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The "Meta" Superhero Series

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  • The "Meta" Superhero Series

    "The Boys" takes a satirical look at the super hero comic book tradition, its tropes and foibles. It's not the first to do so, though. Anybody want to discuss other series that took a stab at this, and how well they worked?

    I guess "The Squadron Supreme" and "The Watchmen" were two of the first to do so, with "The Watchmen" the superior, due to better writing and art. I'm not sure that "The Squadron Supreme" had ideas any less big. I guess Ellis' "The Authority" was another critique that became mainstreamed. Any others worth talking about, big or small?

  • #2
    Good question. I tried the Authority, but while I was reading The Boys it just seemed a bit too serious. I bought one of the trades, and failed to find any interest in it. I do have a slight interest in Powers, which is strongly recommended by the geeks in my local comic book shop. Someone gave me a few digital copies to see if it would pique my interest, and it looks promising but I think I'd have to start at the beginning. I admire the artwork, but it's kind of dense in a way that doesn't immediately grab me, so it would have to be a concerted effort for me... but I think it looks like good quality stuff, so it might pay off.

    I've never really gone in for trad superhero comics, though I've delved from time to time. I like subversive stuff... but when it starts to get too weird I tune out - Butcher Baker Righteous Maker being a prime example. I admired the art, but I just didn't care about the characters or the plot, a condition that I call "a case of the Tank Girls".


    I see Watchman as a work of flawed genius - amazing ideas, but as we often see with Moore, some of his thinking is so off the wall it can become laughable. I'm referring to what happens to New York in the story. They had to change that for the movie, which was otherwise slavishly loyal to the plot, dialogue and look of the book. But wow - the book was a powerhouse of original thinking. It's worth remembering that there's only one meta-human as such, and the other costumed heroes in Watchman are essentially highly capable or highly trained fighters/thinkers, in the Batman mould. I wonder, is it stated in Moore's contracts that he writes a rape or attempted rape into all his stories?

    I preferred Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, especially in the irony that the victorian team of meta-humans was led by a woman. The first two books are sheer entertainment, and again show Moore's wonderful capacity for subversion. The artwork is exquisite. Thereafter, the books become more obscure and less entertaining as Moore's obsession with magic kicks in and he explores the idea of the Blazing World. The Black Dossier has a near impenetrable section in 3D, while the three books of the Century trilogy go in for a lot of hocus pocus. I enjoyed the first one, which focuses on Nemo's daughter... but I found the other two to be just rather strange and sad.

    Mark Millar's 'Wanted' was a gleefully amoral swipe at the genre, with its premise that the world was taken over by super-criminals who then killed all the heroes. It's dumb glossy fun, pretty much the opposite of what Allan Moore does. The movie is more or less a different story that takes a few scenes from the book, but at least has the decency to show us Angelina Jolie's bottom. Sigh....

    Sorry... i got lost for a minute there.... I quite enjoyed Joe Hill's The Cape, much of which was inexplicable but still strangely involving... and I'm enjoying the prequel as it unfolds now. It's one of those 'keep it vague' plots, but I can dig it.

    That's it from me... I'm very interested to read recommendations from others on this board.
    Last edited by Simon Rogerson; 09-27-2012, 01:26 PM.

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    • #3
      It's an odd topic. Why is there a fiction/adventure genre called "superheroes"? Well, because:

      the genre was created simultaneous with the advent of comic books
      Comic books were popular with children
      "Superpowers" enabled the characters to have fantastic adventures appealing to children

      Why do superheroes wear bright, skin-tight costumes?

      Because the first ones did, similar to circus characters
      Because they are easier to draw that way

      The huge, ongoing genre of fiction just cried out for the Gruenwald "Squadron Supreme" and Moore's "Watchmen" asking- what would a world with such characters be like? What woould be their motives? Their limits?

      Simon, I agree with your take on "Watchmen". I think it's brilliant prose, and not really undermined artistically by the falseness of some of its themes (the idea that putting US nukes in Europe in the mid-80s would make a nuclear war inevitable turned out, thankfully, to be totally wrong).

