Sunday, April 2, 2017

Superman is a More Realistic Hero Than Batman

For a number of reasons I find myself pondering the potential of new series of superhero stories.

No, there is nothing written in stone yet.  In fact it wouldn't be reasonable to say that there is anything even written in butter yet.

But I am considering a few things.

First, Death. Not an optional extra.   That one is the ultimate reality.  If your audience thinks a beloved character or at least a fan favorite can come back from the dead then there will be no dramatic tension.

Second, Female Heroes (which is to say heroines).  Also a no.  Pixie-Ninjas have run their course.  The novelty has worn off.  Yes, you do have the writer's out of going with,  "hey, super powers you know, why not just as strong as a man?"  The problem is a one of female hypergame.  No woman is going to be attracted to a man who is weaker than she is.  It's created silly superhero/heroine love triangles for years unless she has a dominatrix fetish. I'm not going to write that kind of story.  I am not John Scalzi.

Third, Super Powers versus No Super Powers

The downside to Super Powers are many and various.

There is invariably to be a lot hand wavem when you start bestowing powers.  The science is going to be soft.  The rules you set up for your powers are by their very nature arbitrary.  This leads to a problem of being constantly tempted in to using Deus ex machina solutions.

Then too is the problem of stupid dialog.  Pretty much every time I watch the Flash I end up cringing when of these kids starts to say, "my powers are..."  The rest of the sentence is stupid and embarrassing to me.  Although I was never certain as to why until recently.

The biggest problem with superpower.  When comics were first created they were targeted for an readership of boys ages 9 to at most 14.  They provide a dream of power when you are at a point in your life where you are at your most powerless.  Girls have gone from stupid and annoying to a source of unbearably longing.  There is suddenly a drive to be an Alpha Male and there is no way in hell to be an Alpha Male.  You are too short, too awkward, you don't know anything useful, legally you may as well be four.  The social ladder has been placed above you with the specific intent of letting you know that you are the lowest male on it.  This is called normal and yeah it sucks.  The humiliations cover you like hot mud from the moment you get up to the moment you throw yourself back into bed at night.

And then one day you turn sixteen and get your driver's licence.  Most of those problems are, if not over, at least now a manageable condition.

Unless of course you are Gamma Male.

Vox Day touched on the point of the issue with a needle 

The Gift is what makes the Gamma Protagonist special, and the GP will almost always have one special gift which eventually allows him to be the most powerful person in the room, perhaps any room.
  1. The gift is either in the form of an object that the GP alone is able to use correctly, or it is an innate ability.
  2. There will be a build-up in the power of The Gift in which the GP masters it.
  3. Eventually The Gift will become so powerful to make future storytelling nonsensical, so plot devices will need to be introduced in order to temporarily remove its power or make its power inaccessible. Sometimes the author will simply pretend it doesn’t exist for a while.
  4. The GP will agonize over his possession and use of The Gift, but display it immediately whenever his authority or specialness is challenged, particularly by an Alpha male. He is observably more comfortable using it as a status symbol than he is for any socially useful purpose.
  5. Once the full power of The Gift is revealed, the GP is then portrayed as being magnanimous in not using it at will.
  6. The full effect of The Gift will often be nonsensical, even comical, if viewed from the outside, but be portrayed as deadly serious in the story.

All right so that is the downside of superpowers.  But that's okay, you say to yourself.  Batman is way cooler.  Just have a team of Batmen (Batmans? Well whatever the collective is) just go with that.

The problem is that Batman is much more laughably unrealistic than Superman.  And it's not just problem of Alfred doing the job of an entire Marine Corps Combat Serivce Support Group just to keep in the field plus keep Wayne Manor up, running and clean...oh and he cooks too.

No the problem is in fact Batman's complete lack of powers.  He get's beaten to shit every-night and then collapses in his bed at dawn.  A few hours later he wakes up makes some big show of groaning and saying, "I'm getting too old for this shit" and then he promptly runs out and does the same thing the next night.  It. Does. Not. Work. That. Way.  When you take a beating, you take a beating.  There is short window of time in your early twenties that your jaw doesn't hurt in the morning but that doesn't last.

Real fighting.  Not mat wrestling but actual, your life is on the line and one of us is not walking away from this, broken fingers, blackened eyes, bloody nose, teeth on the ground fighting is not something you can keep shrugging off day in and day out.  It is going to hurt for a good long time.

Well Batman has great martial arts training so...

Shut the fuck up!


(*sigh*)  If you believe that martial arts training can do that, then you have never tried to use it in bar fight.  When you are thirteen the idea of getting into a fight and having the other guy never lay a hand on you seems doable because you've watched that happen on TV and in the movies all the time.  Live a little rough and you will find out that the media is lying to you about that too.  If you fight with your fists expect to get punched.

Flying through the air is far more realistic than the idea of fighting five guys, winning and never getting socked once.

In short, yes, I'm going with super powers.  If nothing else something that heals up my heroes after they've been in a rumble.

Although the big question I have for myself now is do I go with a bunch of guys with different super powers...or I with a group that only has a few powers that they all share?  Something that takes them just outside the human norm in terms of strength, speed, endurance and most especially healing.  They can take more damage than usual but beyond but if they take enough they will still die.  I am leaning strongly towards this approach.

I'll either have something in 100 days or I won't.  I can't wait to find out which it will be.


Jew613 said...

I do enjoy superhero stories but the concept of a regular guy beating up five men without being seriously hurt takes a serious suspension of disbelief. The idea of a woman doing it is just preposterous.

Cataline Sergius said...


You touch the matter with a needle.