Who are my heroes?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. And if you’ve followed me in the past, you might know that I’ve blogged about my favorite characters and my favorite character archetypes. But this year, when audiences are tuning in for movies like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and TV shows like Supergirl and The Flash, I’m going to focus more on the context of superheroes.
First, a confession: I didn’t grow up reading comic books like other geeks. My love and general knowledge of heroes like Batman, Superman, the X-Men, and Spider-Man all came from their respective cartoons back in the Nineties—and once the Nineties were over, I stopped following them as my interests went roaming elsewhere. So I don’t have that big of an appreciation for “classics” like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which Batman v. Superman pays homage to in its visuals and its plot.
For me, it’s telling that my favorite superhero stories from this year don’t feel like they belong in the genre at all. Guardians of the Galaxy is nothing more than a comedic space opera, with none of the usual trappings of costumed heroes and villains. Marvel’s Jessica Jones is the story of a survivor and how she fights her abuser, with one or two mocking jabs over fighting in a costume or using a codename. And then, of course, you have a fourth-wall-breaking joyride like Deadpool that plays the genre half-straight, but then calls out every stereotype and cliché with a bloodstained, R-rated grin.
Part of me will always love Batman and Superman, but only because of their incarnations in the DCAU that I grew up with. These days, I’d rather watch a superhero story that doesn’t look or feel like a superhero story. I think there’s something great about a story that doesn’t fall back on traditional genre markers. I can watch Ryan Reynolds build up a relationship with Morena Baccarin, only to become a complete lunatic who’s aware he’s in a superhero movie rather than a stock heroic character like, say, Colossus. And I can watch Krysten Ritter relive her trauma while fighting and pursuing David Tennant’s Kilgrave without any need for a costume or a codename.
So, I guess what I’d be looking for in future superhero stories are characters who can have fun with their genre or who can blend into the real world without costumes or pseudonyms. That’s why I’m looking forward to the sequels for Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool, as well as new titles like the announced Black Widow movie. And while I may not belong to the larger fanbase that will spend money on larger projects like Batman v. Superman or Captain America: Civil War, I’m content to watch and enjoy superheroes that meet a niche market like mine.