Vicious Cycle

Hello everyone. Below is my latest post for comicommand.

A Vicious Cycle

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After reading The Boys, I decided to check out Invincible due to a friend’s recommendation. Invincible follows the exploits of Mark Grayson, the teenaged son of one of Earth’s greatest heroes, as he discovers his powers and begins fighting crime.

I have previously discussed how the most popular superheroes, such as Superman, can serve as archetypes for future creations.  With their 1930s and 1940 origins, Superman and the members of the Justice League were not only some of the first superheroes, but they have become a benchmark for future creations. These heroes helped to create the superhero comic. Their powers became part of the prototypical image of a superhero, super strength, flight, super speed etc.

The Boys and Invincible both feature versions of The Justice League. The Boys has “The Seven”, while Invincible has “The Guardians of The Globe”. The Guardians of The Globe are so similar in that they are undoubtedly a homage to the Justice League. Their appearance, as well as their powers mirror heroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. One such hero, Darkwing, has no powers but uses gadgets and fighting skills to combat crime.

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The Seven is lead by Homelander, whose costume has a similar colour scheme as Superman’s. The Homelander also has similar powers, including heat vision. The Seven were all created through genetic modification, but all have cover stories that are given to the public. The public believes the Homelander is an alien who crash-landed on earth as an infant.

Queen Maeve’s cover story is that she is Empress of the Netherworld, similar to Wonder Woman being a princess of the otherworldly Amazons.

While these examples are glaringly obvious ones, which were intended by the creators. Invincible and The Boys are both satire and deconstruction of superheroes. The Boys shows a world where superheroes are morally corrupt celebrities, and Invincible features a twist on the Superman origin story that has tragic consequences for the its protagonist. Since the members of The Justice League came first, it can be hard to create heroes who lack any similar powers or tactics. The most interesting part of the archetypes is seeing how these archetypes created an ideal of morality that led to many subsequent creations.

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Antiheroes such as The Punisher and Deadpool were created to be a marked contrast from the shining pillars of heroism seen in the early comics. As time progressed, every character underwent arcs where their image was altered, in order to keep them relevant to a changing world. Superman: Birthright featured a version of Pa Kent that was reluctant to see his son use his powers for good, knowing the fear they could generate. Batman comics may have been campy at times but the character has now evolved into the quintessential dark superhero. Meanwhile, Superman still has the image of a light-hearted hero, even though decades of comics offer much more variety.

Characters created in the 1930s and 1940s still shape superhero comics, whether they are being admired, criticized or deconstructed. Arguably, comics that don’t revolve around superheroes might not be as popular if it wasn’t for the large slate of comic films. When people feel like a market is congested, they often seek something new. Comics are a world of their own, where praise and criticism can still feed the same cycle.

The Boys- Fallen Idols

Hello everyone,

My latest post for comicommand is available on the site and copied below. After reading Garth Ennis’s Preacher I was eager to check out some of his other work, but was worried that other works would disappoint in comparison. However, I am loving The Boys just as much as Preacher.

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

After reading Preacher, I was eager to check out Garth Ennis’s other work. I heard mixed reviews about The Boys, but after reading 40 issues, I can safely say that I’m loving the series. The Boys takes place in a world where the greatest superheroes are morally corrupted celebrities. The elite teams have corporate backing and become increasingly disconnected with normal humans, which also results in the careless loss of human life during their conflicts with supervillains.

The Boys is the nickname for a CIA squad that is responsible for keeping the heroes in line through intimidation or violence if need be. While I love the characters, one of my favourite things about the series is its depiction of superheroes. There aren’t many supervillains in the universe, since many super-powered people elect for an easier life as public idols. If a hero becomes popular enough through his conquests or sales of his own comic book, he gets to join an elite team, such as The Seven (a twisted version of The Justice League). With elite status, comes corporate funding, public appearances and full-blown celebrity status.

