both loved (being my bf and I).

        As for the adult thing.. well we all not only spend more years as adults than adolescents, but yes, adults also significantly outnumber adolescents. Not to mention they’re almost entirely written by adults. 🙂

  6. catwalk says:

    boy, some people really don’t like the word ‘adolescent’. i’ve noticed a hint of indignation that i infer as a personal affront….
    is there any other way to label these distinctions? instead of ‘adolescent’ and ‘adult’, which some seem to take personally, perhaps ‘pure’ and ‘tempered’? or something along those lines that might not offend and result in diltuing the arguments.

    • new_universe says:

      it’s not indignation. Adolescence implies that eventually, people would or SHOULD grow out of a certain genre, which just doesn’t make much sense. Fantasy (and science fiction, which is just another sort of fantasy) has been with us from the very beginning of story telling, and i’d say might have been the first kind of story telling. Rather than thinking we all become some logical rationalist vulcans as we get older, I think it’s the desire to wonder and explore things that don’t exist that has really fueled the human imagination. Fantasy is not some adolescent niche, but something that defines human imagination.

      What would it be like to travel at the speed of light? That gave us the theory of relativity.

      • catwalk says:

        i get that, absolutely. i’ve just noticed that some people– and i don’t necessarily mean anyone in this or any other thread or even in this particular argument — seem to take the word ‘adolescent’ as a personal attack on their intelligence, perhaps improperly inferring ‘youthful’ from ‘adolescent’. the one particular word appears to drag along attachments of ‘juvenile’ or ‘immature’. i completely understand what is meant by ‘adolescent’ and ‘adult’, but i have, on occasion, witnessed arguments derailed by differring peoples differring understandings of the words.

        • new_universe says:

          true dat, i get how you mean.

        • blagh says:

          The fact of the matter is, though, that ‘adolescent’ is generally used to dismiss something as not worth an adult’s time and attention. From an adult perspective, it painfully reiterates the obvious, or it solves its problems with too much deus ex machina, or it fails to address complex, worthwhile issues.

          I understand that in this case it’s not being used in that sense, necessarily, but I can sympathise with those who would have a knee-jerk reaction to it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Grown up superhero

    You want to see a Superhero becoming and adult look no further than Hellboy. What Del Toro did with his adaptations of Hellboy is take an essentially 80 year old teenager (Hellboy), and put him thru a series of events. These events force Hellboy to look at himself and make him WANT to mature. All of that packaged in probably the best comic books movies to balance cheesy with dark (right up there with Spiderman 2). I know that there have been a lot of good dark comic movies lately but Hellboy is just plain fun and really good.

  8. I always wonder, whenever people say “adolescent fantasy”, what is an adult fantasy? What are adults “allowed” to dream? Are they allowed to dream at all?

  9. robolizard says:

    Where does that put the Bible, The Oddysey, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Aenid, amongst other older texts though? Or even The Question who is a Randian Power Fantasy? Or Plastic Man (which is more of a WB style toon), or the Fourth World?

    I dunno. I think its more of the perpetual human fantasy, isn’t it? To survive death, to do anything you want? To be able to punch your problem right in the face. And if you know your problems aren’t punchable, to know there’s someone to protect you, be it against the Joker/Chaos or the Greeks/Annhialation. Or, if you’re religious, death and illness.

    The fact that people connected so much more to the Joker than Batman this time around hints to me that there’s something more at play. Maybe superheroes are beloved because they are giant metaphors? Especially these days. Recently, the more serious issues in the superhero movie (done well) the better it seems to do.

  10. curt_holman says:

    This discussion touches on a whole host of issues like middlebrow vs. high brow; entertainment vs. art; fantastic genres vs. realistic genres vs. non-genre dramas. I think the term “adolescent” is loaded for many of us because it implies “immaturity,” and it seems a pretty tall order to parse the difference between “mature fantasy stories” and immature ones.

    On the one hand, any genre that involves a fantastic element — monsters, elves & trolls, faster-than-light spaceships, superheroes, even costumed vigilante heroes — cannot really qualify as “realistic.” Does that make them immature by definition? Psycho and The Godfather stem from pulp genre roots, but remain rooted in reality — or at least, seem plausible in ways that The Dark Knight doesn’t. The real world does have serial killers and organized crime, but doesn’t have costumed vigilante heroes like Batman. (On the other hand, I’m not sure Silence of the Lambs qualifies as plausibly realistic, because Hannibal Lecter, supergenius with heightened senses, ultimately seems like a fantasy figure.)

