I don’t remember a lot of the books that I read as a kid. One that I do remember was Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. The story focuses on this woman who does a lot to help people within her town. (or was it city?) She gets an assistant one day and he ends up spying on her as she cooks pasta from a magic pot. However he doesn’t notice that she blows three kisses to turn the pot off. The woman goes away for a bit and the assistant ends up using the pot to make pasta. Since he didn’t know how to stop the magic pot, it kept making more and more pasta until the town overflowed. The old woman comes back and stops the pot and then punishes the assistant by making him eat all of the pasta to clean up the town. By the end of the book he is stuffed. I know if I ate that much pasta, I’d be sick of it.
The reason I mention this story is because when I was trying to remember what this book was, the pasta flooding the town was most clear in my brain. In a similar sense, within the past several years, there has been an explosion and growth of comic related media flooding pop culture mostly in part because of the Marvel movies that have been so successful. DC Comics is no pushover themselves what with the constant stream of animated movies (check them out they are actually pretty good) and domination of the silver screen with shows like Gotham, The Flash, Arrow, and Constantine making waves of anticipation/excitement and recent mentions of Supergirl and Titans as well. Now I am extremely excited to really see how these shows will play out and I hope that they will connect with their viewing audience, but I can’t help but wonder…
Are there too many superhero shows/movies being released?
Before I get into modern examples, let me present what I’m getting at. I’ll present a blanket overview to art history. Within the art world, there are various movements and styles of art that arise due to an over saturation or an overflow of a style and the resulting response is a pushback and a counter to the resulting over saturation. For an example let’s look at Neo Classicism. This movement focused on presenting the idealized form commonly depicted within Greek and Roman art. The artwork expressed ideas like virtue, honor, and values while mirroring these themes with its clean lines, noble figures and calm demeanor.
Eventually though, there was so much of it going around, that it became tired and overused. Out of that rose Romanticism. This movement was it’s complete antithesis. No longer were figures stoic and graceful in situations, rather emotion was the very epitome of the movement. Brush strokes remained unblended and emotion spoke plain as day on the faces of the subjects. Essentially you could feel emotion and angst oozing from the tones of the paintings. A common theme within Romantic art was the emphasis on the greatness of nature especially that above the fragility of humanity. This rise and fall, ebb and flow happens in so many different areas of our lives that it is not hard to predict that it will happen. Clothing trends (I’m looking at you high waisted shorts), dime-a-dozen novels (remember when vampires were all the rage?), celebrities, so on and so forth. It is inevitable and this is just a natural part of human thought and progress.
For me, I’m waiting for a pushback against this culture that has risen so quickly through the ranks. However, I can see subtle instances of this happening now. In 2008, we had the release of Iron Man. (I know, I know we’ve had various comic book/ superhero movies made before then, but at this moment was the first in this modern generation of superhero movies that we have.) Anyways, as we follow the timeline, all the other superhero movies have pretty much followed the same styles and tropes all the way up until 2014.
Enter, Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie has it all the music, the action, the storytelling, the comedic timing, the perfect cast. All of these things had a strong hand in it’s success. However, I feel that on a subliminal level, the reason why it was so successful was that because in all the superhero movies that we have seen, this movie is different. It is the beginning of a “pushback” against the traditional superhero movie in that these characters are not the tried-and-true nor the do-gooders. The group is a bunch of rag tag misfits, rejects, and losers. (Firefly anyone?) But we get excited to see them in action and to root for these characters despite their weaknesses and flaws and social ineptitude.
Consider this, generally at some point, the hero is outmatched and outgunned and it seems as if all hope is lost. For most traditional movies the solitary hero would let the villain monologue and when the opportunity presents itself, the bad guy beat down would ensue. Instead, one of my favorite scenes was when Peter Quill (Star Lord) distracts Ronan. He starts singing and dancing and I was just as shocked as Ronan was. Who dances and sings their way to victory? Apparently Peter Quill does.
Now I have slightly digressed. What I mean to say is that these characters do not fit the traditional mode for our A-list heroes. But we have seen so much of that already that with the established tone of Guardians of the Galaxy, it is refreshing to break from the machine that has been established. This led me to ponder a couple of questions.
Will the world tire of superhero movies?
Will the world ever get tired of superheroes?
In answering the first question. I think yes eventually the world will tire of superhero movies even just for a little bit. Everything has its place in time and everything has a rise and fall, an ebb and flow. I don’t know when or how soon it will happen, but eventually there will be such an over saturation within pop culture that there will be too much of it. Could I be wrong? I sure hope so. But just like those high waisted shorts, trends always come back. There may be a decline sooner or later, but will the world ever get tired of superheroes? I say never. The thing that I love about superheroes (and comics in general). The characters will ALWAYS be relevant as they are being updated to reflect the time and culture of the era. We’ve seen many changes occurring within the comic world as the stories are not just simply for stories, but a commentary on humanity as a whole. The condition of our minds and how we live. We see steps being taken to increase diversity and equality within comics by including characters of various backgrounds, gender, and nationality just to name a few. Thought they may be small steps, they are gradual steps nonetheless.
In conclusion, though we may have a large influx of various comic book movies and TV shows, superheroes bring what we love to see in comics as an art form, as a story, as a great literary work. For now, I think that superheroes are here to stay. They have great adaptability and staying power and can be multigenerational when applied in the right context. For now I say we enjoy the ride and appreciate the fact that geeks and nerds pretty much rule the world right now.