Comic Culture On The Page And Screen: What’s Good And What Needs To Be Better

by Tito W. James

Here are my thoughts on comic book culture right now and where we could be moving forward.

I’m pretty hyped that Ruby Rose will be playing Batwoman for the Arrowverse. There’s so much room to reinvent Gotham and the Bat-mythos. Batwoman doesn’t have a no-kill rule, so that radically changes the status quo of locking villains in Arkham Asylum and waiting for them to break out. Batwoman also has the opportunity to fight supernatural forces and dip a toe into the horror genre. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the developers will deliver the heroine that audiences deserve.

Anther superhero property I’m looking forward to is the animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. With its creative use of cell-shading, Spider-Verse stands apart from other superhero and animated films. In the trailer, there is also a heavy focus on action and adventure, in addition to humor. If this film is successful, it could shift the animation landscape to allow for more projects with stylization and an adventure focus.
I’m also grateful that we are going to have black and gay superheroes that are legit badasses and not side-kicks.

High quality adaptations aren’t limited to Marvel and DC properties. Deadly Class, East of West, Umbrella Academy, and Hellboyare just a few of the many indie-comics that are being adapted for film and TV. I wish these properties the best of luck because they may serve as a bridge to bring in more audience members (especially adults)to read indie comics.

Film is becoming saturated with superheroes. This wouldn’t be a bad thing if all the films were high quality, but that’s not the case. Marvel movies have become repetitive and formulaic to the point where “if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.”
DC’s film quality has dropped dramatically. I liked their new versions of Superman and Wonder Woman. I was even on board with Batman V Superman, but after Suicide Squad and Justice League, I’ve lost hope. The idea that consumers will pay for another streaming platform that costs as much as Netflix just to watch exclusive shows with lower production values is laughable.

While it’s fun to “stick it to the mainstream,” independent comics aren’t off the hook.
Many indie comics are suffering from what I call “Ready Player One Syndrome.” Indie creators are pulling from the dried out well of 80’s nostalgia. Indie comics are being pitched as “It’s Terminator meets Alien, with a dose of Blade Runner.”
While mash-up ideas are easier to pitch than original ones, they become derivative of the works that inspired them. To break the cycle of bad taste, creators need to combine geek-stuff with smart-stuff instead of just combining geek-stuff with nerd-stuff.

Marvel and DC’s grey hairs are beginning to show. Not every superhero is classic or relevant to today’s audience. Sure you can re-paint old characters, but the appeal wears off fast. There could be a time in the near future when audiences are looking for something other than what the mainstream has to offer. Independent creators have the opportunity to step up and create characters and tell stories that are relevant now. Just remember to look beyond comics and geek media for inspiration.
Food for thought…

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