    To take the example of The Lord of the Rings: I love those movies and following them from the first on-line teaser trailer to the Return of the King Oscars was a great experience as a movie fan. But even though I’d put them on a par with The Wizard of Oz and The Empire Strikes Back, I don’t think the trilogy has the same real-world resonance belong in the company of Lawrence of Arabia or The Seven Samurai. They’re great “movies” but maybe not great “films,” if that counts as a meaningful distinction.

    On the other hand Children of Men and Pan’s Labyrinth, to take recent examples, are fantasy stories that seem completely mature and resonate with the real-world on the metaphorical/allegorical level. So I can’t see them as being an example of adolescence.


  11. Thanks for making me feel like Jason Bateman in Juno.

    I can only reply by saying that there are mature superhero stories out there, but you’re right, the vast majority of superhero stories are adolescent power fantasies. Watchmen as a whole is an APF, but there are parts which cross over into airquotes mature storytelling. I’m thinking of the Silk Spectre storylines as examples. If you made a Watchmen movie where Laurie was the sole protagonist, it’d be difficult to call that story an APF, IMHO, LOL.

    Going back to the source, there are writers of superhero comics out there that are telling mature, sophisticated stories, but since the public perception of comics is that they’re for kids and grown-ups with Asperger syndrome, they get ignored. What Brian Vaughan is doing in Ex Machina and what Grant Morrison did in All-Star Superman jump immediately to mind. I could also mention Brian Bendis’ Powers, in the event that you thought I worked for DC.

    I do think that the problem has as much to do with perception as it does with the stories. The fact that The Dark Knight didn’t even get a nomination for its screenplay* should get under anyone’s skin, and should stand as evidence that a mature superhero story will not be recognized as mature until there is a shift in the perception of the genre. Even though the movie was incredibly well-received both critically and at the box office, there is a certain element that won’t take a story seriously if the main character wears a cape.

    Why so serious ?

    * Though all nominees in Best Adapted Screenplay were deserving.

  12. Can superheroes grow up?

    Why should they?
    Why would we want them to?

    I still don’t understand why Batman complaining about his Sciatica acting up or his struggles with tax code loopholes is all that interesting.
    It’s like putting caviar on a hot fudge sundae.
    Does it make it more adult? I think it’s just fishy…

  13. marcochacon says:

    I have no problem with super-heroes being ‘adolescent’ per se–I do not think that it insults them, exactly–although it is also not a compliment. I think the question has to be: if we qualify them as adolescent, what are we giving up with that descriptor?

    I believe that some works (Moore’s Utopia, Gulliver’s Travels, and so on) manage to be mature without being grounded in reality. While most super hero movies are not philosophical lessons or biting satire, they at least, can pose a reasonable, relevant, and sincere question about the human condition–what else can we ask from “grown up” literature.

    Now, the fact is, most of them don’t–and, when they try to, we get maudlin crap like Spiderman 3 and we wind up with ABC After-School-Special morality tales. The movies don’t usually reach the level of Dark Knight–and I have vanishingly few hopes that Watchmen as movie will be as deep as Watchmen the novel was (perhaps the same way that V for Vendetta was no longer a Orwell-tribute attack on Thatcherism when the Wachowski got through with it).

    That said, though, I think that power-fantasy is part of the formula and if what we mean by ‘adolescent’ is that it’s gotta be in there, I’m all kinds of down with that.

    If it means that there’s an ethos of the good-guys winning? Or that if the debarkation line between good and evil, if smudged, is at least noted as smudged? Then I’m good with that too.

    It certainly doesn’t mean we have to pander to kids with Jar Jar Binks style characters.

    You are working on a super hero project: what are you constrained by doing to keep it adolescent? Anything significant (do you add a character and powers and go “I’ve met the adolescent standard?”–or is there more than that?)


    • Todd says:

      The adolescent appeal of my protagonist is, for better or worse, built right into the character. My interest in the maturation of the form will have to wait for another project, and I do have a few ideas along those lines.