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Deciding to be a hero doesn’t mean that these figures are actually the good guys. Billy the Butcher, the leader of The Boys, knows firsthand that they view regular people as toys. When Malchemical, one of the most deadly heroes, is relegated to the C-List Superduper group, he lashes out after their leader submits a complaint about him. The concepts of consequences or judgment are foreign to him and he believes that yelling “I’m a superhero” frees him of all wrongdoing. When Malchemical continues to be ostracized by the group he attacks its leader and attempts to rape two of its members. Billy also knows that this is regular behavior for Malchemical. Numerous other incidents in the comics also show other abuses of power from other characters, whether it is rape or attempted murder. The Seven, for the most part, are a group of frat boys high on their own power.

Recent films like Man of Steel have been criticized for their depiction of the destruction that transpires when super-powered beings fight one another. I never jumped on this bandwagon since some level of damage seems inevitable and because the damage often becomes a plot point in future films, just like Superman’s fight with Zod plays a central role in BatmanvSuperman, or how the destruction in Avengers 1 and 2 leads to Civil War. The Boys starts off with a civilian being killed during a fight between a villain and A-Train, a member of The Seven. The difference here is A-Train’s lack of empathy. He realizes what he has done, but quickly leaves since the paramedics can take care of everything else. Later, he also attempts to rape The Seven’s newest number, Starlight.

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Some might see the moral depravity of The Seven as a caricature, but the heroes are no different than politicians, judges, police officers, athletes, musicians etc, who get caught up in scandal after scandal. A sense of invincibility (literally in the case of the heroes) can lead to a lack of restraint and can corrupt people who may have started their pursuit with noble intentions. For every superhero who is morally pure, similar to our typical image of Superman, there are ten who are simply in the business for the money and adoration. Values like justice mean very little and are simply useful platitudes that the heroes use to justify their presence. The Boys is a depressing look at a society filled with superheroes, but it may be the most realistic.

Kingdom Come: Gods and Humans

Hello everyone,

Check out my latest post on comicommand.com or read it below:

Kingdom Come

Written by Cadeem Lalor

I started reading Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come (1996) just earlier today. Kingdom Come follows an alternate reality where a new hero, Magog, became a revered figure after killing The Joker. Meanwhile, the public’s long gestating fatigue with Superman’s “boy scout” persona led him to go into exile. With Superman gone, the rest of the league followed. Ten years later, the world is overrun by a new legion of super-powered beings that lack the moral fortitude and care for human life that the Justice League had. It was a title that came with a lot of hype, but I believe it has managed to live up to expectations. Within five pages, it got me thinking about something.

In the story, Norman McCay acts as a vessel for the Spectre, and also serves as a narrator of sorts. As he ruminates on the past he remembers a friend who recently passed away. He remembers his friend missing the human desire for achievement, manifested through competitions such as the Nobel Prize or the Olympics. In this world, where people are surrounded by god-like beings, it makes sense that human achievement is no longer as valued. Yet I don’t believe the question has ever been approached in such a way. Many comic books and adaptations bring up the issue of humans admiring, mistrusting or fearing super-humans. Yet none of the ones I have read have examined how social and political institutions or functions could change due to a new breed of people. Humans are used to being the center of life on Earth. Our collective achievements are what give everyday life meaning. Would we be as motivated to work out, knowing that there is a race of people whose strength we can never attain. Would we be as motivated to achieve academically if we know that the end goal, a lucrative career or recognition likely won’t come?

Competitions like The Olympics and Nobel Prize can be mired by a host of issues, but they are fundamentally meant to celebrate competition and human skill. Each event is a testament to the will and training of the people competing. Meanwhile the Nobel Prize serves as a chronicle of scientific, economic and literary advancement. With these events, we see humans striving to understand more of their world and attempt to take away power from gods, giving more power to the people. In the world of Kingdom Come, humans have given up on deciding their own destiny. They are at the mercy of super-humans. Even when Superman and the Justice League return, the public does not immediately feel empowered, they only shift their burden to new figures. Perhaps one group of super-humans makes the issue more obvious, but the issues persist either way. While the humans seek hope, there is little to come.