Sunday, October 02, 2022

Our Heroes Have Always Been Above That Sort of Thing

A recent youtube video asked the question,

"Why do all superheroes sound the same?"

They don't, of course. What it really means is that "All Marvel superheroes sounds the same."  

The other thing that won't die: comics-civilians lumping Marvel and DC characters together as if there's no difference.


I'll be frank with you: I didn't watch the video. Not one second. Why would you? You know the answer to the question and what they are going to say.  The only real interest is in how the question is mis-formed ("all superheroes" rather than "all Marvel superheroes").

Can you imagine a world or era where Batman was a wise-ass?


A lot of the commenters (including me) point that out. Most blame the modern screenwriter(s) whose hallmarks are annoyingly sarcastic, wise-ass, quippy dialog. You know: Joss Whedon, Brian Mumblecore Bendis, Sam Raimi, James Gunn, Peter David, Keith Giffen; pick one (or more).  

Fortunately, DC heroes don't treat life-and-death situations flippantly like Marvel heroes do.


Certainly, there is some true in that. Buffy Masters has much to answer for. You can blame a particular writer whose style that got copied.  Or the style of an era (the '90s) coming to its full, monstrous fruition.  

Marvel fans put up with the childish joking of their heroes because as a validation of their own childishness.  It's sad, really.


Sadly, a lot of people who watch superhero movies haven't really read many of the comics that underlie those characters, so I tried to point out the comic book roots of the problem.  It's not merely that some modern comic books writer affect a quippy, snarky, flip style of dialog for all characters.  It was, in fact, a hallmark of early Marvel comics. 

It's one thing if Marvel  heroes want to joke with one another but REAL heroes do not joke with their foes. 


The DCU is a quilt, patched together from different characters created by different creators and a times in different styles, sometimes for different companies.  The Marvel superhero universe is an afghan, knit much more coherently with an intentional plan as an integral whole. 

Wise-cracking is just built into Marvel's historical DNA.


Each approach has pros and cons.  DC's Quilt Approach naturally brings variety and diversity, both in characters and styles, which means you have a chance to appeal to more people. 

Marvel heroes just don't take what they are doing seriously enough on a consistent basis.

It also offers separability and deniability!  If some contradictory development crops up between titles you can ignore it more easily.  If some title or part of your publishings doesn't work, you can cut it out entirely, and probably patch it up easily.

Some quippy characters? Sure. But it's EVERYONE in Marvel, making it tedious and oppressive.


Marvel's Afghan Approach offers coherence and consistency. If read something in one comic, you know it 'counts' in every other; if you liked Title A, you will probably like Title B.  Its world-building is organic and, well, more seamless.

Only Marvel heroes go for the wisecrack rather than use their powers judiciously.

One of the cons of the integral approach is that a "house style" can be suffocating and unnatural.  Everyone looks the same and sounds the same, which isn't how people are.  Or, at best there's a small handful of speech patterns assigned based on which stereotype a character most clearly aligns with.  

I think it's the sarcasm, the snarkiness of Marvel characters that really irritates me. Make mine DC.


If you want to know what those are just read any Jack Kirby story with Fantastic Four or the Newsboy Legion; I'd rather not suffer through them here.

I'm safe from that sort of non-stop meaningless prattle in DC stories.


But it just doubles-down on the point: "all Marvel superheroes in the movies talk the same because they are MARVEL heroes."  To the degree DC heroes do that in movies, it's because writers are aping Marvel writers (or because Marvel writers have been hired to WRITE DC heroes).  

Marvel can't even manage to allow its cosmic figures maintain their seriousness and dignity.


It's certainly not because DC heroes naturally or historically speaking with that annoyingly sarcastic, wise-ass quippy dialog style.


At least Marvel manages to avoid the lowest form of humor: puns.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The one I don't like is how many characters, especially in the Marvel movies, make the same joke about "you really call yourself 'Black Bolt'? Seriously?" Besides how repetition generally doesn't make a joke better, quit making like you're too cool for the genre you're making movies in. Really, any time the heroes start acting like they're embarrassed at what they're doing, it makes me an unhappy viewer.

Speaking of Anson Mount (Black Bolt), he's a delight as Captain Christopher Pike over in "Strange New Worlds". You might well approve. They bring back a bunch of the old characters, but in new and better form, all of them. They even get subtle details right, like Number One's black nail polish.

Scipio said...

"quit making like you're too cool for the genre you're making movies in."
This IS the heart of the matter.
It's a defense mechanism. Marvel (especially at the movies) is, at heart, utterly terrified of being 'uncool'. Therefore they continually employ a classic nerd defense mechanism: "if I make fun of the things about me that might be uncool FIRST, I beat the bullies to the punch and then THEIR criticisms of it seem hollow. And being self-aware make me seem cooler." Marvel is desperate to do this in their films, and the cumulative effect is "we're embarrassed by what this really is and can't take it seriously and that how you should feel to." As a general rule, people will follow your lead in what you think about yourself.

As for Anson Mount and Strange New Worlds: trust me, I'm very familiar and am a big fan.

Anonymous said...

...not exactly a big fan of DC Golden Age stuff huh? (Given the commentary attached to the pictures you used)

Scipio said...

"not exactly a big fan of DC Golden Age stuff huh"
I needed that laugh.
I am HUGE fan of DC Golden Age stuff. That's why I HAD to make the post: to force myself (and perhaps others?) to confront the "ugly truth" that ALL DC heroes used to talk like that.

Anonymous said...

How bad was the Marvel Golden Age stuff then?

Scipio said...

Well, technically,
there are no Golden Age Marvel Comics. Marvel Comics starts in 1961. I'm not sure everyone realizes that.

They inherited a few characters from related predecessor titles by Timely and Atlas (Captain America, Human Torch, and Submariner), but everything else comes from the Silver Age or later.