arachnekallisti: (comic book villain)
A question I've been considering for some time: how do you write flawed heroes, anti-heroes and villain protagonists without sounding as if you endorse them? In particular, how do you write characters who hold opinions and values that are utterly appalling by contemporary standards?*

It's fine line. You don't want to present their opinions too uncritically, and you don't want to make excuses for them, but at the same time you don't want to patronise your audience by making all the characters you don't agree with into puppy-kicking caricatures.

I guess part of the question I'm asking here would be: is there anything you can do to prevent/minimise the Misaimed Fandom problem?

Cut for spoilers for Watchmen, Life on Mars and Dollhouse )

*sparked off partially by wanting to write WH40K fic, and partly by this discussion here on "ironic" racism - I didn't want to hijack that discussion, so I've taken these issues over here.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
1. Outline Arachnekallisti's Special and General Theories of Mary Sue, and use them to explain observed phenomena with reference to EITHER Strontium Dog OR Torchwood, and at least TWO other fandoms. )

2. If Rorschach represents Kantian deontological ethics, Ozymandias represents utilitarianism, and Dr Manhattan represents some kind of existentialism, what about Dan and Laurie?

3. Judge Dredd: evidence that Lawful Neutral is in fact the scariest alignment?

4. Johnny Alpha and Wulf Sternhammer - Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser IN SPACE! Discuss.
arachnekallisti: (comic book villain)
In the Watchmenverse, the comics on sale are about pirates, not superheroes; masked vigilantes aren't escapism, they're news. Possibly there is nevertheless a comic out there about the adventures of Ozymandias, as produced by Veidt Publishing. Presumably, that means that the Watchmenverse also has comics about ninjas, cowboys, soldiers and so on.

Which leads me to wonder; which of the comics we know from our world would have Watchmenverse equivalents? 2000AD, perhaps? It's a sci-fi comic rather than a superhero title. Maybe in the Watchmenverse Judge Dredd is something of a vicious satire of the Comedian. Maybe the Comedian has beaten John Wagner up over it. Possibly there's even a talented young writer called Alan doing Future Shocks (or is that far too meta?)
arachnekallisti: (comic book villain)
Psychological realism in the superhero genre; is it possible? Is it worth bothering with?

For example, here's an argument* that Tim Burton's Batman films actually work a lot better than Christopher Nolan's, since Michael Keaton's Batman lives in a world so flamboyant and over-the-top that dressing up as a giant bat and beating up muggers really doesn't make him noticeably weirder than anyone else, but Christian Bale's seems to live in a realistic city in which normal people do normal things, but there is inexplicably not as much of a "WTF?!" response to the costumed vigilante as there should be. Definitely got a point here, and there were moments during "The Dark Knight" in which I, for one, was jarred by Gotham City looking so damn normal.

So, are superheroes the kind of genre, like fairy tales or grand opera, which are essentially so trippy and strange that attempting to introduce common sense is missing the whole point, and running with the trippy strangeness is a far better idea? Let's consider a few examples.

- Watchmen is entirely based around introducing psychological realism to the superhero genre, and then following the ensuing geopolitical trainwreck. It works so damn well because we have a historical context for the existence of masked vigilantes, which explains why on earth someone might conceivably end up doing that.
- Heroes has not been doing too badly at it**; I'm wondering if it's managed to do that because it's dumped quite a lot of the genre tropes, most notably costumes, codenames and secret identities.
- Strontium Dog has taken the same basic concept as X-Men, but by playing the anti-mutant bigotry and the mutants' responses to it as something much more like real-world bigotry, has transformed the concept into sci-fi - pulpy, space operatic sci-fi that is not afraid of the crack, to be sure, but not really a superhero story any more.
- Nextwave, on the other hand, has kicked psychological realism in the face and thrown a car at its head, and is pure liquid awesome as a result.

I'd be inclined to say that either approach can work, but has its risks: psychologically realistic superheroes can work, but they either need an awful lot of context establishing for them, in order to make dressing up with a costume and mask and fighting crime look less WTF-worthy, or they just need those tropes quietly discarding. Taking the crackiness and running with it is by no means an easier alternative; it can give you Nextwave, or it can give you the Goddamn Batman.

Personally, I'm inclined to stop worrying and love the crack; it's kind of hit and miss, but it's so damn awesome when it hits.

*Originally discovered following a link from Slacktivist, from what was originally a rather fine take-down of the seething stew of bad writing, bad research and bad theology that is the Left Behind series. The superhero conversation starts on page 2 of the comments.

**Heroes at its height, I mean; leaving aside the regrettable plot lapses in which entire seasons have degenerated into the passing around of the Stupid Ball and the Evil Stick in some sort of game of Stupid-Evil Lacrosse.


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October 2012

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