      "The Boys" started out mocking the tropes of the genre, and is at its best when its most biting in its humor.

      "Powers" is good, but takes itself very seriously.

      As I've noted before, "X-Force/X-Statix" is not a terribly insightful look at this theme, but is a lot of fun.

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      • #4
        Some metastories I like include 'The Pro', also by Ennis and is IMHO a good pencil sketch for the Boys.
        Some others include Mark Waid's 'Irredeemable' and 'Incorruptible' which asks the question, what would happen if a noble superhero were to turn evil, or an ignoble supervillain were to turn good?

        Also, there is a podcast story called 'Union Dues' which is loosely based on the world of the Seven and Vought. Here's the link: http://www.1-800-go-union.com/

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Simon Rogerson View Post
          I preferred Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, especially in the irony that the victorian team of meta-humans was led by a woman. The first two books are sheer entertainment, and again show Moore's wonderful capacity for subversion. The artwork is exquisite. Thereafter, the books become more obscure and less entertaining as Moore's obsession with magic kicks in and he explores the idea of the Blazing World. The Black Dossier has a near impenetrable section in 3D, while the three books of the Century trilogy go in for a lot of hocus pocus. I enjoyed the first one, which focuses on Nemo's daughter... but I found the other two to be just rather strange and sad.
          Well I thought anti christ Harry Potter/Hogwarts school shooting was rather interesting.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Dannycat View Post
            Well I thought anti christ Harry Potter/Hogwarts school shooting was rather interesting.

            I'm not denying they have their moments.

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            • #7
              Yeah, I enjoyed "Irredeemable/Incorruptible". I thought the former made for an interesting take on the near omnipotence of 1950s-1980s Superman. When a "hero" has so much power that he can hear everything, and do anything, how does he respond to a world full of need? It's kind of like "How does a good and just God allow any evil to happen?" Mark Waid's first answer in the series was, "He cracks". Unfortunately, he revised it later, explaining that the Plutonian was always unbalanced.

              There was another good moment when the Plutonian revealed his secret identity to the girl he loved, the Lois Lane analogue. She freaked at having a secret played on her, as any girl would.

              They were fun series. Waid kept things moving, and didn't screw around getting to the point.

              I'm enjoying a similar series out now, "Extermination".

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              • #8
                I certainly liked "Kingdom Come," "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?" and Alan Moore's Supreme, which to some extent were commentaries on more recent comics developments.

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                • #9
                  Can't forget Marshal Law.... The earlier ones are better if you can find them... I'm not a big fan of the Pinhead (Hellraiser) or MASK crossover/team ups...

                  One interesting point is that in the Marshal Law story, superpowers developed out of the military creating supersoldiers as opposed to private corporations being behind things...

                  Overall, you get a good look inside the psyche of the "hero hunter" (Marshal Law) who was developed in the system, hated what the system turned him into, and then feels the need to expose/destroy the system (and himself in the process)... He hates who he has become, but feels he's the only one who can do the job... Marshal's craziness is right on the surface, though and his world is much more openly chaotic than what we "see" in the Boys...

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hot_Ch0c0 View Post
                    Can't forget Marshal Law.... The earlier ones are better if you can find them... I'm not a big fan of the Pinhead (Hellraiser) or MASK crossover/team ups...

                    One interesting point is that in the Marshal Law story, superpowers developed out of the military creating supersoldiers as opposed to private corporations being behind things...

                    Overall, you get a good look inside the psyche of the "hero hunter" (Marshal Law) who was developed in the system, hated what the system turned him into, and then feels the need to expose/destroy the system (and himself in the process)... He hates who he has become, but feels he's the only one who can do the job... Marshal's craziness is right on the surface, though and his world is much more openly chaotic than what we "see" in the Boys...
                    Thats a really odd coincidence right after I read this I found Marshal Law at my local bookstore for only 8 bucks.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Hot_Ch0c0 View Post
                      Can't forget Marshal Law
                      "I'm in it for the energy!"

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