With AvX well under way, I am starting to get a strange sense of deja vu…  Most of the big crossovers of the last decade have started with a compelling hook (the heroes divided, aliens among us, time is broken, the multiverse still exists) and broken down at the end to a big fist-fight.  Of course, since this one STARTED with a big fist fight, it might end differently but either way, it seems that comics have become sophisticated enough to address big hot-button issues, but still aren’t quite past the place where every argument is solved with a fist.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is: Is it a good idea (or is it even possible) for superhero storytelling to outgrow the inevitable fighty-fighty?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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8 Comments

  1. May 9, 2012 at 11:39 am — Reply

    I say, “no,” for the simple reason that heroes have to have conflict in order for the story to be even somewhat interesting, and while settling arguments peacefully seems like an ideal goal, rarely do we want to read page after page of the X-Men and the Avengers having a discussion over the size and shape of the table, and then another issue where the two teams sit at the table and talk it out… no matter how good the writer is.

  2. May 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm — Reply

    Superhero powers are largely physical. Superhero stories are tied to crimefighting, world domination, invasion, etc. Physical conflict is going to be the resolution to most of those story conflicts, most of the time, so I’d say no it is not possible, generally, to avoid the fighty fighty. When superhero stories do address other themes with other types of resolutions they are stories well outside the norm, or they are different types of stories (romance, soap opera, political) with costumed veneers.

  3. Ricco
    May 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm — Reply

    I would like to say yes, but not every comic is Watchmen and an epic fight is pretty much the standard end game for most comic books. It’s expected to the point of not been an issue anymore, everything ends with someone taking a beating.

  4. Michael
    May 9, 2012 at 7:01 pm — Reply

    I think the biggest problem in comics right now is that those who publish comics (Marvel being far an away the most guilty of parties) MUST get away from the “THIS YEAR’S CROSSOVER EVENT IS THE BIGGEST EVENT IN OUR HISTORY! EVAH~!” attitude that has been so pervasive over the last several years.

    After that, yeah comics can get away from the fighty-fight and have. Even Superhero comics. Though depending on the genre I don’t think you can ever get away from the fighty-fight in total. Superhero comics gotta have some people throwin’ down now and then.

  5. Oldcomicfan
    May 9, 2012 at 8:57 pm — Reply

    I agree with what everybody else said above. The one thing I hate most about cross-over books is that they all follow the same hackneyed formula. Unknown super-villain X somehow gets a hold of Maguffin Y (neither of which has ever appeared in any of the comic company’s books EVER) and in the mayhem Hero A and Hero B get pulled into the same room/planet/space and immediately start beating the tar out of each other for no apparent reason only to team up to beat bad guy X. Said events, villain, and Maguffin then fall out of continuity and are never seen again. One of the things I like best about the Avengers movie is that, although it uses this cliche, the writers gave the heroes a reason to beat the stuffing out of each other than made sense.

  6. May 10, 2012 at 3:51 am — Reply

    I think we you get right down to it, Superhero comics won’t ever be able to divorce themselves from the fighty fighty. Not that they’re all about that, but it’s in their nature. If people could solve a huge, world-shattering dilemma without fighting, you wouldn’t exactly need the superheroes to do it. After all, the whole point is that superheroes fight battles normal people can’t or won’t. A lot of them have other talents and can use them (like Mr. Fantastic being a scientist), but you don’t call a wrestler to give a powerful dramatic performance, and you don’t call a superhero to do things that don’t involve fighting.

  7. KevinPBreen
    May 10, 2012 at 7:17 am — Reply

    They did. Mort Weisinger’s Superman stories of the 50s and 60s had few epic physical battles. Batman used detection and smarts to outwit the bad guys (even when they were 50 foot alien robots). Superman and LSH were more about interpersonal relationships (choke). Backup features like Congorilla, Tommy Tomorrow, Green Arrow and Aquaman solved problems using super powers, yes, but not just beating up people. They may seem cheesy to modern readers – they should be judged by different standards – but there was more meat to one of those 3-to-an-issue stories than the book-length battles and posturing that goes on today. Modern readers laugh, but point is, you can and should tell stories without slugfests.

  8. Xian
    May 10, 2012 at 8:19 am — Reply

    As a genre (rather than exceptions which break the rule), no.

    This is more a condition of: a) Humanity; and b) Medium than anything else.

    I give you between 1 and 9 panels to connect with a human. How are you going to do that? Well, you can engage the conscious mind after crossing literacy / comprehension / experience / aesthetic / moral value / emotional / stoic / etc. barriers and hope that my offering transcends all that and reaches you in my limited communication space.

    Or. (And recall I’m trying to make money here…)

    I can grab something primal, visceral, and immediately engaging to your lizard brain without having to necessarily work for it (and heck, I can layer all that other stuff in there too, so long as I’ve got my hooks into your primal instincts). So I can show people screwing- or imply an offer of sex one way or another- or I can show violence. And I’ve got you on at least one level that you have to actively resist not engaging.

    When videogames first started, the inputs were primal so what was one of the first things we had them do? Shoot. A single click or button certainly could do all manner of interactive art, philosophical higher concept stuff, etc. but at the end of the day, the primacy of violence is simple, intuitive, and compelling. People used button clicks to shoot lasers, not turn pages to flowery prose.

    So asking whether superhero comics as a genre will evolve beyond violence is a little like asking whether TV as a whole or the Summer Blockbuster will cease to have action elements… it’s not the genre, it’s us and the market caters to our desire. If you can foresee a future where humanity doesn’t like violence (even in Star Trek their holodeck games engaged in violent elements), then maybe the genre won’t have fighty-fighty.

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